Mourning a stranger

I got a call from the hospital in Peoria at 1:45am Monday morning. The nurse was calling to tell me my father had passed away. As I mentioned a few days ago, this wasn’t unexpected.


Honestly, I’ve shed no tears. I don’t think I have any left. My grieving for the loss of a father has gone on for decades, much of it culminating a couple years ago when we were last in touch. Any hope I’d had of a relationship with him died back then; I was emotionally and spiritually drained dry and could not go there again.

To make matters even more strange, I had to e-mail the funeral home and give my permission as next of kin for them to cremate him. Talk about a surreal experience. I’ve already emotionally distanced myself from him, and to have the ability to okay his cremation with a few clicks of a mouse is really strange. What a world, eh?

There’s only going to be a graveside service. My mother and I don’t plan to attend. There’s not much point in spending hundreds in gasoline or on airfare to say goodbye to him; we said our respective goodbyes a long time ago. Most people he knew did. His siblings were estranged from him for the same reasons we were.

I can’t see much mutual comfort coming from a trip out there. No doubt it would be full of toe-curling stories of his abuses; we have enough of those, mom and me.

Now that he really is gone, I feel ambivalent. I feel relief, that’s true. I feel sadness that he lived such a life that he drove everyone away from him. It’s sad to think of dying and leaving so few mourners. It puts me in mind of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s sojourn with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

Part of me thinks it’s his just desserts — reaping what he sowed for all those years — but part of me pities the sick man who spent his last several years in a nursing home without friends or family. But I keep coming back to the reaping part. It’s true, I do.

Have I forgiven him? Yes and no. It’s not a one-time deal, by any means. It comes down to the action I take when a painful memory of some past abuse pops up in my mind. I have a choice. I can feed that bitterness, nurture it into something that takes on a life of its own. Or, better, I can turn to God and ask Him to help me lay that bitterness at His feet once again, to quell it.

I have to say, there is a comfort in knowing that the only way my father is able to hurt me now is through the memories I have of him. That’s easier than dreading a phone call from him, wondering what he’s going to say this time. I’m glad I blogged about those bad experiences before I severed contact; reading them again reminds me of why I did it. HOnestly, I feel I did everything I could and everything God expected of me.

Anyone who’s been abused and found themselves emotionally drained by a person will probably know where I’m coming from. Those who don’t relate should rejoice, because it’s not a fun place to be. I know I’ll probably be facing some emotional challenges, at least I assume I will. It’s strange to have done the grieving years before the death. I still can’t quite wrap my mind around that one.

This entry was posted in Family.

6 thoughts on “Mourning a stranger

  1. Learning and healing will transpire for him now, and not only can you let go of his physical presence, you can release him to God in an ultimate sense. He is not your worry, not on any level. He is in a hospital for the soul, where he will eventually understand his responsibilities and failures, and grow into the person God intended him to be, before he allowed his own abuse to distort his perceptions and actions. He asked you to carry his crosses for him, an unfair expectation — abusive in itself. Now he is where he will learn how wrong that was, and eventually he will become whole through the same Christ we trust. You can let go of the concerns he heaped upon you, and focus fully on the blessings of your adult life, with a husband who loves you; a mother who has suffered and is now released along with you; and family, friends and precious animal companions who love and value who you are in your own right.

    Grieving after a physical death is always a bit different from grieving a relationship lost in life, so be kind to yourself and let tears flush you clean and free. Admit everything into consciousness, and then let it go.

    I don’t think there is any reason for you and your mother to attend the graveside services. Your father has passed into God’s hands and no longer demands such sacrifices. He is God’s now. That is enough. More than enough: it is the consummation and release that is the healing balm for all. God bless you.

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