“And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” ~Luke 11:4
I know the title piqued your interest. That was my hope. And I know sometimes as we face certain obstacles and frustrations in life, our defenses tell us to “F it” or forget it. But that’s only in theory. Those offenses or emotions that we put out of our mind, on the backburner, or that we suppress…are only lying dormant. They’re not gone. They’re just waiting for the right time to resurface. And by right time I mean a time where we’re forced to bring those offenses up or to face them.
But the F that I refer to in the title is not the 4-letter word that our mind is usually drawn to consider, but rather a 7-letter word. And how befitting is it that it’s seven letters?
You see, the number 7 is referred to as the number of perfection, completeness, safety, and rest. And what’s more complete and perfect about resolving a situation than to FORGIVE?
Forgive – a transitive verb that means to cease to feel anger or resentment against (an offender) for an offense, flaw, or mistake
Just a quick observation… If you’ll notice, forgive is identified as a transitive verb which means the person or thing (in the sentence) receives the action. Not just that an action happened… but that the action was RECEIVED.
I hope you’re already beginning to understand the revelation.
Exactly two weeks ago today…my world stopped. And in that moment, I had to begin to process everything I thought I knew or felt. Something that no one ever wants to consider, regardless of their age, happened Tuesday, May 24th @ 9:17am CST. My father transitioned from waking life into the next. The arms that this once little girl wished would hold her…could never hold her again; and instead, the arms around me would be the arms of my son, giving me permission to release my inner grief and the outer wailings and tears that accompanied it.
I won’t revisit all the details of the past. If you’d like a glimpse into some of those, you’ll have to go back and read my previous blogs, Our Fathers Who Art in Life ( June 2020) or Arrested Development (July 2021). In them, I share my experience as a daughter who struggled in my youth with my relationship with my father due to circumstances beyond my control, but circumstances that deeply affected my emotional self.
However, through my education, faith, and maturity I was able to navigate through some of those previous thoughts, feelings, and experiences and find a way to love my father in spite of, and step willingly and unselfishly into the role of daughter and perform the duties I was biblically required to uphold.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” ~Exodus 20:12
As I’ve shared before, I came to understand that I had been created and gifted with some attributes that my father needed to see and experience THROUGH ME that weren’t necessarily his strengths.
Often, we assume that individuals because of their roles, titles, or positions should be innately equipped to demonstrate or provide what we need or feel we are lacking. But people can’t give you what they don’t have or isn’t in their wheelhouse (area of interest or expertise). Just because a person can talk doesn’t mean that they are good at communicating. Or, because two people are married that they both understand love, support, and partnership. And even though someone has children doesn’t mean they comprehend the complexity of parenting. Some nurture their children. Then, like a business, others manage their children. While some, out of ignorance, completely neglect their children.
I promise you, there is a story and experience behind every approach. But as we grow and mature, we realize that whatever our experience may have been is a part of OUR STORY and who we will become, and a part of what God will use to bring us (and those He’s entrusted to us) to the place we need to be. HE WASTES NOTHING. It’s all a part of our formula.
On Friday, May 20th, I woke up feeling emotionally heavy. I was trying to find the motivation to get out of bed when…my cell phone rung. It was one of my college friends who I don’t hear from every day, so I answered because his calls are usually intentional. When I answered, he shared that the Lord had laid me on his heart, and he was just calling to applaud me on the release of Heeeyy Dandelion and to also encourage me that the place God was taking me (though it might seem foreign) was where I was intended to be. The call was just what I needed, because even though within the past several weeks I had been riding the wave of the success of Heeeyy Dandelion, imposter syndrome was still real.
But after that phone call, I got up and I began to pray and worship God for the season, and acknowledged that I trusted Him with whatever He was doing. Some might now think to themselves, “You must be careful what you say to God.” But even after saying it and with what happened…I STILL trust Him. Now I realize that early morning phone call was fortifying me for what was to come.
Later that evening my sister called and said that our father’s medical team had concerns. Based on our father’s current condition, they were advising us to come visit as soon as possible because we were probably looking at a couple of days to a couple of weeks at best.
Hold up! “At best” for what?! Days? Weeks? What are we talking about?! What’s happening here?! I couldn’t wrap my mind around even the thought of what they were trying to tell us.
Then too, I’m such an optimist. I was certain, for precautionary and supportive reasons, my sister and I should get to dad’s side expeditiously, but somehow, I thought that in couple of years we’d be looking back at this weekend laughing and saying, “Daddy you remember how you scared us and had us rushing to New Orleans because the doctors thought you were leaving us?” I chuckled to myself at even the thought…while at the same time booking a one-way ticket to leave for the first flight out of Atlanta the next morning.
That night, I couldn’t pack or sleep. I dozed off just a bit before my alarm went off at 3:00am. I’d have to leave home at 4:30am, if I was going to make it on time.
As the wheels of the airplane left the ground, I couldn’t believe I was going to see my father because the doctors believed he was in the final stages of life.
