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by Jennie S. Bev

A few days ago, I was in shock and in tears. The father I never had has died a month ago and his family didn’t even bother to tell me. The man was my biological father, a confused person who didn’t know what he wanted for life, left my mother when she was pregnant with me for another woman, and led a miserable and regretful life.

Nonetheless, he was the man who brought life into me. A man I rarely knew. A sad man.

From time to time, my mother told me about her former husband. How he had caused her a lot of pain and how he had said heartbreaking things to her. But my mother told me that he watched me from afar on my wedding day and shed some tears.

A family friend broke the news of his death with a phone call for my mother. My mother was shocked and had expected his family had contacted me when he was on his dead bed or, at least, when he just recently died so I could have paid my last respect.

From this friend, I learned that he has expressed his regret for abandoning me and my mother more than 40 years ago. And he died of lung failure. In Chinese medicine, lungs are the organs that contain grief and sadness. 

His sadness was obvious and it materialized in a physical illness.

I prayed for him, for his most precious gift for me is myself. I was the daughter he could have had.

I rarely think or dream about this man. Until now.

What could my life have become, if he hadn’t abandoned me? Would my life be more colorful, brighter, happier, or more sad, just like him? Would he had supported my writing aspirations? Would he had released me to go to a foreign country and led a new life far away from friends and relatives? Would he had given me the freedom of a modern woman? 

I heard from people who knew him that he was a conservative man. He wouldn’t have allowed me to attend a university, to have a career, and to go abroad pursuing aspirations. He probably wouldn’t have been happy knowing that I have grown up being a free and independent thinker, for his life was the opposite of being independent.

He was a man who was imprisoned by his own fear and family values. He was a man who was incarcerated by his own worries. Perhaps being abandoned by him was the best thing that could ever happened to me.

An abandonment may mean a release from the imprisonment of the wrong kind of life.

I had stopped crying, but hadn’t stopped thinking about this man. Life may have given us a bitter beginning, but how we fill it makes a big difference.

In his death, I found out within me a deeper well of compassion and mercy. I loved him despite his wrongdoings toward my mother. I forgave him for abandoning me before I was even born. I gave thanks for through his absence he has taught me an important lesson: Life goes on.

If I can start my life all over again, I would love to have a biological father who takes care of me and my mother. Yet, destiny has given me another father. In my maternal grandfather I found a true gentleman and father figure who taught me the importance of embracing our humanity. I’m even carrying his last name: Xue.

I had sweet dreams about my biological father. But those were just dreams. I had nightmares about him too. But those were also just dreams.

Dreams illustrate our lives. Psychotherapists may identify them as subconscious wishes or even a rehearsal of our conscious actions. Whatever they are, dreams make me realize that life is precious and fragile.

Life is what we make of it. Sadness comes and goes. And moments are fleeting. We only have a few decades to fill with love. And his absence taught me that love requires courage to show it. Without courage, only sadness will fill the empty space in our heart.

Father, I can feel your sadness and regret. I have forgiven you. Rest in peace. May the angels welcome you in heaven.[]

A part of Jennie's memoir.

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