The Medicine of Forgiveness by Tom Garcia
Some years ago, I had a falling out with my dad. At the time, he was living in Las Vegas with my uncle and they were both being swindled to the tune of thousands of dollars by a woman they believed was helping them. My siblings and I attempted to extricate them from a bad situation, but they refused to listen to us, and things got worse.
The moment of truth came for me while I was on the phone with my dad, trying to sort out what was happening to his money. I couldn’t seem to get a straight answer. In the midst of my questions, he finally told me to stay out of his business and that Angela was helping them. I remember staring at the phone in my hand, slack jawed and incredulous. I felt like I was 10 years old again. Calmly I said, “Ok, I’m out of it. Don’t ask me for anymore help,” and hung up the phone. I was so angry I cried. Part of me could not believe that my dad trusted a woman he barely knew more than he trusted his own son, but another part of me could.
Growing up I was the oldest of seven kids. My mom was a single parent who, for the most part, raised us alone. As the oldest, I saw and heard things close up and with no filter. I felt my mom’s undiluted pain, her fear, anger and despair—it just went right in. God only knows what I did with all that emotion! My dad was a charismatic figure who sometimes showed up when he said he would, and often times did not. He supported us financially in much the same way. Despite everything, I still loved my dad. Through the years I have forgiven him many times over for things both real and imagined. I thought I was done.
After I hung up the phone, I put him out of my mind. Not all at once, but gradually. Months went by, a year, then another year. During this time, I was deep on a spiritual path of my own. I learned that things buried have a way of finding their way to the surface for those wanting truth. In the broadest sense, I wanted the truth, my truth—not someone else’s version of the truth—and that took me to some interesting places.
One day, lost in thought, I was making my way into the woods to build a fire and stay out for the night under the moon and the stars. I had work to do—inner work—but didn’t know yet what that would be. As I was walking, a voice spoke to me, clear as a bell, and said, “You need to forgive your father.” I knew the voice, and it stopped me dead in my tracks. My reply was quick: “I’ve already forgiven my father. There’s nothing more for me to do.”
There was a pause, quietly the voice said, “Forgive him again.”
In that moment I understood there was no way to avoid what I had been avoiding. With a deep sigh of resignation, I said, “Okay, I’ll do it,” with no idea how, and just like that I had my work cut out for me. Something I had written years before came back to me:
TO BE A WARRIOR
BREAK YOUR OWN HEART
STAND IN THE FIRE YOU MADE
COME BACK TO THE WORLD
CLEAN AND TRUE
At the fire, under the night sky, there are no secrets. The truth stands simple and uncomplicated, waiting to be revealed. I struggled to listen and then just listened without struggling. I said, “Let the truth come,” and asked the question, “Forgive my father for what?” The answer came, a revelation like a beacon of light illuminating my density. The voice returned with the utmost clarity and told me, “Your father came to teach you about forgiveness. That makes you uncomfortable—and it should. It is much easier to judge, to blame, and to hold in contempt, even if you are unaware that you do so. And what do you blame him for? Secretly, you blame him for everything that is wrong with your life, so you could be right and keep him wrong for all that he didn’t provide. Who else do you give that kind of power to? It’s time to give that one up, time to heal the wound, and put an end to the story you’ve been telling yourself.
“Forgiveness. This is your medicine—the medicine you must take for yourself and all those who come after you, and it is the medicine you must give. Remember this: you are already forgiven—so forgive! Everyone you forgive releases you. So begin today by forgiving your father. Forgiving others will then be a lot easier. Forgive those you have held responsible for whatever is not working in your life. This will go a long way in the world.
“Keep letting go—don’t hold on to anything, not one piece or particle. None of it is true, and none of it is worth preserving or perpetuating. You see, there isn’t anybody else out there. It’s just you and me. Through your father you will recognize a long line of people you need to forgive. You will find a single thread that connects all of them. Pull that thread and you will untangle a knot that chokes the life out of you. Repeat after me: ‘I forgive. I am forgiving. I am forgiven.’ There, it’s done. Repeat as often as needed.
“The other part of forgiveness is to bless everyone and everything in your world. In this way, forgiving and blessing, you heal yourself and every life that touches yours.”
That night I offered a ceremony for my dad and blessed him. I gave him a blessing that was mine to give, one of complete forgiveness.
A few weeks later, my sister called out-of-the-blue and said, “Tommy, I think we need to bring dad home.” Without hesitation I agreed. We made a plan, and shortly thereafter brought him safely home. It was a rescue mission. I knew that what had happened at the fire created a space of possibility that wasn’t there before. I would have stood in the way—unforgiving—and held myself hostage.
My dad has been home for four years now. Every time we see each other, and he looks into my eyes, he sees only love.
AT THE FIRE
UNDER THE NIGHT SKY,
THERE ARE NO SECRETS
THE TRUTH STANDS SIMPLE
WAITING TO BE REVEALED.
There is no room for anything else. I am reminded of a fragment from a George Eliot poem, “…chaff and grain together keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness,
blow the rest away.
Tom Garcia, DC, is a chiropractor, devoted husband and father of four. His passion is helping others find clarity and purpose through ceremony. He can be reached at Garcia Chiropractic in Ignacio, CO 970.563.1006. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.