It was my Dad’s birthday recently, and I wanted to get him something special. I spent weeks trying to come up with something unusual that I could mail to him in Ireland—without having to take out a loan to pay Canada Post. But when the day arrived, I still had nothing. Part of the problem (I told myself) was that my current health challenge prevented me from haring around at my usual break-neck speed, scouring the shops till I found some quirky item he might like. A brain tumour can have that kind of nasty effect, inconveniently bringing normal life to a standstill, and forcing you to cut back on all the things that seemed so urgent and important.
But then I had a ‘brainwave’, you might say. Since our challenges so often contain a hidden blessing, I reflected, perhaps the most meaningful gift was something a little less tangible. So, on 18 July 2012, I made a promise to my Dad: I committed to completely healing myself of this brain tumour before his next birthday—and to celebrating the breakthrough with him in person. Although I was technically giving this gift to myself (which felt a bit like cheating, and maybe even a bit cheap), he seemed to find it more than acceptable. (But then my Dad’s like that.)
And, today, after more than two years of steadily worsening symptoms, something happened. After making that heartfelt commitment, I felt better, with less pain and more energy than I have felt for a long time. In fact, it felt almost too good to be… untrue. And as I sat on the beach (eating a rather yummy coconut-milk, chocolate-vanilla ice cream), I realized that I felt calm, content and confident of being able to keep my promise. I also realized that I’m not actually making anything happen; I’m just allowing it to.
I attribute this amazing shift to my love for my Dad, yet I wondered why I could not have made an equally heartfelt commitment to myself, without involving anyone else in what is, after all, a very personal process. But, of course, we so often learn to love ourselves more by loving someone else. And if that’s what it takes to get there, to heal, and to be reminded of what’s important in life, it’s a gift that can be shared. After all, healing ourselves—mentally, emotionally and physically—is surely our ultimate gift to the world.
So my thanks to my Dad for allowing me to use his special day as a turning point for me. I hope I’ll stay mindful of this gift every day of the year to come, and that when (not if) I heal myself, the new-and-improved me will make up for all the other times I failed to give him, me and everyone else the kind of heartfelt presence (and presents) that we all deserve from each other.
I’ve still got a long way to go on this healing journey, and a year to complete it. But maybe it can happen in a month or even a week, if I allow it—or if I find some way to deepen and hasten the gift…
Anyone else out there with a birthday coming up soon?
What a beautiful gift for your father and for yourself. I really enjoyed this post – thank you for sharing your birthday promise. And, of course, happy birthday!