My Grandfather Realized The Power Of Forgiveness During His Last Hour. This Doesn’t Have To Be You.


 By Mark Winkler

Reprinted From Blavity News

In the fall of 1992, I sat in a hospital with my father, my older brother and my grandfather. My grandfather was lying quietly, in the hospital bed as has he approached the final hours of his long and amazing life. A life he ceased sharing with my father many years ago. In fact, except for occasional letters, sent far too infrequently between the two men, my father and grandfather rarely communicated.

My father emotionally injured my grandfather when he moved my brother and me to live with him in New York. Before that, my brother and I lived in Saint Louis with our mother. My grandfather lived close to us which allowed him to see his grandsons often. My grandfather deeply resented my father for this action, and he severed ties with him as a form of punishment.

As the years passed, the divide between my father and his father widened. This divide eventually engulfed my brother and me. My grandfather’s refusal to forgive my father caused him to miss our high school graduations and my brother’s college graduation. These events occurred in New York. My grandfather would not be around my father. Therefore, he would not travel to New York to partake in these watershed moments. The sad truth is the events did not stop because my grandfather was not there. They went on as planned. My grandfather’s private vendetta against my father caused him to miss the events and missed valuable time around his son and grandsons.

Tragically it took 15 long, disconnected years to reunite us all. The day before he passed, my grandfather managed to work through his weakness and sit up. While sitting, my grandfather gently pulled my father close to him and asked for his forgiveness. Then he told my father he loved him. The two held each other for a moment and cried. Until that moment, I had never seen my father cry. Then my father slowly laid my grandfather back down. My grandfather turned slower and went to sleep for the last time. As I watched my father and grandfather, in this tender but painful moment, I thought how wonderful it would’ve been to see them hugging like this at either my or my brother’s high school graduations. I wish my grandfather would have forgiven my father for a wrong he determined my father did so many years past.

When we talk about forgiveness, we are talking about a precondition for healing. The emotional wounds my grandfather carried could not heal because he was too rooted in a narrative that justified his anger against my father. Healing can only occur when a person’s narrative is shaped by truth. The truth is my father and mother eventually agreed for my brother and me to live in New York with my father. This decision was not done to hurt my grandfather. In fact, it had nothing to do with my grandfather. Because of his love for me and my brother, our grandfather could not see it this way. My grandfather was angry and disappointed with my father, and he did not want to release those feelings. Therefore, sadly, forgiveness was not an option.

When I think about forgiveness, I think about those I love who have chosen the path my grandfather walked for so many years. I wonder if they could have been in the hospital room with my father and grandfather during those last moments of my grandfather’s life and witnessed my grandfather asking for forgiveness, would they be compelled to forgive those in their life who they harbor negative feelings against? Would they think about all the special moments they are missing because they refuse to move out of the narrative they’ve created to justify not forgiving particular people in their life? Would they realize life is too short to remain stuck in the narratives that isolate them from the ones they still love, beyond the pain and anger?

There are instances where forgiveness does not and should not result in reunification. Sometimes, it is necessary to forgive so you can move on with your life but not reunify with the party you’ve forgiven because of the real hurt and pain inflicted by that person. This is especially true if the person inflicting the pain is not prepared to offer restoration, if possible — or if the person has not demonstrated a willingness to change the thinking which resulted in the pain and hurt you endured.

For many people, the above statement may not apply. Therefore, forgiveness and reunification are strong possibilities with those they have chosen to eliminate from their lives. I would encourage them to start the process of forgiveness.

How does one forgive?

Forgiveness starts by challenging the narrative in one’s mind about why you refuse or are unable to forgive. How much of the anger and pain that you hold was actually caused by the person you have attributed this pain to? Is the severed relationship(s) truly beyond repair? Or is forgiveness the missing ingredient to heal long-surviving emotional wounds? Please understand, forgiveness is not a magical solvent.

Once introduced, forgiveness does not automatically erase the memory of the triggering event that caused the fractured relationship. Forgiveness is a process, a process that requires nurturing. Once you decide to forgive someone who you believe has caused you great pain, you must find a way to work through this pain to free yourself from the behavioral bonds created by this pain. Forgiveness is the first step. Counseling (individual or joint) may be necessary to fully move on if the pain and anger are too rooted and are causing a roadblock towards reunification and or restitution. Keep in mind, counseling does not have to happen in a therapeutic environment. If there is a spiritual practitioner, who is trusted by both parties, then seek counseling there.

My grandfather waited so long to practice forgiveness. He missed too many pivotal moments in his son’s and grandsons’ lives. This should not be your story. If you have the opportunity to practice forgiveness, please step into that opportunity with an open mind and heart, a mind and heart ready to foster a healing environment for both yourself and the one you once so freely loved.

A couple of good books to read that will help you on the road to forgiveness are ‘The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer and ‘Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach.


Mark Winkler is an author and motivational speaker. His book, ‘My Daughter’s Keeper’, is the compelling story of a father who risked everything to remain in his daughter’s life.


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