I have spoken in prisons throughout this world sharing with men who have done unspeakable acts towards others and, as I have experienced, the number one reason men are resorted to violence, drugs/alcohol and other things is indeed due from their broken relationships with their fathers. Now at this time in my life, what I have shared with them, I will share with you. I know my dad would want this too. It will be hard to read this, but know and know well, it is very hard to write this. This is a story of true redemption as I have experienced it myself and seen with my own two eyes.
My dad, Charles Steven Lee, was born the 8th of April in the year of 1948. His father was Charles Vincent and his mother Irene. My grandfather’s family was originally from County Cork Ireland. My grandmother’s family was from County Tyrone. They were both born in the States.
My family as a whole is undoubtedly the most violent, loud, temperamental, moody people I know. But, they are mine and I am theirs in a sense and I do love them.
When I was born on the 3rd of January 1979, I am sure without a doubt my dad was proud his son (me) was born. I can actually picture him with a puffed up chest and a gleam in his eye set with pride. Moreover, I know he loved me very much.
However, there was a wedge between him and I that kept me and him from being Butch and Sundance, and more like He-Man and Skeletor.
Now, as far as I can remember my dad’s temper was always one that would overbear upon someone. Kind of like a lion over a Chihuahua. Many coarse words would spew out of his mouth and he would go into a whirlwind of rage. Not all of it was physically damaging, but still the storm would still leave an aftermath.
When I was around five years old, my sister and I shared a room, we were awaken by a loud crash. As we came out of the door to see what it was that brought us out of slumber we found chaos. My other sisters, I have five, were lined up against the wall screaming as dad went after mum. I remember so vividly mum finding refuge in the bathroom with me and my younger sister. She (mum) locked the bathroom door and I, this man’s only son, was subjected then to watch his mother was blood off her hands from wounds caused by her husband.
From there a hatred was placed in my heart that would carry for about two decades. Now, I don’t want you to think that my dad was a man who came home just to beat my mum. No, he wasn’t, but he was a man carrying much bitterness towards his dad and that bled over into the lives of his wife and children and it is not easy to come out of.
I remember, sometimes I wanted to wear my shirts backwards so I could look like my dad. (All his printed T’s were on the back, whilst mine were on the front). I waited up for him many nights that he worked late, and I remember as a child, him and I would wrestle on Saturday mornings and I would be He-Man and he would be Skeletor, I wanted to sometimes be Spider-Man, but he would always get the Green Goblin wrong, so, He-Man it was.
He would always give the money in his pocket to others, especially, to us kids. A generous man he was and this I did not see until the 24th of November 2010. (We will touch on this more later)
I often wished dad was more of a disciplinary, it’s funny, I feel children want this authority in their life. I know I would have appreciated it. However, when I started getting disciplined it was too late; I was a teen and getting bigger than dad. That is when I noticed that he started becoming more physical with me to show dominance.
I was baptized when I was 13 and after this I felt I knew what being a Christian was. I was wrong because I remember that same year my dad came to the Lord, and vividly I remember, sitting in the 4th row at church (where most of the youth sat) he came up in an altar call on the left of me and my older sister and she looked at me tears of joy in her eyes celebrating and all I could say under my breath was, “I don’t care!”
Also, when I was getting up in teenage years, I started to want to be on the streets more, and my role models were becoming more and more dangerous. Many, were out of jail and very violent, even to their women. Some were drug dealers, pimps and even murderers. I aspired to like them in the “gangster” sense, I saw money being made and I wanted to have it too. They would slide me some once in a while, but praise be to God that I did not get into it. It’s truly amazing, I believe God never let me go farther than He could reach.
However, as I grew, the more and more fights dad and I had. I remember our first, I was 16 and I was being disrespectful as was the norm. He came into my room and told me I wasn’t bad enough and that I would have my ass kicked if I did not back down. He got in my face and pushed me, I stood back up, making him very mad he then pushed me again this time with enough to make me want to kill him. Instead I left the house as I would do many more times.
When I was 24 we had our last “real” blow-out, this time he came after me with an iron bar and I put a butcher’s knife to his throat. As we continued to threaten each other, I saw I was becoming just like him in such a way that I had to drop the knife and say ‘I can’t’ and once again I left the house this time for a few days.
