Making peace with my dad before his recent death.

Very recently, my father passed away. As you can imagine, he was a massive influence in my life and I am the woman that I am today because of him. However, it’s not because he showered me with love and affection, remembered my birthday or comforted me when I was upset. It’s precisely because he never did those things. Our relationship was always fraught with his stubbornness and pride, and my free-spirit desire for freedom, respect and honest love. Over the years, our differences in culture and generation caused a major rift, especially when I married out of the asian culture. The relationship was completely fractured and fraught with anger, resentment and misunderstandings. When I left home/was disowned, it was up to me to try and understand all the hurt and upset, the confused ideas of how a family is portrayed in the media and what my reality was and ‘why’ things had turned out as they had. I also chose to give myself a chance in life, in love and my dreams, with or without anyone by my side.

Through fifteen years of estrangement, I knew that I had to forgive myself and forgive him for not being the father that I needed. I learnt that he was only ever doing his very best. He tried his best and when someone is doing that, regardless of how much more we want from them, that is all we can be grateful for. I couldn’t ask him for anything more than he could give. No matter how much cajoling, dreaming, antagonising, wishing, crying or depression, he could never be anything more than he was. Maybe he was following his heart and always doing what was right for him. It caused upset and pain but he did what he needed to do. As a free-spirit myself, I get it. When I make choices that others don’t understand, I have to keep going until (and if) the point comes when others will understand why.

When I reconnected with him a few months ago, for the first time ever I saw that he loved his eldest daughter. It was in his eyes and his smile. For me, that is a priceless memory and after everything that our relationship was, there is nothing more left to ask for. I realised that until that moment, I could never have recognised my father’s love. I wasn’t ready and I didn’t know what I was looking for. i’m so glad I was able to dig deep within for forgiveness.

Funny thing is that whilst he was in hospital I got to know what kind of a man he was through his visitors; family, friends, from the neighbours, the nurses and through my own eyes. He was much loved, respected, and looked up to. He was a warm person who really wanted to make things easier for other people, always offering advice and helping out anyone that he could. He was charismatic, curious and interested in others and even as ill as was he kept his humour and his kind nature. He was his own person, super independent and self-assured. He was also determined that he knew what was right for him-haha now I know where I get that quality from!

In order for me to learn who my father was, there was no more space in my heart and mind for anger or resentment. I had to make peace with him, regardless of the memories that never happened, dreams that were never talked about and words that were never said, I knew that I had to make peace with him before his time was up. With all the courage I could muster, I told him: I loved him as his daughter ever since I was a little girl, and that whatever has happened, I have forgiven him and that there is no longer a need to hold any anger or pain in his heart. “Just let it go and go with peace in your heart”. Seeing the words on my screen right now, they don’t really seem as powerful as they were. However, in the moment, they meant the world. And, after I said what I needed to say, I realised I was there to fulfil my duty and purpose to him and ensure he was comfortable, that his path to inevitable death was as dignified and ‘forgiven’ as possible. To witness my father, this man that scared me ever since I was a kid who had such a powerful booming voice and presence lying in hospital, graciously asking and accepting help, vulnerable and totally in God’s hands humbled me to the core.

To be at his side when he took his final breathe was such a blessing and an honour. He tried his very best for 7 weeks to hold and stay alive. As much as he fought, when the time came, all that was left was peace. A peaceful end with his family together again, by his bedside and a huge amount of love and kind wishes from so many friends and family, nurses and doctors.

Life is such that we are never told when our heartbeat is going to stop. However, until that moment, you’re alive, you have so much to be grateful for and you have so much power to change things in your life that you are unhappy with. Be the trailblazer in your life by being brave enough to say the things you need to say, do the things you want to do, and stay true to your heart no matter how much it upsets others, so that when the time comes YOU have no regrets. As I say, Life is today. That’s it. Life is ONLY ever Today.

We never knew what he was thinking during his last two months as he could no longer speak, and even though he was fully alert until the very last hours, I hope that he wasn’t thinking of any regrets, dreams never realised, and memories never created. I really hope it was all about acceptance of the life he did have, and the blessings of love he had all around him.

Love Leila xx