Coming together at the end...
When it comes to kids gauging the moods of their Dads, most children hone their skills by reading their father’s temperament after he arrives home from work. Since he is an imposing figure, Dad’s negative disposition can easily hinder his child’s ability to interact with him. As a result, the lack of meaningful early communication can spill over into adulthood, leaving grown children with unresolved “daddy issues.”
My father was the ‘strong and silent’ type. With an emphasis on the ‘silent.’ That is, until he exploded in anger. As with many children, Dad was more of a stranger than Mom for the majority of my life. I feared him. I obeyed him. I loved him; but I didn’t know him.
With the passing of time, aging Fathers have a tendency to mellow. This creates an opportunity for their child to become more comfortable speaking candidly while sharing a conversation Dad. When my daddy aged and began to soften, my defenses dropped because I feared him less.
Many sons and daughters are able to forgive their fathers for perceived childhood wrongs once they see him as a normal human being who did the best he could raising them. It wasn’t until I saw Daddy as an old man suddenly preparing for his own death that I was able to summon the strength to confront Daddy openly, honestly and lovingly.
Sensing the end might be near, and living halfway across the country from my parents, I chose to live with “no regrets. I encouraged a dialogue with Daddy, one that is usually reserved for someone’s very last days. I wanted to have the deathbed conversation right then and there in case he got sick quickly and I couldn’t get home in time. Timing is everything when initiating a discussion of this magnitude, but you don’t have to wait decades before having it.
Once we had the frank talk, all the childhood wounds were instantly healed. All the pain dissolved. Never before had my heart felt so open and full of love than in that moment with Daddy. It led me to wonder: If a grown child and their father still have issues, why wait so long in life to resolve them? In some cases, death will precede the needed deathbed conversation leaving the wounds that much harder to heal.
There might not be a tomorrow. Daddy passed a few months after our talk. Knowing that I had already said the things that needed to be said actually helped a great deal during the grieving process. Nothing was left unsaid, hence, leaving no room for regrets.
I believe having the deathbed conversation not only eased my Dad’s mind during his passing, but also helped me to deal with other relationships. I needed to get to a better place with Daddy because I knew in the end, I would be left with the memory of my role in that relationship.
The earlier the better. Having a deathbed conversation – which tends to be open, honest and full of love and forgiveness – in a scenario not clouded by a pending death, can enhance the father/child relationship for the remaining years of everyone’s lives.
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