For a moment, I wondered what the rest of the passengers were going to New Orleans to do. In that instance I realized, we can never take for granted the reality of the person next to us. Each of us has our own narrative. Some are heading to rest and relaxation, while others are going to face challenges beyond their capacity to comprehend or sustain.
I prayed that God would give me strength, because I really didn’t know what I was preparing myself for; but I also prayed that He would give me wisdom to do and say the right things. Now wasn’t the time for reminiscing about the past, or what should have or could have been. This time needed to be intentional and precious.
Love keeps no record of wrongs. ~1 Corinthians 13:5
Fixed on the Father
Just after noon, my sister and I walked into the cold sterile hospital room. The medical team was doing their rounds. They were expecting us.
As we walked in, they said, “Mr. Charlie, Do you know these people?”
His eyes lit up and then he said, “Yeah! Those are my girls! Hey, Babies!”
It was good to see him, but we could tell he was sick.
I said, “Hey Daddy! It’s good to see you. Why you got these folks calling us thinking something going to happen to you?” And for a quick moment he laughed. Then he gasped and beckoned for his basin. He felt the urge to throw up. I thought and hoped it was a false alarm. Then it started. Convulsive, projectile vomiting. One of the signs and symptoms related to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and renal failure.
We’d learn that this had become a regular occurrence. His kidneys were no longer functioning or producing waste for him to excrete. Anything in his system was coming up. One of the doctors shared that though no one can definitively say when a person will expire, without intaking regular solid or liquid nutrition, the time would come sooner than later. That was hard to hear.
I’d never seen Daddy sick. Of course, he had been sick before and in the hospital…but I never really saw him. I was usually away. I’d talk to him and soon he’d be out and ok. But this time was different.
After his episode subsided, my sister and I both tried to see if we could get dad to eat or drink anything that might give him a little energy; but not wanting to risk throwing up and the energy that took, he declined everything.
So, I decided not to become frustrated and just try to be in the moment.
Do You Know Him?
My sister brought up that she had talked to the chaplain. I asked, “Daddy, do you talk to the chaplain when he comes around?” He confirmed that he did. But I needed to know a bit more.
“What kind of things do you all talk about,” I asked.
My dad: “He just asks me about my faith and if I believe in God.”
Me: “What did you say?” (I just needed to know and confirm. I can’t be around here concerned about the world’s salvation and neglect the person responsible for me being here.)
Sounding almost a bit put off at the audacity of my question, my dad responded, “What do you think I said? I told him that I believe in God.”
Still needing to confirm, I countered, “What do you believe about God, Daddy.”
“I believe that He sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and on the third day He rose, and that I have eternal life because of Him.”
With tears in my eyes I said, “ALRIGHT NOW! I hear you…and yes you do, Daddy…Yes, you do!”
It’s All in the Science
A little later there was another question that I needed clarity on while Daddy was still alert. My dad had mentioned to me last year that he was considering donating his body to science. I was in complete disagreement with the thought. Yet, he did it anyway, and confirmed to both me and my sister that this was still his wish.
The logistics and particulars that donating your body to science entails are very rigid. There is no gray. I knew that if Daddy passed while he was away from us, we would never see him again. Thus, we would have no closure.
When someone donates their body to science, once death is confirmed, the body becomes the property of the Bureau of Anatomical Research. This can be a great contribution to medicine; however, given our circumstances, I didn’t take this to be ideal for me and my sister.
Coincidentally, I had become acquainted with the concept while serving as a Casualty Assistance Officer in the Army. I was assigned to a case where a service member donated his body and I had to be deeply involved with his wife and the process due to some communication barriers. I always thought it was the strangest case, and no one I knew had been assigned to anything similar. Through that experience, I felt I learned way more than I thought I would ever need to know. Yet, more than 15 years later, I would finally realize God had given me that specific assignment for such a time as this. Again…HE WASTES NOTHING. It was all in the science.
As we could tell Daddy was getting a little tired, my sister and I agreed it was a good time to head out; but taking nothing for chance, I asked that the three of us pray together before we left. I wanted every moment sealed by the acknowledgement and presence of God and His power.
Though this marked the first time the three of us were all together at the same place and time, I believed that God had ordained it to feel natural and peaceful. It was all in the science.
Still Yes and Amen!
Sunday we weren’t able to visit, but I was able to go back to the hospital that Monday. Immediately, I could tell there had been a decline. Daddy just didn’t seem like himself. He wasn’t completely sure of who I was and seemed disoriented and irritable. He complained of being cold, so I got him some additional blankets. A few minutes later, he complained of being hot and uncomfortable. I was having a hard time processing what was going on.
When I left Saturday, I still wasn’t convinced that my father was going to die. If the doctors were saying life expectancy was 43% that meant that God had 57%. But regardless of God’s percentage, He can make 100% out of anything. My faith allows me to believe that.
But on Monday…I faced the reality that this was possibly the last time I might see my father, and sorrow tightened within my chest in a way I can’t ever remember experiencing before.
