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Letter to dad helped us draw closer


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POSTED: Saturday, June 06, 2009

I was livid, literally shaking with anger, upset with myself as much, if not more, than at my dad. My anger level had risen slowly throughout the golf game. But why? Why did I flinch every time my dad suggested that I stand closer to the ball, widen my stance, take a slower backswing, keep my head down?

I was upset at myself for being so upset at my dad. I was not a teenager. I was nearing 40 and had a teen kid of my own. What's more, I was a Christian man—and a pastor at that. But, hang it, I was mad, plenty mad. I didn't dare let my anger show outwardly, but I prayed that God would give me an understanding of what was going on inwardly. He did.

Back home after vacation, in a quiet reflective moment—a moment when I was thinking through how I could forgive this one who had made my life miserable year after year—the life-changing epiphany came. I didn't need to forgive my dad. I needed to ask his forgiveness.

It all unfolded. The golf game was a microcosm of my life with my dad: He knowing more than I and always wanting to make me better; me always resenting his help because of my pride. I was the elder son in Jesus' prodigal story, the one who stayed home, the worse of the two. He stayed home, but his attitude was in a far country. It was for a corrective concerning the older son that Jesus told the story in the first place.

My asking forgiveness was in letter form, a simple letter to write once I boiled down my wrong into one phrase: “;my always resisting your wise help”; and my plea into four words: “;Will you forgive me?”;

The hard part was mailing it. How would he respond? We had never, ever conversed deeper than the ballgame-weather-hunting-fishing level.

A week passed. He called. It was the “;best letter”; he had ever received. And then the magic words that made me know he not only understood, but had felt the hurt through all those years: “;Son, you are forgiven.”; At that moment the thaw began.

My dad and I became close. I still feel close to him even though he's been gone for many years. I run things by him (or by his ideals) all the time now in making decisions. He was a wise man and a good father.

My brother was the executor of his estate. He was puzzled that in our dad's lockbox among a gold ring and a couple of gold watches was a letter. If I had no use for it, he was going to toss it. I was deeply touched to see that letter again, the one so easy to write and so hard to mail.

It is now in my lockbox. It is golden.

I have written this story because it may be that you, the reader, have a letter you need to write. If so, please do it soon. Dads don't live forever.

 

The Rev. Sim Fulcher is associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Honolulu.