Happy 78th Birthday, Dad. I forgive you.
Back in December, I remember when my Mom told me that there would be a lady, Sharon Lund from Infinity Hospice Care, visiting my Dad at the group home. She wanted me to be there to help her answer any questions (although her English is decent, she continues to believe it’s not good enough to speak it).
I went there not knowing what to expect. I arrived 10 minutes late and Sharon was already talking to my Dad as he was lying in his bed. She was asking him basic questions such as his name, birth date, and address to examine his mental clarity. She then asked me whether he was depressed or not.
My Dad has never expressed any deep emotion. He had superficial ones, but was never REALLY angry, never REALLY sad, and never REALLY happy. He was just content. Which, by the way, is one of Buddha’s greatest lessons in helping us reduce the suffering in our lives. Buddha said that life is an ever changing process and it is our choice whether or not we want to suffer. We may have everything today, but tomorrow we may lose it all.
Just like Madonna Badger who spent a beautiful Christmas Eve with her 3 young daughters and her parents. Her mother made her famous apple pie and sugar cookies, and her father just came back from being Santa Claus at a department store. Madonna was wrapping Christmas gifts and everyone was happy.
The next day, on Christmas Day, the house caught on fire and killed both her parents and her three daughters.
Such tragedy on such a beautiful day. How do you go from having everything to losing everything in less than 24 hours and still find peace in it and not hold resentment towards God? By understanding and accepting that life is cyclic and is ever changing. We have to embrace the good times and also times of trial as a part of our existence.This is a reminder to all of us that the seasons will change. Winter will come, but Spring will bring new hope.
Nothing is forever. All things will come to an end. Life is a journey, enjoy it! Expect that things can be taken away from us at any time; therefore, live fully, but let go when the time is right.
I know his answer would be to save him”. She paused and hesitated, “Do you know the meaning of hospice care?”. Suddenly it hit me, I knew exactly what hospice care was. As I held back my tears to stay strong so that my Dad and my Mom (who was already in tears, even though she did not quite understand what was going on) would see that I was okay and not to scare my Dad. The Hospice worker asked me, “Would you like me to step out as you talk to your Dad and Mom about this?”. I told her that I didn’t care, but I did want her to step out as I didn’t want her to see me cry if I wasn’t able to hold back the tears.
I took a deep breath and went over to my Dad and asked him to sign the paperwork. He was weak and could barely hold the pen to sign his signature. When I got to the page on whether or not he wants to be resuscitated, I had to translate it in Chinese. My exact translation was, “Dad, if your heart stopped, do you want them to save your life?”. My Dad is hard of hearing and asked me to repeat the question because he didn’t quite understand what I was asking him.
At this point my heart was heavy with the realization that my Dad is going to die. But I knew that I had to stay strong because I was afraid to scare him. I gathered up my strength as I asked him the same question in a different way again, “Dad, if your heart stopped do you want them to save you or do you want to die?”.
Although my choice of words may not have been the best, I knew he didn’t quite understand me the first time as I was avoiding the word “die”. He looked at me and responded quickly in a matter-of-fact tone, “Yes, just let me go. I am so blessed to live in America, and I don’t want to waste the government’s money to keep me alive. Tell the counselor that when I was in Vietnam, I worked for the American Embassy. I paid my dues and I am so thankful that America has taken care of me in return. I am touched by the generosity and that the government will be paying for all my medical costs and hospice care. Tell her.”
By this time I am in tears, and can no longer hold them back. When Sharon walked in, she looked at me, and I said, “He signed all the papers.” Before she left she reached down to give my Dad a hug and kiss, and for the very first time in my life I saw my Dad cry. With both hands she held my Dad’s face to tell him what a wonderfully sweet man he was and she wished him all the best. She assured him that hospice care will give him the best care he could ask for. As tears rolled off his face, he repeated, “Thank you, thank you very much. I am so grateful to be an American. Thank you. I can never repay all that America has given me. Thank you.” At that moment I knew whatever resentment and anger towards my Dad I held onto, I had to resolve.
I now do a 40 day forgiveness meditation where I focus on him and repeat:
I love you, Dad.
I apologize (For any part I played in the situations that have passed.)
I forgive you. (Letting go of all my resentment.)
I repeat this 40 times for 40 nights. I’m not done yet.
You’ll never imagine that one day, the most challenging thing that your Dad does in a day is get in and out of bed just to go to the the restroom. The struggle, strength, and persistence that he has to have to be able to not give up, and to push himself forward is incredible. He was once young, vibrant, strong and capable. Did he know that he would have today? Or did he waste his life away not pursuing his dreams and making excuses.
I often ask myself how I will feel when I am where he is today. As I reflect on my own life, this is a reminder for me to let go of all fear. I only have one life. Time flies by. Every year is a year closer to my ending day. The pain of regret is more painful than the pain of discipline. Don’t wait until it is too late.