My dad died and I didn't tell anyone. My mom, my siblings, and a couple of my closest friends heard the news, but there was no funeral, no obituary, and no crowds of people lining up to say goodbye.

My dad's body was found in the fifth wheel in which he was living on Friday, May 8, 2020. According to his death certificate, he went quickly after suffering a massive heart attack. He was alone when he passed and according to his Facebook page, his death was a shock and unfathomable. His friends, former colleagues, and even high school classmates mourned his passing.

I learned more about my dad by scouring his Facebook page than I knew about him in real life. You see, by his own choice, my dad had no contact with me or my siblings for over thirty years. The last time I spoke to my dad I wasn’t even in first grade and before I hung up the phone that day, he promised he’d call back. He never did.

The hurt that I felt from my dad’s actions turned to anger, resentment, and bitterness. It took me nearly 20 years before I could even say the words “my dad” without clenching my fists and shoving down tears. For those 20 years, I walked around with an infected hole in my heart because it was easier to allow the hole to sit wide open than it was to face it and work on healing it.

Only by the grace of God did healing finally come and it was because of a Sunday sermon on forgiveness. The pastor stood before us and explained that forgiving someone doesn’t mean that you no longer feel the pain of their offense, it means that you're freeing yourself from thoughts of hatred and bitterness. Even though family and close friends had told me the same thing for years, I guess I needed to hear it from someone who didn't know me or my story.

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For all of those years that I chose not to forgive my dad, I had allowed bitterness to fester inside me and it had begun to spread like cancer, eating into all areas of my life. Once I decided to forgive my dad and give it up to God to be the one to deal with him, healing began inside of me and the broken pieces of my life began to fit back together, and what an incredible feeling that is!

There have been several times that I’ve struggled with not wanting to extend forgiveness to someone who has hurt me but then I am reminded of how unworthy I am of forgiveness. And yet, God saw fit to love me and forgive me and if I want any peace in my life, I must be willing to do the same.

The reason I’m telling you this is that there might be someone in your life, maybe even your dad, who has hurt you so deeply that whenever you think of them, you wish for awful things to happen. Remember, forgiving doesn’t mean that you forget or condone what they’ve done. Forgiveness shouldn’t ever be contingent on the other person’s attitude. But what an incredible feeling it is to release the resentment and move forward with your happiness, even if it’s with wobbly steps at the beginning.

In my life, I have had several men who have seen the void in my heart of not having the love and support of my birth father and they stepped in to do the things he should have done. For teaching me to drive, for offering up words of wisdom, for being a shoulder to cry on, for holding me accountable for my actions, and for loving me through all of my highs and my lows, I will forever be thankful to my grandpa, my (step) dad, and my dearly departed friend Leo.

If there's a child in your life who has an absent father, I encourage you to find bits of time here and there to show them love whether by stopping by one of their games to cheer for them, teaching them how to change the oil in their car, or just taking them out for a slice of pizza. Each of those may seem small and insignificant, but to a kid without a dad, it means everything. I know firsthand how much it does.

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