“Why would she pray for him first?”, I thought as the lady on the other side of my Bible study table began to pray for my prayer request. Did she not hear that it was my dad who wronged me that I was trying to forgive?
It was an eye-opening experience for me to have someone actually care enough about my dad to pray for him. Little did I realize, this was showing me the next level of forgiveness that God was calling me to. It’s one journey to come to a place where you can choose to forgive. It’s another journey to care about this person enough to wish well upon them instead of evil.
My dad ended up in a nursing home at the end of his life. At first, a sister who lived in the same town would go see him every chance she could get. He had vascular dementia, and had a small stroke because of it. She did warn me one day that he may not remember who I am, and if I wanted the best chance to talk with him, I should visit sooner rather than later. I felt a nudge to go see him. I took time off from work, even though they were short-handed when I left. But I knew I wanted to see him once more while he remembered that I was his oldest daughter, Alicia.
To prepare for the visit with him, I thought about the most favorite thing I would do with my dad. When we had nothing, except the seven of us family members and some scrap paper, we would cut paper snowflakes and he would hang them up as Christmas decorations. It was always such a hopeful time for me, and peaceful. He would be creating instead of destroying, and teaching us instead of telling us to get our cotton-pickin’ fingers off of his things. The house would look magical once the orderly designs of white covered the paneled walls!
I packed my bags and tucked in some printer paper and scissors, determined to have this fun experience with my dad once more before he had to go. I drove the eight hour drive across half of North Dakota, the state of Minnesota, and into Wisconsin. I talked to Jesus the whole way! I sang to Him, and I listened to Him minister to me through the worship songs on the radio. I felt like my Perfect Daddy was proud of me for honoring the earthly dad He gave me.
When I got to my dad’s room, he remembered me! I was so grateful. I could also see that he only had use of one hand, so probably cutting snowflakes was not possible for him. I cut one for him. When I opened it in front of him while he watched, his eyes grew wide with the excitement of a child and he asked how I did it! “You taught me how to do that, dad!” I said. He noticed the heart shapes I had cut into it, and asked if we could hang it up. “Yes, I made it for you, dad”, I said. I made quite a few more that found their way up on his windows and walls of his tiny abode.
Covid hit the country soon after I got back home. Nursing homes began restricting visitors to keep the exposure of the residents down. Soon after that, they completely restricted most any kind of visit. I had a couple of video calls with dad, but he really couldn’t hear me, and it was so hard to talk. My one sister’s heart was breaking because she couldn’t see him at all. Eight months he lived like that, and then he died alone. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I can’t believe I once did have this wish for him.
Jesus put tenderness in my heart for my dad, and all human beings, and that includes the ones who have wronged me. All of us have wronged our Creator King, and He carried out His plan - to enter into His creation and give everything he had to gain us back to relationship with Him. I am one of them, and so is my dad. So are the ones who have wronged you. We all live before the face of the One Who created us. He takes the ones who seek His face, and reshapes them by His grace. He grows roses on their ashes. We can reach out at any moment, and His healing can change us. He’s changed my heart of stone to one of flesh so I can let the God of Heaven in, and now I see Him everywhere! I pray you can too!