39: Chicago Peace

39: Chicago Peace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Chicago Peace

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

~Mahatma Gandhi

As I drove to my office, a feeling of complete forgiveness towards my ex-husband, Ron, came over me. I recall the moment as if it were yesterday. I was heading north on I-95 and as I crested over the Baymeadows overpass, I had such joy and forgiveness in my heart towards him. For the first time in over a decade, I was able to say, “I forgive you.”

Ron and I had been married almost eleven years before we divorced. Our three small children and I felt abandoned and heartbroken. We stayed in Illinois for a while after the divorce but then the children and I moved back to Florida to be with my family. Ron stayed in Chicago.

It was wonderful to be in Florida, surrounded by my parents and siblings along with their families. They encouraged us and provided support. Ron visited us once. It was not a happy visit. He was on a layover to a Las Vegas gambling trip and visited us for a few days. At that time in our lives, Ron was several thousand dollars behind in child support. I was bitter he was spending money on a trip to Las Vegas. My children and I had sacrificed and struggled for many years. It just didn’t seem fair to me that their father was taking a trip when we did without child support.

To finally be at peace with Ron was a miracle. At times I wanted to giggle out loud. I felt such a burden lifted from my shoulders to know I could finally forgive and move on with my life. Although I didn’t share this with anyone, I’m sure others sensed I had a change of heart towards Ron.

Two weeks later, as I entered my office, the switchboard operator stopped me and said there had been an urgent call from someone named Al in Chicago. I was to call him immediately.

Al was married to Ron’s sister and he had always been a wonderful friend to me, even as Ron and I were divorcing. We had lost contact over the years so I knew Al was not calling me to chitchat. I dialed Al’s number and heard him say in a grave tone of voice, “Ronnie was found dead early this morning. I felt you and the kids needed to know.” My heart stopped. I can still close my eyes and be back in that stuffy little conference room hearing words I did not want to hear. My first thought was for my children. They had just lost their father—a man they would never have the opportunity to know. They would never have the chance to know and love him like I once did. I left the conference room with leaden feet and made my way back to my office to locate my manager. I needed to leave immediately and tell my children the sad news.

We left early the next morning for Chicago. It was a somber group. My dad and sister were with us for the journey. My oldest was living in Missouri and would fly to Chicago for the funeral. The following days were a blur. Ron’s funeral was held the day after Father’s Day. It was the first Father’s Day my children had spent with their father in many years. It was bittersweet.

Jason, our oldest, was stoic. During the funeral service, he played “Stairway to Heaven” on his guitar. Tears stung my eyes as the beautiful melody drifted from the church balcony. Jennifer, our only daughter, shed many tears when we left Chicago. In spite of the circumstances, she was happy to finally meet some of her dad’s family. Joey, our youngest, asked if I thought his dad was in heaven. I said, “Of course your dad is in heaven. He’s there with grandma and they are watching over us.” However, I wasn’t convinced. I was sure God opened the gates of heaven only for good dads!

We got home very late and the weary travelers went to bed. I awoke early the next morning and while my brood slept, I poured myself a cup of coffee and headed out to the backyard. My dad had purchased three rose bushes two weeks earlier and we spent a Sunday afternoon planting them. I wanted to ensure they had survived a severe storm that occurred during our absence.

I made soft footprints in the early morning dew. The day was just beginning. I was sad about Ron’s early death but also relieved he would not suffer anymore. I wasn’t convinced he had made it to heaven though! I am from Missouri—the show-me state.

The rose bushes stood intact. Not one of the three had been damaged during the storm. I leaned over to smell the sweet scent of roses and as I did a leftover white tag on one of the rose bushes caught my eye. I went inside for a pair of scissors, returned to the yard and snipped off the tag. When I glanced at it, time stood still. The name of the rose bush was Chicago Peace.

Then I knew. God had been preparing me for Ron’s death two weeks earlier by putting forgiveness in my heart towards him for all the years of pain. I believe that my forgiveness released Ron and he made it through the heavenly gates.

~Teresa Curley Barczak

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