This subject is sensitive & very personal to me, but I feel a nudging to share it with you. I hope that through reading you can feel the spirit of Christ(mas) and the peace that comes from forgiving love.
This is my dad. This picture was taken two years ago at Christmas time. This was only the second time he ever met Indy, and it was also the last. When he arrived at our family Christmas party I was surprised and emotional. I remember trying to find love in my heart, and went to welcome him with a smile, a hug, and a “nice to see you”. As my little sister vented her frustrations to me about this surprise visit, words came out of my mouth that I needed to hear myself. “Lyss, this may be the last time we ever see him. Just talk to him, enjoy this moment, and let him hold your son.” I was taken back by my own response to her as if the thought wasn’t even my own. I felt angry towards my dad, but in this moment I also felt compassion. I heeded my own advice and sat down by him to talk, let him hold and play with Indy, and took some pictures- thinking this could potentially be the only opportunity I get to see Indy with her grandfather. It felt good to find this forgiveness in myself at this moment. As I watched him play with Indy and make her smile, my resentment started to melt away.
He didn’t stay long, and as I said goodbye I wondered if I would ever see him again. It is a hard way to say goodbye to someone. As I felt the huge wave of emotions starting to hit I prayed for strength & peace.
My dad is a great guy with a great big heart. He is outgoing, lively, fun, hardworking, very generous & giving, and loves to help others. He is also a drug addict, and has been consumed & controlled by his addiction for the greater part of the last 20 years.
These 20 years have held a lot of fear, heartbreak & pain, and uncertainty. At times this has been absolutely excruciating to bear and I wondered how I could keep doing it- dealing with the in and out, the letters and calls from jail or prison, the sober times where things felt hopeful- always met by the immense disappointment & heartache that came with every relapse and the fear of getting that call, letting me know he had passed away.
When Indy came into my life something changed. She was now the focus of my existence. Our own little family and the life we wanted to create was my priority. She filled up all the empty places in my heart and allowed me to find peace regarding my dad. How grateful I am for this little girl and all she has done for me.
I wish I could say that my anger & sadness towards my dad went away after that Christmas experience, but it didn’t. About 5 months later my dad ended up in prison. “Good riddance” I thought. “At least now I don’t have to worry about him ending up dead”. My aunts & grandma told me he wanted to talk to me and asked if he could email or call me. I ignored them. I was not up for hearing from him, because this was how it so often went, and left me feeling like he only wanted to hear about my life when it was convenient for him. What I recognize now is that drug addicts often feel a lot of shame about their addiction and actions, so they turn away from their family. My dad didn’t want us to see or talk to him when he wasn’t in a good place so he disappeared. I am actually glad that he did.
He was in prison for 7 months, when I committed to “Light the World” for the month of December last year. The Light the World challenge is an initiative put on by the LDS church, that encourages people to serve, increase in love for your family/neighbors/communities, and grow closer to the Savior before Christmas Day. There is a daily challenge to accomplish this. I had never participated before and felt a strong prompting to do it last year. Imagine my surprise, and almost prideful disappointment, when I saw that the challenge for December 24th- Christmas Eve- was to visit an incarcerated family member. I did not want to do it. But I knew that I needed to. I got the feeling that this particular challenge was created just for me- and I set up an appointment to visit my dad on Christmas Eve.
When we arrived he was just as surprised. “I don’t mean this rude, but you are kind of the last person I expected to visit me today… I am so happy you did.” I told him why I had originally decided to come, but how my heart had been softened and I actually became excited to see him that day. He was his happy, vibrant, sober self and it was really good for me to see. He asked all about Indy and told me his special feelings towards her, how he knows she was meant for our family for a big purpose and how he couldn’t wait to get out and spend time with her. Our face time visit lasted an hour, and it went by too fast. I wished he could be out to spend Christmas with us, but knew he was where he needed to be at that time. Prison for him is a time of sobriety, growth, and self-reflection. It is what he needed.
After our visit, my heart was changed. I no longer felt anger, resentment, or sadness towards him. I had the most peaceful Christmas- because I had allowed the healing love of forgiveness and the Savior to fill my soul. I write through tears because this experience was life-changing for me, and I couldn’t be happier that I let go of my pride and hurt feelings to find this peace.
A month after our visit with my dad we realized just how sick Indy was. He heard what was going on and made several calls to check on us and get updates as we navigated that scary time. As Indy went through treatment, I heard from my dad almost weekly, either by email or by phone call. It brought me a lot of comfort to know he was there to support me and that he was praying morning and night for me, B, and Indy. I think of what I could have missed in this relationship had I not gone to visit him on Christmas Eve. He has cheered us on this past year- and it has meant a lot to me. I am humbled and grateful for the way things have transpired. I am grateful for my dad- for what his shortcomings have taught me in my life and how his choices have shaped mine. Because of him I found a testimony of Christ. Because of Him I found B. Because of him I have learned what it means to forgive, and how to love like Christ did. Because of him I am a stronger, better version of me. I hope and pray for a bright future for him as he gets out of prison next year.
I will be participating in the Light the World challenge again this year, and look forward to seeing what I can learn this time. If any of you would like to do so too- you can read more about it HERE. How grateful I am for this simple challenge that enriched my life in so many ways, not just for Christmas last year but for the rest of time. I hope you will join me this year! ❤️
Happy Holidays & Much Love,