When We Choose Forgiveness

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| This is the 256th story of Our Life Logs |


As a child, I dreamed of my parents staying together, loving each other, celebrating my birthdays and making me feel like a princess. Sadly, dreams remained dreams, and I hardly had anything close to that. I was born in 1982 in Trenton, New Jersey. My parents broke up when I was still little, and my mom remarried soon after. Our home was full of outbursts of rage from my mom who was angry at her life and my stepfather who drank his feelings away. My birth dad was rarely in the picture because he had a severe drug problem. He was in and out of rehab most of his life and his absence left a hole in my heart.

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Me as a little girl.

I only got to see my dad a few times during my childhood—two memories, specifically. The first was when I was three years old and we were walking under a highway bridge. The second was when I was 10 and went to visit him inside of a rehab facility. It was like meeting an important stranger. I remember how handsome and healthy he looked despite being in rehab. I felt proud of my dad for the first time in my life and hoped he would be a part of my existence after he got out. But like many times before, addiction grabbed ahold of him and wrenched him away from me.

Other than these few encounters I did not know who my dad was, nor did I try to find out. I looked at him more as a distant acquaintance than a father. Our relationship was like that week-old bread—not necessarily bad, but not very good either. I’d get calls from him now and then, especially if he got a new number. It was a strange relationship because we were so disconnected, but he never completely severed himself from me. We never spoke on holidays, and he never called to wish me a happy birthday. He was the definition of an absentee father. Plain and simple, he was an addict, in every sense of the word. Whether it was alcohol, crack or heroin, he tried it and got hooked on it.

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Nevertheless, I grew up, wandering through my teenage years and finishing school. Despite the dysfunctional home life that I’d grown up with, I thought I was capable of finding a decent man to settle down with. In my 20’s, I got married. I thought my husband was a good man but he became abusive over the years. After 12 years of enduring the abuse, I decided to finally leave him in 2014. I was 32 with a seven-year-old daughter and a son under two, with just a tax refund check in my hand. I left everything else behind that couldn’t fit in a medium suitcase. I wound up moving to Las Vegas because it was affordable. Despite it being cheaper, I was still struggling to raise my kids all by myself while working. I had never felt so alone.

I knew I was better off without my ex-husband, but I also knew I needed somebody to help me with my children. As if the universe heard my plea, I received an unexpected call from my dad soon after moving to Vegas. He was calling to give me his new number, the 13th number he had given me. When he asked me about what had been going on since we last talked, I told him everything—how I was raising my kids alone, how I was facing eviction. I jokingly asked him if he’d move in to help. I heard one word on the other line.

 “Sure!” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.

“Are you serious?” I said, half-laughing.

“Yes, I’ll come help. I’ll start packing.”

I couldn’t believe it. My absent father was going to drop everything to come help me? It seemed like a joke, but his firm response made me wonder if he was waiting for me to ask. Finally I realized he was not joking. Maybe he decided it was time to make up for all the lost time. Or maybe he heard the despair in my voice and that moved him to drop everything to help.

At first, I was worried that I might be making a mistake letting him back in my life. I sought advice from my cousins, friends, and even my estranged mother. But ultimately, I went with what felt natural, and that was to give him a chance. I was an optimist at heart and despite the negative things I’d heard about him, I wanted to see those traits for myself. There comes a time in your life when you will have a choice to forgive or resent, and I chose to forgive. Still, I was very apprehensive.

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When my dad walked through the door in March of 2015, I could feel the awkward energy oozing out of us. All those years apart and now he was going to live with me? He had dropped his life in North Carolina to come help with the kids so I could work. That didn’t seem like the flaky addict I had been told he was. It sounded crazy, but after all, he was my dad and I wanted to give him a second chance.

Getting to know him all over again was challenging because I didn’t know where to pick up and I didn’t know where we even left off. But we worked through our disagreements with prayer. He felt so grateful that I was not mad at him and appreciated that I showed him the same love and respect I would have if he had raised me. He carried a lot of guilt for not raising me, but my forgiveness helped him breathe again. We healed each other.

Turns out, my dad was nothing like I’d imagined. He was kind and calm, rarely angry. He was good with my kids, and they fell in love with him almost instantly. The 58-year-old man physically looked like life had taught him a few harsh lessons, but even though he was rough around the edges, he was always smiling and cheerful. My flesh did not know him, but I felt that my spirit knew him and remembered that I once really loved this man as a baby.

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Dad playing with my son Bless at a park, 2015.

