March 24th, 2 years ago, I drove Gabrielle, then 26, to the airport. She then was a flight attendant. Enroute I brought up a conversation that we had partially had another day.
During that previous conversation, I had asked if she had had any problems with stalkers. The reason I asked was because during training the instructors warned about that very issue. Gabri then had said, “Dad, I mean this in the utmost love, that you are the only stalker that I have had.”
What she meant was this — I was so connected into her schedule, that I’d text her as she landed in a new place welcoming her there, etc. I thought it was just in good fun and building new connections. But, her making that connection to a stalker chilled me to the bone. So, on that drive, March 24th, I brought up the previous comment.
“I really want you to know,” I said, “I don’t ever want that to be the cause of the way you were feeling. So if I am doing anything that would cause you to feel that way, then I ‘ll stop.”
Saying this I knew I was stepping into some truth places that could hurt me. And I was right.
Gabrielle said she was really joking in the comment, but talking further, clearly she had deep feelings about the texts that I had sent as she traveled. She had felt really unsettled in this new life although, at that point, she loved the work, and so to have me welcoming her before she even knew where she has arrived was tough. It felt overwhelming for her to send me her schedule, for the result was this hyper attention! She knew it should not be a big deal; she felt badly about that feeling.
Isn’t it incredible that often we struggle with “Shoulds” in our hearts? We can “should” ourselves when what we need to do instead, communicate. That’s what Gabri needed to do.
So, we spoke further and I could tell that I needed to really let her go. I needed to release her and stop holding so tightly. I had been trying to hold to her world for I felt increasingly pushed to the edge. Others would get pictures and texts that I would not receive.Suddenly I realized I was feeling like my dad might have felt when I didn’t mention what he had written in a letter and there my mom sought to fill in the gap for him.
This was a step back in time. I had lived in Switzerland, at 17, in 1976 and she had written me in a letter: “Next time you write mention that you enjoyed what your dad had said to you. He doesn’t think you notice him.”
Even then, in 1976, six years before his death, dad knew we lacked relationship and he knew that he was not “in” and mom was. It was a real thing this emotionally incestuous relationship I had with Mom. I was more connected to her and she controlled me.
The pain welled up within me as I sat in the car with Gabri. I felt a sob from deep in my heart and I began to cry there in the car with Gabri. I knew I had to let her go.
So, we finished this conversation with a simple decision: I would not receive her schedules anymore. Not knowing where she was and knowing just what she chose to share with me. I wouldn’t know, and didn’t need to know. I could text anytime. And she could choose to answer or not.
“Dad, I don’t want to leave you crying,” she said as we sat there, waiting for her to step from the car. I was so upset inside. I tried to just breathe through intense pain. I calmed down a bit and was able to stop crying with her. Later, I could do so when I was at home.
Gabri had stayed present throughout the conversation. It was a good one for me to have. And better me with her, than her expressing her frustrations about me to Grace (her sister) or to her Mom.
We hugged and I drove away feeling ok but not great. I was not crying then. I then spent the day with my nephew, Christopher. He and I had a good time. I just pushed the whole thing with Gabri to the side. When I got home, the pain overcame me like a tidal wave. I felt it so intensely. And I sobbed and sobbed. It was a deep emotional loss.
“Oh God!” I cried out, “I hate this life like this. This emotion is so difficult. I am so sad, Papa. So very sad. I cannot find my center.”
That’s when the gentle voice of our holy God flowed over me:
“You gave Gabri a great gift today, my Son. A great, great gift.”
“What was that, Father?” I asked.
“You gave her the freedom to be honest and to tell you the truth of her heart.
You gave her the right to be her own person and you released her from YOUR need to know all about her. You gave her — her wings. She needs to fly free with ME little One. She cannot do so as long as you cling.
I know what it is to give up what is most dear. I know what this pain feels like. Son, My Son. Let me hold you close.
She will be able to be all that I have dreamed for her to be. You were very brave.”
That day was a powerful turning point in my relationship with Gabri. We are closer today, two years later, than before.This was an experience with the God who speaks and carries me, and you, moment by moment. Remember this God in those times that feel dark and hard and scary. No matter what you might be facing God has been there, is there with you, and will see you through.