There are so many aspects of dying that go far beyond just taking your last breath. One of those things is making peace with those you love and who love you dearly. I’ve said many times that death will either scatter or gather a family. Fortunately, I often get to be a part of seeing families come together as patients near the end of this life. Let me share with you one encounter.
We all know that divorce can be ugly and especially when kids are involved in the separation. Many families are never the same after this type event and some families live the rest of their lives bitter, broken, and in desperate need of closure. The patient I was seeing at this time was drawing close to the end. Although still able to communicate, this man was listed day to day. I knew that it was long overdue for someone to contact his children and give them all a chance at finding peace.
This man had been divorced for well over thirty years. Only one of his children had remained in contact with his dad. Two of his boys had not even spoken with him in nearly twenty years which blew me away. All of this man’s kids now lived quite a distance from their father. The patient had grandkids he never met and kids who never heard “I love you” in their life. As I gathered phone numbers I prayed that God would open their hearts, tear down existing walls, and bring this broken family together.
The patient actually told me that I shouldn’t even bother with contacting his boys because none of them cared to talk with him and never would. I told him that he needed to realize his children were now grown and probably longed for a relationship with their father. The patient at least gave me his blessing to attempt getting in touch with his now grown up kids.
My first call was to his youngest son who really never spent any time around his father because he was so young when the divorce took place. By this man’s bedside I listened as a grown man made his first real connection with his grown baby boy. It was as if they had known each other all of their life. They both said, “I love you” and that they were sorry they hadn’t spent more time together. The smile on the patient’s face was priceless as he felt all of the past was forgiven and at least right with one son.
My next call was to a son that had a lot of harbored bitterness, resentment, and anger towards his dad. The patient told me he knew this son would not talk with him and would likely not answer the phone. He was right, no one answered and no one called back that day. I left a message something like this, “Hey my friend, this is Chaplain Crosby with Amedisys Hospice. Just wanted to let you know that your dad is very close to passing away and I thought you might want to talk. Your dad realizes he has made a lot of mistakes and would love to hear from you if at possible.” I’ll never forget that night he called. He was like, “Are you serious, my dad wants to talk with me?” I thought the patient would pass out with joy as he now had connection and closure with each of his boys. After years of silence, misunderstanding, and waiting for the phone to ring they were all reunited as a family.
This man’s oldest son told me he waited all of his life for this to happen. He said, “I’ve always loved my dad, but there was so much between us. Now, we finally have the past behind us and we’ve cleared the air once and for all.” I felt so blessed to see the power of forgiveness at work in this family’s life. After over thirty years of misunderstanding, God put things back together in just two days.
My friends, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Life is too short to hold on to the past and not make things right with those around you. As I saw and heard first hand there are no more liberating words for anyone involved than “I Forgive You.” Do you have someone you need to call, write, or visit? If so, don’t wait until you’re on your death bed to make things right. “Tomorrow is not promised and today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”