It’s been 19 years since my Dad passed away. I can hardly believe it—those years have just flown by in SO many ways. And in other ways, having him in my life feels like a lifetime ago.
When I realize that he wasn’t around to see the twin towers fall on 9/11 and experience its aftermath, or walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, or meet my dogs Portia and Ginger, whom I loved and adored for 15.5 years before they passed, or meet any of his grand kids, including his grandson who gets his driver’s license later this summer, then I’m reminded of just how much has happened since he passed.
Time is so funny that way. In our minds, our past events feel so far away and yet so recent, all at the same time.
Dad was a wonderful man and I was absolutely a Daddy’s girl. He had a special place in his heart for me, and I for him.
When I moved out of the house and started working downtown, my dad would look for opportunities to help me out whenever he could—taking me out to dinner after work from time to time, or coming over on a Sunday morning to help me change light bulbs or fix my kitchen sink, or whatever else I needed.
So when he got sick with a pretty nasty upper respiratory infection around Christmas in 1999 that still hadn’t gone away by March of 2000, I noticed. And so did my mom.
In mid-April 2000, he was diagnosed with Lung Cancer—already in Stage 4. He’d been a heavy smoker all of my life. He was using it, as I can see now, to manage a high level of stress and anxiety that he never addressed otherwise.
He was immediately treated with chemo. Unfortunately, the treatments did not work and his body was producing blood clots and levels of fluid that made both of his legs swell to where he could not walk. Shortly after, he began to get fluid build up in the membranes of his lungs, which needed to be drained in order to help him breathe.
One day, while I was at work, my mom called me in hysterics and I ran to the hospital to meet her. When I arrived, she was with my dad trying to help him as he was gasping for breath. I immediately went to find the nurse who told me that this was normal and that we’d have to wait for the doctor to come back.
Without any ability to influence her otherwise, I went back to my Dad’s room, only to see his condition worsening.
After some time, I went back to the nurse, begging her to come and help him or to please send another physician down to help. Showing annoyance at my second request, she stated this was normal and he would be fine.
The truth is, he was all but fine. He was nearly blue, gasping for breath so loudly you could hear him in the whole unit. My mother and I were an absolute mess and the doctor would not be back in Indianapolis to the hospital for 45 more minutes.
A friend of ours who had come to visit said that he would stay with my father while I took my mom to get a quick bite to eat. She hadn’t eaten in hours and was shaking.
We returned to the unit just as the Code sirens sounded. My dad went into cardiac arrest and we walked in to see doctors and nurses working to resuscitate him. He had been without oxygen for over 6 minutes before he came to and was immediately placed in a medically induced coma.
One of our neighbors was the doctor who had worked to save him. He came in to give us the news that my dad was in a coma was likely mostly brain dead due to the time he’d been without oxygen.
When we left the little room, the nurse who I’d begged for help before my Dad’s heart stopped was working outside the door we came out of.
Without even thinking, I ran towards her – screaming – and raised my arm to slap her across the face. I was so angry, I didn’t know what to do with it. If it weren’t for my two brothers who grabbed me and held my arm back before my palm made contact with her skin, things could have ended up going very differently that night.
The trauma of the events of this night were quickly overridden by the next day’s events. My dad was in a coma, and we knew we only had a few days to spend with him. Several days later, we opted to take him off life-support. From that point on, all emotion turned to sadness and grief for the days leading up to and after his funeral.
Except for one period of time for me. Whenever a memory of the night my father’s heart stopped crossed my mind, I noticed I would be instantly angry. Enraged, even, imagining I had been able to slap the nurse and tell her just how negligent she’d been and how things would have turned out differently if she’d done her job.
While my conscious mind knew my dad’s death was not caused by the nurse nor would her actions have saved him from dying from cancer, the emotional charge wasn’t just going away.
I sought out and hired a good friend who was trained in the practice to take me through the work. (I didn’t try to do this one on my own!)
I was projecting my anger over his cancer and death all on to her. I didn’t know how to unravel it all alone.
(This is typical for most of us – and not unlike other experiences we have that aren’t as extreme – BTW.)
First I had to breathe into and really release those pent-up emotions. I had to forgive and be seen as forgiven for the events surrounding the trauma I had experienced.
After that, I allowed the emotions to come up and flow when a statement triggered them. They were ready to be released.
Finally, we ended with what I was free to do now that I had released the pattern.
Forgiveness is the foundation of healing, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Because it’s the foundation, it has to be strong, solid, and take up enough space to support the rest of the emotions on top of it.
Because this is such powerful energy you’re shifting, I would highly recommend working with a trained practitioner, especially if you feel the pull to work through this practice. I’d also recommend you read the Mindset and Manta series around forgiveness. You may get a different perspective on how forgiveness feels!