Grandfather's Gift of Forgiveness
My Grandfather was a well known and highly respected person. His birthday is Aug 6... in just two days. He would have been 94 years old this year.
My Grandpa died in 2005... I cannot believe I've survived 16 years without him.
What I'll share here with you, though, is the power of forgiving the people we love who get thrown from their pedistals.
Grandpa always told me that to forgive is to set your own self free. See, I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother's husband, Dale; and grew up being bounced between Mom's house and that of my Grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa were my refuge... my safe place... my everything.
Gramps tried hard to mediate the battleground between Dale and me. A Christian man, he would always quote scripture and expected me to be the bigger person. Understandable, except that I was only three when this all began.
I'd come to discover that my Grandpa, dear as he was and is to me, wasn't always right... wasn't always "good"... wasn't who I painted him to be.
He was a politician, and like all politicians, made questionable decisions. We disagreed about prioritizing job creation over Creation - ie, the environment - and discussions on race and religion. A proud Irish man, he was ashamed of my Grandmother's Indigenous heritage, and would berate her any time that "Injun blood" came through.
What I don't want to do here is tarnish my Grandfather, so I'll not share a list of his misdeeds. He was a man of an older generation, who had self-justifiable reasons for all his opinions and ways of being.
Oh, but he loved his family... and his country. He served in the Navy during WWII, stationed in Japan. He loved the Democratic Party and the Clintons. He became a vegetarian for me, because he loved me more than his carnivorous pallet. Every weekend was an excuse for a family gathering and every day an opportunity to say and show, "I love you".
After he died, many of his misdeeds came to light. Stories I'd overheard but ignored, rumors that turned out to be true... and my own repressed memories on display in the museum of my mind.
Before he died, he said, "Sugar, you are going to hear things about me that are so hurtful... I never meant to hurt anybody... I'm so sorry...". He put his hand to my cheek and I remember feeling the urge to pull away... to disengage. Was it a visceral reaction or a denial? I'm not sure... but he asked my forgiveness, which I gave to him, unsure of the deeds having been done.
But, the real gift that he gave me was brokenness. His passing catapulted my life into an oblivion that found me addicted to substances, toxic people, depression, and a very slow suicide. Once I discovered the truth of who he was... or rather, what he'd done, I didn't think I could ever forgive him, my family, or myself.
The wounds festered for some time... and parts of me had to be amputated. These were the parts of me shrouded in denial of my sexuality, individuality, Indigeneity, and cultural identity. Shattered was my desire to please him. The rajas of rebellion took over, set my life on fire, and left me to burn with it.
But fire is a purifying element, isn't He? He offers warmth, illumination, and direction. Through these fires, my ancestors came to me... Divine Mother called to me. The sacred smoke sent me in the direction of yoga - true yoga, way beyond the mat and postures.
And so I found myself in a mound of ashes, whispering memories, muddied by tears. In these ashes was the gift of grace to forgive myself, my family... and my Grandpa.
I'll never forget... I don't want to forget... these memories are a part of my story and our stories are Medicine. But, I can forgive because hating him is far too great a burden to bear. He was a man who made grave mistakes and decisions I cannot pretend to fathom. And, he was also my Grandpa... who offered me love, support, and sincere condolences for his actions.
Grandpa taught me to forgive. Not by his words, but by needing to be the one forgiven.