I tried not to let my daddy see me cry, but my eyes were welling with tears faster than I could wipe. As my father laid there, he was trying to keep his eyes opened but his strength was failing him. So, I just said, “Daddy, go ahead and get you some rest. I’m gonna stay here with you for a minute…but you can sleep, and I’ll come and check on you tomorrow.”
Daddy nodded his head and closed his eyes. I could tell that his breathing had become shallow. That tightening in my chest… captured my throat this time too.
I touched his shoulder and kissed his forehead, and whispered in his ear,
“Daddy, I love you…And know this…Whatever was unsaid or misunderstood or mistaken…ANY OFFENSE…it ends here. You don’t have to carry it with you, and I won’t hold it here.
Do you hear me?
Listen. I forgive you for anything that may have happened through the years. AND IF…I ever hurt you in any way…I ask for your forgiveness.”
He just nodded his head.
I ended with just saying, “Thank you for being my daddy.”
As hard as this was, one thing was for sure and two things were certain…My daddy was right with God, we secured peace, and anything unfinished was resolved.
I knew as I left the room that whatever might happen was well… either way.
The next morning, around 7:45am, we were informed by the attending doctor that our dad’s blood pressure was decreasing rapidly, and we should come as soon as possible. I assured them I would be there as soon as my son made it in town. He was then only 20 minutes away. But just as my son made it into the hotel room, I received the call,
“I regret to inform you, Mr. Charleston has passed.”
I don’t care what anyone else says…there’s no amount of preparation that makes that any easy conversation.
Fortunately, I was still granted a little more time to see him.
When I walked in the room this time, accompanied by my son, there was a peace that I can’t even describe. Daddy just looked like he was sleeping, which for me was a first. I realized…I had never seen my dad sleep.
Before he became ill, he was a workaholic. Working sometimes from sunup to sundown.
My Daddy’s Child
I used to think during those times we missed together when I was growing up that he must have been off doing unspeakable things. But what I learned from the reflections given at his memorial was that he was a smart, charismatic, witty, hardworking, leader, who liked nice things.
He was an entrepreneur who helped other aspiring entrepreneurs learn business. He was a skilled trucking and diesel mechanic, who was described as a good friend and boss.
One man even said,
“I never met a man who could work like your daddy. Even when he faced adversity, he always came back better than before.”
I was pleasantly surprised by the sincerity of the words given…as well as intrigued.
Oh, how I wished I had known the parts of the man they spoke of. However, through those who knew him best, I learned that my daddy had been living in me all along.
I’ll admit, I questioned that maybe I hadn’t given him a true unadulterated space in my heart all those years. I wished that some of my beliefs had not been influenced by the opinions of others
But what I knew for certain was that… I MISSED MY DADDY.
The call had come…and he answered.
I am grateful for the opportunity afforded to me and my sister to have the closure we assumed we wouldn’t get. God has a way of working it out as only He can. But more than that, I’m grateful for the chance I had to forgive…and be forgiven.
I meant what I said… I didn’t want my dad to take the burden of any of his decisions with him…and I WILL NOT allow them to linger here.
F____ IT ALL!
Freedom in Forgiveness
For I know now more than ever that there is freedom on the other side of forgiveness.
The peace that I witnessed on my father’s face as he lay in that hospital room on his final day…was for me a sign of his COMPLETE FREEDOM…literally, figuratively, and spiritually.
And no one holds the right to keep anyone else bound whom the Son has set free.
When I began, I pointed out that FORGIVE is a 7-letter word, and that the number 7 is referred to as the number of perfection, completeness, safety, and rest.
In 7 days (Saturday – Friday) I believe my father was made perfect; his life and our relationship became complete; he received his rest; and now he lies safely in the Master’s arms.
Forgive proved to be transitive when I chose to cease feeling anger or resentment against my father for any offense, flaw, or mistake made. Forgiveness didn’t just happen, it was an action that was RECEIVED.
I’m reminded of the song, that I think is befitting, entitled “I Am Free” that says:
I am free.
Praise the Lord, I’m Free.
No longer Bound.
No more chains holding me.
My soul is resting.
It’s just a blessing.
Praise the Lord…Hallelujah! I’m FREE!
To my sister (or brother) reading this blog… Is there anyone that you need to forgive or need to ask for forgiveness so that you can experience freedom? Don’t think just because you’ve written the person or situation off in your mind that it’s gone. It’s just lying dormant waiting to resurface.
F____ THAT, Sis! Control it. Don’t allow it to control you. Matthew 6:14-15 (MSG) says,
In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.
Listen. The freedom you need may not be physical. But understand this…with any level of unforgiveness there is bondage…mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. But my prayer for you THIS DAY…is that you won’t allow unforgiveness for keep you from the rejuvenation and restoration that is available to you.
F____ IT, Sis! Your freedom awaits. Love you! ~Dawn
This blog is endearingly dedicated to my father,
Charlie Charles Charleston, Jr.
Sunrise, February 25, 1954 – Sunset, May 24, 2022
Gone, but not forgotten.