Death and forgiveness #1000speak #compassion

David Bowie died this last week. The many eulogies have been sincere and heartfelt. We can feel empathy and sympathy for those close to him who no longer have him in their lives. Even those who knew him only as an actor, a musician, a cultural figure, even an icon feel a loss and a pain. No more Heroes.

Yet at many times during his life he caused controversy. As much for what he represented as what he actually did or said. He was avant garde and thus threatened established orders. But if such threats continued to his death they no longer do so he has gone; he is forgiven, if such forgiveness be needed.

It is easier to forgive those who are no longer able to challenge, to threaten, to hurt. You do not speak ill of the dead because, in truth you should no longer need to.

But, and here’s the thing, what if the upset, the hurt is in the dying? How does forgiveness manifest itself?

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When my father and I fell out over me moving in with my then girlfriend we didn’t speak, not in any meaningful sense for some time, over a year and the rapprochement only came when we announced we were going to marry.

It was silly, petty, Victorian, stubborn, stupid and hurt more than just the two of us. We both acknowledged, over time, our own part in this ridiculous impasse. We apologised and we forgave and, in the forgiving, we created a bond that deepened and strengthened as the years passed. We did what I hope I manage with my children – we became friends first and foremost, enjoying each other’s company.

And then he was diagnosed with cancer and within a year he died.

I was everything you’d expect. I was also bloody furious. With him. It became apparent he had had symptoms for ages and hidden them. Had he divulged them the treatment could have started much earlier and every month would have made a significant difference to the outcome. Today he would have been 88. He could have been 88. I lost a dear friend unnecessarily. Of course I was bloody cross.

The thing is it wasn’t his or anyone else’s fault this. He was private, excruciatingly so. He hated any sign of frailty, of showing weakness. It wasn’t manly and if there was one thing he had to be it was manly. Admitting to a urinary problem, a problem with his most masculine feature would have been huge, an almost intolerable burden and while he could hide it and any accompanying pain, he did so. I could better blame his own upbringing and wartime adolescence than his latter day decision making.

When I think of the old boy it is with affection and humour. They are his gifts to me: love life and love people and always, always see the funny side. It took me time to realise I would be spurning those gifts if I didn’t forgive, if forgiveness were needed, those poorly judged decisions. He could no more have avoided making them than I can avoid breathing.

In a sense I forgave because I wanted to be selfish; I wanted to keep those beautiful memories so I forgave. Isn’t that often the case, though? If you can’t forgive, does that leave you in a better place or just maintain the mutual damage? Forgiving someone else is an act of self compassion and, as such, as valuable a tool as any in ensuring you live the best life – for you, and  therefore all those who care for you – that you can.

Try and forgive. For you as much as anyone else.

This post is part to the 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. Please check out the website here for a link to more related stories and posts. Each month writers come together to post on compassion often within a theme. This month’s theme is forgiveness. 

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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38 Responses to Death and forgiveness #1000speak #compassion

  1. I understand some of what you are feeling. I struggled to forgive my mother, it took years after her premature death from cancer. My sympathies go out to you.

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  2. A beautiful post, Geoff

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Days like this are tough.
    But I hope your Pa is in a celestial bar somewhere with your Mum, having a pint or two.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Judy Martin says:

    That was a lovely, touching post Geoff.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kit Dunsmore says:

    I’m with you: we need to forgive others for our own sense of peace. Touching story.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Well said Geoff, and very well told. I’m going to check out the website now.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. merrildsmith says:

    A beautiful and thoughtful post. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. jan says:

    A lovely post! Your father sounds just like mine! (mine didn’t talk to me after I moved in with my boyfriend.)

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  9. Ali Isaac says:

    It must be so sad to have lost your dad so suddenly like that. I know death is part of the cycle of life but a loss like that leaves such a gaping hole in your life. I can understand your anger. I know I would feel the same. But you can’t live the rest of your life feeling angry can you? How miserable that would make you, and everyone who loves you. I’m glad you could forgive. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Louise says:

    I can understand your anger here – I’d have been mad too. I’m glad you found a way through though. And I agree about forgiveness being good for the one doing the forgiving. Letting go of the anger – the peace found in doing that – I was older than I should have been when I figured that one out.

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  11. davidprosser says:

    An excellent post Geoff bringing home the benefits to oneself of being forgiving. I’m glad you made peace with your father so you can look back with humour and affection.
    Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Lovely post, Geoff. One we can all take heed of.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. willowdot21 says:

    Beautiful post Geoff, I have similar experiences with my Dad and similar feelings to cope with. Yes always try to forgive and hope to receive forgiveness too. 🙂 xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Sacha Black says:

    Beautifully put. Bittersweet but with no regrets. I don’t think we can ask for much more. None of us are perfect and in that sense we can only forgive each other. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

  15. roweeee says:

    Geoff, thanks so much for spilling your guts and so much heart. Parents can be difficult and I guess all we can do is try to learn from our parents’ mistakes knowing full well that we’ll end up making our own. I always said that if there is one thing I wanted for my kids was to feel loved. This is quite a different thing to being loved. More and more I am finding that this is difficult not only within families but also among friends. So many really struggle to feel loved and accepted. Such insecurity.
    My son has real issues with this but we’re trying to be more demonstrative and help him find areas where he can excel. Some kids seem to fall into their niche where for others it is harder. Takes longer.
    In terms of “forgiveness”, helping my son has helped me forgive my own mother who shows love in a different way and is more reserved. Alot more reserved than me. That was very hard, especially compounded by my undiagnosed hydrocephalus. I actually feel sorry for her now trying to parent a child who was under the influence of such an invisible fiend.
    xx Rowena

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  16. Liv says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. A very personal post, Geoff, thanks for bravely sharing this private sense of loss, grief and anger with us. All are valid and understandable emotions given the sad circumstances. It takes time to heal, and forgive. It sounds like you have found that place now. I remember a good friend of mine being very upset when her mother in law didn’t tell anyone that she had breast cancer, she took no treatment for it at all, chose to die, in a stoical fashion with no fuss. I think this caused my friend pain too. She was very fond of her mother in law, perhaps more so than usual as her own mother had died when she was very young. Often people particularly of that generation make decisions that cause others great sorrow, perhaps unwittingly, embarrassed as you say by a disease in such a private part of their body.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Very touching post, Geoff. It can be very hard to move past anger when confronted with a loved one’s terminal illness – I’m glad you were able to so that you can remember the friend that you had in your father.

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  19. As others have said, I understand the anger you must have felt. I would have felt the same. I’m also glad you could forgive. So true: “Forgiving someone else is an act of self compassion…”

    This is a lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

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