All of us have “soul contracts” with specific people designed to cross our paths, but when the contract is a major one (needing extra assurance that we can’t miss or avoid it) we often agree to “marry” the individual or be born into their midst as a sibling, or in my case - choose them as a parent.
My father was larger than life with his outgoing, gregarious personality that impressed people as he “worked the crowd”. In a positive light, he was people-oriented, generous and self-assured. I, like my other 9 siblings, had him on a pedestal, dazzled by the mask of his “superhero” image. As we grew older, the mask and cape fell away revealing his imperfections and core wounds. It was hard for him to really be present with any of us because he was always juggling work demands with his own personal desires, (that didn’t include family) and sometimes, illegal agendas. He was a functioning alcoholic who had the best excuses to explain any breech of promises he made, but in the end, his lies caught up with him and his world crumbled, ending in a divorce with my Mother. We each experienced our own litany of disappointments, betrayals and let-downs from him and I remember spewing my grievances to a counselor on more than one occasion.
Having a professional label him as “narcissistic” or “psychopathic” helped my mind accept what I could not change, but the longing for approval and love was still there, stuffed deep down in the empty hole of my heart. Because of NOT having his attention and validation, there was always a feeling that I was not good enough with a subconscious drive to prove myself worthy… to prove I didn’t need him and that I could make it without him. But all of that changed with the diagnosis of his death.
He told us he had lymphoma, but kept his armor up for the year- long assault of treatments, gearing up for his own, isolated battle, determined as any trained “warrior” - to beat it. Somewhere in this time frame, I heard Neal Donald Walsh speak. (Author of “Conversations with God”) Near the end of his lecture he shared a “fable” about what it must have been like when God decided to send aspects of Himself (tiny flames of light) down to explore the beautiful, blue ball called “Earth”. Paraphrasing to get to the gist of the story, he tells us that all of the tiny flames were jumping up and down excitedly exclaiming,
“OOH, OHH, Pick me! Pick me! I want to go! I can do it. I can be your representative!” And God cautioned them saying,
“I am looking for very special lights to play very difficult roles. This is not for the faint of heart. Can you be a light that goes down, forgetting you have any light to share? Can you be a light that will betray and cause others great sorrow and anguish- all as a way to challenge them, to help them refine and find their own light? Can you play your part, getting lost in your role, and still find your way back Home? Only the strongest among you can do this.”
In that moment, I saw my Dad with new eyes. It did not excuse any of his failings. It just gave me compassion for the role he played, for the contracts he made with so many. I was able to admit and acknowledge that because of what I did NOT get from him, I had to develop my own internal muscles, building my self-confidence and self-acceptance. I had to learn how to believe in myself and trust my intuitive knowing instead of relying on his or anyone else’s approval. For the first time, I saw what a gift he had given me, by playing his self-absorbed part. The anger and blame fell away.
In the last days before his death, I had my own time to be with him alone. He was on his side in the bed and I assumed he was unconscious. Here it was- my chance to get off my chest any last things that I needed to express – and there was nothing to say. Searching my heart, I was surprised to find, there was no hole, no emptiness that I needed him to fill up. I sat on the bed behind him, massaging his back to release the pockets of pain he carried while I sang a song I wrote, (the song I would come to sing at his funeral.)
“Look into the Brightness”
“Let me walk towards the light, trusting the way.
Let me see the dark of night as the balance of the day.
Look into the brightness, give me strength to release
the fears that enfold me, dissolve them in peace.
Let me walk towards the Love, trusting its pull.
Let me drink from its cup. It will teach me to be full.
Look into the brightness. Give me wisdom to know
the hands to hold onto and when to let go.
Let me walk towards true life, trusting my soul
to expand who I am, to believe I am whole.
Look into the brightness, where you’re never alone.
Become one with your spirit. Find that light is your Home.”
Finishing the song, I lay down behind him and with my hand on his shoulder, I whisper, ” I love you Dad.” to which he quietly replies, “I love you too.” (I am hearing these words spoken aloud for the first time in my life.) I tell him, “You know Dad, you are doing the hardest thing. You are showing us how to die. None of us know how to do that.” He simply responds with all ego and bravado gone, “It’s not so hard.” I was at his head when he died, able to anchor him in the next world, giving him permission and encouragement to go- fulfilling my part of the soul contract I unknowingly had with him- to be his spiritual midwife.
From my present day perspective, I realize Dad had a soul contract with each of us. He did the best he could (given his own limited programming). The difficult part he played gave us the opportunity to grow and stretch, making our own mistakes, becoming responsible for the choices that we would come to live with. Because of his example, I realize that I see beyond the black and white world where judgments of others hold everyone as hostages.
We are all imbued with imperfections that are perfectly matched to serve as catalysts for our own and others change, assisting the greater evolution of our souls. I cherish the gift of my Dad’s influence, learning more from his failings than from his accomplishments, because ultimately, he helped me to open my heart, to forgive, and to accept that being human is the real “power” behind any super hero.