It seemed that all I could remember from my first 10 years were my fears of Dad, when sudden rage would take over and I would be knocked off my chair at the table. Or in the last years of Dad's life, when it seemed that nothing I did was good enough for him Â- including my choice of wife, my profession, or the way I was trying to raise our children. I don't mean it was all bad. In fact, there were many happy times we spent together. But it seemed as though lots of unresolved issues were always in the background.
Several years after his passing I woke one night with a painful headache. I didn't want to wake my wife with my tossing and turning, so I went out to the living room with my Bible. I remember praying, "Dear God, please show me something that will help me." I opened the Bible to this verse: "Thou shalt keep therefore his statutes, and his commandments, which I command thee this day, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days upon the earth, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, for ever" (Deut. 4:40). Well, I thought, I'm doing that! Maybe I should try another Bible verse.
But the idea of keeping God's commandments persisted, and finally I realized I was having trouble complying with one of them: "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee" (Ex. 20:12). I wasn't honoring my dad.
In fact, at that very moment I was pretty mad at him for all those rough times. I was angry that we had never resolved some of these problems between us. I was also ignoring all the good times, and there were lots of them.
What happened next was a little strange. It was as though I heard a voice that said, "Well, if your dad were here right now, and he asked your forgiveness, would you give it to him?" I thought about it a moment. "Of course! He is my Dad, and I really do love him. Of course I could forgive him." And the response was, "Then you have." I didn't have the headache anymore. I went back to bed and slept soundly, and awoke feeling fine.
I thought about this experience for a long time. I didn't have any kind of communication with the departed. But I do believe that considering the commandment made me receptive to an angel message from God. What I needed to do was to forgive Â- to let go of all those thoughts of self-justification and self-pity, and to recognize that there was a bond of love between Dad and me. As the weeks turned into months after this experience, every time I started to feel resentful toward my father over some bad memory, I could remember that I had forgiven him, and the inclinations toward resentment soon began to disappear.
This experience also led me to think seriously about Paul's great sermon to the Athenians, when he concluded with a quotation from their own literature: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring" (Acts 17:28). I also love something I found in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper. She wrote of "the glorious fact of creation": "that both man and woman proceed from God and are His eternal children, belonging to no lesser parent" (pg. 529).
If we are all God's offspring, and we really are, then that gives us a spiritual basis to strip away bad feelings, unhappiness, regret, and anger, and replace those negatives with a solid understanding that we have always been surrounded by good. God, our only real Parent, has always loved us, and this love embraces everyone. It supersedes human parent/child relationships. Recognizing this has not only helped me redeem my relationship with my dad, but also to release my adult children to their own decisions, and to try to ensure that they know that I not only love them, but also love their real identity as fellow companions in God's kingdom.