With my dad around, I got my life back together. He took care of his grandkids so I could focus on work and make new friends. He encouraged me to start dating again, telling me that I deserved to be loved and cherished, especially after what I had been through. Without his encouragement, I might never have opened my heart to love again. And if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met the man of my dreams. I fell so hard that by the time my dad returned to North Carolina, I was purchasing a house with my fiancé and expecting twins. Everything fell into place, and it felt amazing to stand on my own again.

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Me with my dad at a tennis tournament, 2015.

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My dad promised he would come back to visit once we were settled in the house. Unfortunately, he never made it back to visit. At least not in this lifetime or dimension.

On March 25, 2018, my dad was brutally murdered by a young neighbor who was full of rage claiming my dad owed him money for a cell phone. He beat my dad to death in his own living room a month after my wedding. I didn’t want to believe it was true. No. I had just gotten him back into my life and now he was gone not just from my life, but from earth itself. It didn’t feel real.

It was so hard to muster up the courage to tell my five-year-old and ten-year-old, “Pop-Pop is dead.” I could barely start the sentence without my voice cracking and tears escaping my eyes. I will never forget what my son Bless said to me when I told him the news. He chuckled out loud. “That’s impossible” were his exact words, as if I was a foolish little child for thinking this. Like this five-year-old understood something we did not, my dad could not die. In a way, he was right. Even if he’s physically gone, he’s still alive in our hearts. He lives on in our memories—memories we wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t allowed him back into my life, if I hadn’t forgiven him.

I missed my dad so much I intentionally found him in my dreams. Like the movie Avatar, as soon as I closed my eyes, I was submerged in another place. It took only an instant to be in the “REM” stage of sleep. In those dreams, I could still feel the warmth of his hugs, so tight and enduring, and that was what got me through the toughest days.

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If I were not open to getting to know my dad, I could have fallen back into my toxic situation. I could have struggled as a broke, single parent. I surely would have never had the opportunity to meet my beautiful soulmate and raise my four angelic, fascinating children. I would not have had the chance to have my brand-new, incredible life if I had not decided to put the past pain behind. I never thought this life would be possible a few years ago. And it is all because I choose to say yes instead of saying no.

I remember what my grandmother always quoted. “The darkness can never drive out the dark, only light can do that.” I’m glad that I refused to let my light continue to be dimmed, and chose forgiveness. Sometimes life will give you two choices, and one option looks scary because it is so unfamiliar and the outcome is, in fact, unknown. But if you prescribe forgiveness, you will start to see your life balance itself out. Good things will appear if we let them. I’ll be forever grateful that I chose to love my dad despite everything. He may have been flawed, as we all are, but when I needed him most, he was there and helped picked me back up. I’m happy I got to know him before he died. I would have rather loved him and lost him than to have never known him at all.

 

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This is the story of Melodie Hunter

Melodie, 36, now lives in Nevada with her husband and their four children. For most of her life, Melodie didn’t know her father, having only seen and talked with him a handful of times. After leaving a toxic relationship and facing raising her kids alone, she jokingly asked her father for help but was surprised when he dropped everything to help her get her life back on track. In their time together, she forgave him for his absence, which she is thankful for today because a few years later, her father was murdered. She is happy that she chose to forgive and get to know him before it was too late. Today, Melodie works to help women live the best version of themselves.

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Melodie Hunter, summer 2018.

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Melodie would also like to share a poem that her father wrote which describes the agonizing battle he had faced daily:

Revolving Doors

By Hubert Roland Hunter Jr

I’ve been coming in these institutions for half my natural life

And I’ll return if I don’t learn to just put down the dice;

I’ve risked it all a thousand times, on what I thought was pleasure

I lose it all each time I fall; the pain I dare not measure;

The classes at these centers taught me all about the drugs

They talked about behavior and why I hang with thugs;

The counselors have said to me, “you need to look inside.”

However, when I do this it’s cold and dark, and I’m lost without a guide;

I remember all the substances and the harm they did to me

I forget it all when I get a call to come get high for free.

That’s how I start my relapse and return to active using

The people that I dealt with out there think that it’s amusing;

At what point do I stop the lying and manipulation?

When will I start mistreating others to soothe my own frustration?

I’m tired of being something I’m not; I’m sick of all the scheming.

I must begin to comprehend the blessing of life’s meaning.

Please help me Precious Father to learn things I should do,

Therefore, when I leave, I won’t return and stop using drugs for good too.

See, I’ve been coming to these centers for half my natural life,

It’s my belief that the missing piece has been the love of Christ.

 

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This story first touched our hearts on February 2, 2019.

| Writer: Melodie Hunter | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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