In the year 2004 I went to Ireland, the one place I wanted to be since I was a child. I was the first person in our family in a hundred years to be back in County Cork and this is where God has seemed to begin this journey with Him in my life and is so a pinnacle in my declaration of His glory.
I later went back to LA and then found myself walking through a door to the one and only beautiful San Diego.
I was living with my brother-in-law and sister at first and in April 2005, my dad had a heart-attack. I was with a friend when I received the news. He was stable and resting at home and we would go to see him the following morning.
As I lay in bed, it was approx. 1130pm, another pinnacle, actually, the most intense and memorable thing to date in my life happened.
God’s plan was coming to pass.
God: “Christian…Christian, I want you to call your dad and tell him that you love and forgive him.”
Me: “I will do it tomorrow when I see him.”
God: “If you do not do this now, you will never have the chance to do it again.”
I walked to the phone not sure of what I was doing and dialed my parents number. It rang….
Me: “Mum, let me talk to my dad.”
Me: “Dad, I just wanted to call you and tell you, I love you and I forgive you for everything I have seen or experienced by your hand.’ ‘Please forgive me for any disappointment I have caused you as your son.”
Dad: “Christian, you have never disappointed me; you have become the man I’ve always wanted to be.”
As we said our “love yous” and “good-nights” I sat on my bed and just began to cry.
From there our relationship began to mend in many areas. However, there were still places God had to lead us both before what I feel now could be truthfully told.
I remember I would go up to visit and there would be some things that would set him off, many were petty, but by this time the sickness of diabetes and an array of other complications were totally consuming him, I in many cases handled it badly and added to the fire. However, I know now that it was a learning process for the both of us.
I left for the missions’ field April 2008 and the day I left my dad was going to dialysis and for the first time, I saw what seemed like his heart breaking. He hugged me and then quickly left whispering to mum ‘I need to get out of here before I start crying.’ My dad set in motion what would become a great father/son relationship.
I was gone 22 months and I am not the best at correspondence what so ever. I talked more on the phone than I wrote, but I wish I had written more. Letters are so great and more intimate I think.
Not too long before I left to go home, my dad asked me over the phone if I would write him a 3 page letter about how it was to have him as a dad growing up. (Loosely translated I believe, I am seeking forgiveness and reconciliation) Although, my sisters were apprehensive about doing it, I jumped on this chance because I had a lot to say and with excitement wanted to express what forgiveness has done in my life. I sent it off with a 27 page testimony of what was never revealed to him. From what mum told me, he was silent for 3 days after reading it.
I finally got home in February 2010, I came home with some weighty issues and burdens that would make many cringe in a corner wishing for a happy place. (As I told to a friend)
I spent time with mum and dad and it was great, telling dad some of my stories, sharing some of my hurts, sharing a lot of life. My dad’s boy was home. It was funny because he had the coolest beard. One my mum hated. HAHA!
As time went on and I was living again in San Diego and visiting mum and dad by road tripping it with my cousin (who is as close as a brother as anyone can be). My dad, every morning without fail would wake me up with: “Christian, you better get in that kitchen and get you some of that good ass coffee before your uncle drinks it all.” In which mum would start getting after him and from there it was inevitable I was not going back to sleep. Hahahhahaha!
As the year went on he would call me a lot more and it was like talking to a man who knew something was coming.
The 31st of October 2010, was the beginning of the end. I was laid off from my job because of a back injury and I decided to visit mum and dad for a bit before I went home back to San Diego.
I was there a week and I found myself spending a lot of time with mum and dad. I was usually visiting other people when I’d visit, but this time was different. It was as if God was keeping us together that time as one who moves the chess piece along the board.
Being with mum and dad the first thing I realized was dad’s love for Jesus Christ. He humbled me that week. He did not aspire to be some big theologian, his studies were simple, but his love for his King was exuberant. Which humbled me greatly.
