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  • alishabridges4

Forgiving a Parent: My Dad was Missing for 10 Years...

No one had seen my dad for 10 years. The last time the family saw him, he was in San Diego, CA. The rumor was that he was homeless, but no one could find him.

Lost and Found

In September 2021, I received a call from his sister, my aunt, who said my dad had been found. He was in a hospice, dying of stage 4 lung cancer, with only a few months to live. And he had, in fact, been homeless.

I was devastated in more ways than one. It took me a few days to call him. I needed time to process my feelings. My mom reminded me that while it's okay to process, not to take forever. I used my tools of reflection and talked to my therapist. The emotions I experienced during that week are hard to explain. I felt empty the first day or two. I was confused. I was angry. I felt empathy. I cried because I thought to myself, 'It must have felt lonely being on the streets alone and thinking you are unloved…' That honestly was the hardest part for me. When I shared my thoughts with my therapist, she asked, 'How do you know he didn’t feel loved?' And my response was, 'Because the streets are about survival, not love…'

Making Amends

Fast-forward, I started talking to him several times a week. During that time, he made amends to me for his absence and explained some of his internal battles of not wanting to be a burden on anyone, which is why he stayed away. I didn’t understand it as a child, but now that I’m experiencing my own journey as an adult, I understand the struggles and complications of adulthood, which provided the grace I needed to love and forgive him as a parent in his last days.

My mom and I booked plane tickets to see him. During the weeks before our arrival, his condition worsened. Five days before we arrived, he began transitioning. This is where people stop eating, they start sleeping more, and they talk less, etc… basically, their body is preparing for death. I prayed that he would not pass before my arrival.

The End

On October 18th, we arrived at the nursing home at 9:33 a.m., took our Covid test, and were in his room by 9:47 a.m. The nurses were checking him. He was non-responsive, but still had a faint heartbeat. I sat next to him, held his hand, told him I loved him, and by 10 a.m., he was gone.

He first held me when I came into the world, and I held him as he left.

His Tribe

One of my dad's sisters handled all the funeral stuff. Before he died, he gave her the name of a couple that had helped him get off drugs. She contacted them, and they were devastated about his passing. They said they wanted to do something in honor of him. So we met in the park. When we first arrived, there were three people at the table. They immediately said, 'Are you Earl’s daughter? He talked about you all the time.' Then another woman walked up and introduced herself, 'I knew your dad! He was a wonderful man.' Then she left and went around the neighborhood to gather his other friends. By the time she had left and come back, there were 20 people around the picnic table sharing stories they had about my father… these folks were those who lived in the neighborhood or were other homeless people.

These are the things they had to say about my dad...

To read more on this story, this is explored in week 10 of my new book 'Dig Deeper: A 21-Week Guide to Self-Discovery Through Plants!' Get it now on Amazon:

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