Friday, June 06, 2008


It's been twelve years now since my father died, in fact, twelve years tomorrow. Today marks the anniversary of his last day on Earth. My brother had moved up from California to help take care of my dad the last few months of his life. When he died, my brother stayed on in the house, eventually inherited it, and is now married and raising his family there.

Much new life has come into that old home in these twelve years. Much healing has taken place. When my dad was alive neither my brother nor I had any sort of satisfying relationship with him. Between his near deafness, late stage alcoholism, and 74 years of repressed emotions, he was a toughie. Couple all that with an intellect that had him attending both Stanford and Harvard, and a spiritual awareness of a gnat, there was just no entry point for deep and meaningful conversation. Ever.

"Dad and I are getting along really well now," by brother quipped several months after his death. I thought it was a quip anyway, but now see the wisdom and truth of those words. Dad and I are getting along really well now, too.

I've changed my view of death in the dozen years since his. It has not separated us, it has healed us. I feel him now, in a way I never felt him when he was in body and form. Now that he is in some spiritual dimension, he is not bound by his obsessive and over-developed mind, he's free. His freedom has brought mine.

I remember hearing the joke, "Therapy is where you discover it's not the parent you thought you had all the issues with, it's the other one." That's so true.

I think that if my dad were still alive, we'd still be fighting. Our ways of being would still be frustrating and colliding with each other, we'd still be "missing." Now we're connecting. Effortlessly. Constantly.

For the first time he is able to parent me, to guide me, protect, direct and assist me.

For the first time his love for me is unconditional, constant, accessible and felt.

I'm 100% convinced that death does not end a relationship, it just changes it. And in our case, those changes have all been for the better. His death brought new life to our story.

As I'm typing this a Deb Talan song is playing, the words have always felt like those from lover to lover, but just now I heard the chorus with new ears:

"You are forgiven
I open all my doors
You are forgiven
What a heart is for
I am no martyr
You give me reason
I try harder
And wait for a warmer season
Meanwhile you are
Forgiven "

For me, that is the greatest gift that has come from his death.


* Photo of my dad, brother and newborn daughter, 5/94


riversgrace said...

Totally agree. My mom has been gone over twenty years. And now the conversation with her is a sweet, comforting back drop in the day. Petals still unfold, often profoundly.

Go Mama said...

What a great space to be in with him. Proof of all the work and growth. Take an A, Ms C!


La La said...

Is that Rojo in the photo? Death certainly causes a change in the way we relate and see those we think we've lost. We are so limited by our attempts to live only in the physical realm. There is so much more.

Eileen said...

This is so true Carrie. Coming to this deeper understanding,insight and transformation is pure grace.

lo said...

I am speechless and thankful for your very important sharing.
xoxo lo

Amber said...

Very wise and true. Death can bring peace to a relationship. I remember feeling very relieved when my mother's mom died, even though she and I were close. Because my mom and much pain. So much drama. Always. So when she passed, I felt in my gut that she would have peace, and that maybe my mom would as well.


shauna said...

I love this post, Carrie.

Michelle O'Neil said...

What strikes me here is the love a child has for a parent, no matter how flawed that parent may be. The thread is there, and yes...with the physical body and personality out of the way..great things can happen.

The photo is telling too. So beautiful. I hope your little Miss always feels the love right there in that photo. The feeling of being valued and adored. It is palpable.


shawn said...

Carrie, I worked amongst the a First Nation on the North West coast, and one night over tea a group of elders and I got talking about life and death - they shared with me the understanding of life being something that extends through death to life everlasting ... They shared with me quietly their understanding of the Spirit World that exists around us ALL the time, and where each of them looked forward to going when their earthly journey ended ... YOU'VE just described the Spirit World as they understood it - a place of life that transcends death ... a place of wholeness and healing ...

thank you

Sue said...

"Death's Gift" - that says it all.

Love to you, today especially.

Deb said...

So profound. So beautifully spoken. So true. It seems like this might be why so many people reach a whole new level of healing when a parent with whom they had a difficult relationship dies.

Love the picture. Love you.

Jess said...

I love that picture too. Sweet. And I'm glad you are in a good space with him.

Great song, too. Love that song.

La La said...

Went to see Sex in the City. "It's all forgiveness," said Carrie to Miranda in the backseat of the cab!

Jerri said...

"For the first time he is able to parent me, to guide me, protect, direct and assist me."

Better late than never. Seriously, isn't it wonder that you get this in the end.

Wonderful piece, Carrie.

kario said...

Hmmm. This is speaking to me in such a beautiful way. Thank you.

I was lucky enough to heal my relationship with my father before he died, but our newfound appreciation for each other was too short-lived. Thanks for the hope that we can still experience it even after he's gone. I'm looking forward to that.

Terry Whitaker said...

awe-some post, Care.

Pam Lewis said...

Forgiveness - reminds me of a poem by Dick Lourie.
How Do We Forgive Our Fathers?
Dick Lourie*

How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.

Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?

Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?
* This poem is read during the last scene in Smoke Signals. It was originally published in a longer version titled "Forgiving Our Fathers" in a book of poems titled Ghost Radio published by Hanging Loose Press in 1998
Forgiveness always rewards.
From Pam Lewis, lizzy's friend from Montana.