Within this time, an event set him off in such a way that it was scary. However, I found myself, mediating with a calm and peaceful disposition and as I talked to him there was weeping and what seemed to be a lot of hurt surfacing I never knew as well as regret, as it happened I watched him go from a raging sea to a calm ocean. As this ensued, Proverbs 16:7 sat heavy on my heart,
“When a man’s ways please the LORD,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Not saying my dad was my enemy, but the spirit behind the rage was, as it was dads. This was yet another pinnacle in my life.
My dad wanted to talk a lot about our family and me writing a book, he would tell me over and over on what it would have to contain. He was excited for it. One day, he said: ‘Bones (my boyhood nickname from him because I was bony as a boy.) get your pipe and let’s go outside. I lit up and he began to tell me about our family and his childhood.
He told me about how when he was 15 his dad took him to a pub in Oklahoma and started a fight so my dad would have to fight back. He also said my grandfather was part of the mob and that when he was 16 he walked from Oklahoma to California because of his dad and an assemblage of other crazy stories.
I began to see, what his reasons for how he was and how he harboured bitterness and how it took over.
He ended it with: “Boy, I am proud of you and happier than a pig in poop that you are my son. Also, know that although it was always easy, I love your mother more than air.”
From that point I saw all my life I was trying not to be like him and realising there is no one I’d rather be like. I want to have that love for Christ as he had and the love for a woman as he did for mum.
I left his home on Monday the 8th of November 2010 with a love for my dad like no other and never had I before known what it was to feel this way about my dad. I arrived to San Diego that night, Tuesday I spent time with my aunt and uncle and cousins, Wednesday we got a call that my dad had fallen and hit his head and that he had to go through emergency brain surgery.
Me, my aunt and uncle jumped into the car and rushed to his and mum’s side. He came out of surgery, the doctor said that they had to release oxygen for his frontal lobes and that he was in a coma and later we heard there would be a chance that he would be in a vegetative state if he ever woke up.
Throughout that week I seen many people I had not seen in years, friends and family. I also saw the tightness of friendships come to life and God’s people coming together.
Monday the 15th came around and I settled the little girl my parents care for in my their bed, she wanted to sleep in dad’s side, I then went to bed. At 1130pm I woke up to a missed call on my mobile. It was my aunt’s number, I called back.
Me: “Hey, you call?”
Aunt: “Yes, I did.”
Me: “What’s up?”
Aunt: “Sweetie, your dad is gone.”
My heart sank into a pool of sorrow, I had to wake my sister and tell her our dad was dead, then my uncle. Four of my sisters and I along with two brother-in-laws and my uncle headed to the hospital to see our dad and say our good byes.
As I walked into my dad’s room, I saw his lifeless body, peaceful and although I was hurt I rejoiced for he did not feel pain anymore.
I wept to the point of wailing mournfully, and being embraced by my sister we cried together. Then it seemed that my emotions shut down as mum walked into the room and not until now have I shed many tears.
We prayed as family and after a while we went back home.
As, we began seeking a time for the funeral, much came into play. If you remember I mentioned his generosity. Well, on the 24th of November we had the funeral and with a casket covered with the Irish flag and bagpipes ready to play, at my mother’s request I gave the eulogy and as I looked around the room I saw 30+ years of people who had no daddies who called my dad daddy or Papa Steve. He had more than just 6 kids, he had many and they all loved him so much. I thought; I never knew he was this way and had this love from others. I talked about him and his love for Christ, mum as well as for me and my sisters that I saw the last week I was with him.
I sat down and after a few more voices speaking; Amazing Grace began to wail by virtue of bagpipes throughout the building. The bagpiper stopped and said he has never heard anything spoken about anyone like my dad was talked about that day.
As I sit here today in 2011, I see now, that I am my father’s son; I am my daddy’s boy.
I miss my dad, I think about him a lot, especially, when I have coffee in the morning. I have not cried for him in a long time, and I have cried a lot tonight writing this. Thank you for reading.
In Christ is this forgiveness I speak of and if you have read this and do not know Christ, I say to you now that this is available for you as well. In Christ, we are forgiven and in Him we can find perfect forgiveness towards others. Scars remain, but He will heal the pain of hurt.
I love you all
Soli Deo Gloria