You have traveled this journey with me as an ever-present companion. We have traversed through this terrain, so unfamiliar and unsteady.
But like a Dear John letter, I write to say that we have reached the fork in the road. I want to travel on without you.
The hardest and simplest truth is this:
For my father, living hurt too much. He chose to end his life.
I must live with that for the rest of my days. But the key words there are
I Must Live
I must live with the never knowing.
Live with the loss.
Live with no answers that will ever fully mend that which has been so irrevocably wounded.
But I must also live with purpose, intention, love, joy, and forgiveness. Your grip pulls me away from those things. You yank me back as if I were a child lurching into the street.
I forgive my father.
I forgive myself.
Perhaps one day, I will even forgive God. I believe you stand in the way of that. I still want accountability, an entity to blame. God has shouldered most of that, as I answer you with a finger pointed in the direction of The Divine.
If I continue to hold you, I am bound by the shackles of his suffering.
If I continue to hold you, I dwell in the darkness that consumed him.
If I continue to hold you, my compass will forever point me only backward.
Holding on to you holds me back.
You have nothing left to offer me. I have learned every lesson that you have to teach. I have shared those hard truths in the hopes of helping others whose lives may hang in the balance. You have given me at least that much. Looking back with you has helped me empower others to look ahead for the subtle signals that indicate Danger Ahead. For that I am grateful.
It was an illness of the mind that drove my father to suicide. It was a darkening of the soul, a final act that comes from a depth of suffering I hope never to know.
And it wasn’t my fault.
You must let me go, or perhaps I must let go first. I must surrender to the senselessness of it all. No clue, no warning, no greater understanding will ever give it the meaning I seek. I know that is why I have tightened my grip. I wanted more than that. Like that childhood game Red Rover, anytime that painful certainty threatened to penetrate, I grasped you with full force lest it break through.
I am deserving of this unburdening.
It has taken me a long time to believe those words.
I loved him. I choose to believe that he knew that. Because that was not enough to save him does not mean that I was not enough.
I will lay you down, knowing full well that at times, our paths will cross again. You will find my shadow and on the cloudiest of days, you’ll visit for a while. You’ll arrive unannounced, uninvited, as is your way.
But I will answer you with this, as it is the only truth that I know.
If he had asked for help, I would have given it.
If he had removed the mask, I might have seen more.
He lost any hope that life would get better.
I will not.
Yes, we’ve traveled hand in hand, you and I for far too long.
Finger by finger, with bare knuckles, I am prying you loose. I will free my grasp to reach toward remembrances of my father in life. That is how I will carry him forward on this voyage with me. Let those memories and reflections be my travel companion. Let them accompany me where once you did. You have asked enough of me. I have told you all that I will ever know. You take up too much space on this path. You cast a shadow that distorts my view.
Absolve me, as I absolve myself.
Exempt me, as I exempt myself.
Release me, as I release myself.
Liberate me, as I liberate myself.
Let go of me, as I let go of you.
I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering up its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.
~ Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
This piece was originally written for Reflecting Out Loud. It is there that Deborah shares about her journey after her father’s suicide with fellow survivors.