351//365 / by Rebecca Tillett


(351//365) For months as this day has approached I have wondered what to say about it. And more importantly, how I feel about it. I'm still painfully uncertain of both but here it is, upon me in all of its symbolic glory and here I am, acutely aware.

I couldn't say I've spent more of my life without you in it than in it, until today. My life is now more heavily marked by your absence than your presence.

What does this mean, the fact that you've now, as of this moment for every moment forward, occupied a minority of my life? Could I say it's been 16 years and I hardly think of you anymore? Could I say I've forgotten so many of the sad details of your life that helped to paint my own in such vividly dark colors? Could I say I've forgiven you for robbing me of a life without a father, the opportunity to open my heart to you and spill 16 years of pain, now doubled, the sudden way you changed and redefined my life, or the way you didn't say goodbye?

The life I shared with you was hard and stained with so much hardship and loneliness, substance abuse and screaming and violence, and small breaks of cautious relief. I've now spent the second half of my life in reflection and regret, sorrow and gratitude, and most importantly, acceptance; acceptance that your departure freed me of your suffering but sentenced me to years of my own but at least it was mine. It was all mine.

I'm a free woman now and I don't belong to you anymore, or the tormenting memories of you. I don't remember the color of your eyes or your face when you were laughing or the terrifying pitch of your screams. I remember that I loved you because you were my father and I hated you because you weren't. And the morning I discovered you were dead, I forgave you for leaving but not for forever quelling your chance at redemption for your failings in the heart of your only child.

You're no longer a dominant force in my life. You were the first chapter; a sad but empowering realization and I'm finally left without any compelling reasons to keep looking back. I'm content and happy now and I can do nothing but wish the same for you, wherever you may be.


If I’m going to have a good life, I need to come up with a way to heal this wound and to forgive my father for his failings, ya know, large as they were.

Many, many of us have had to come to grips with parents who failed us in ways large and small. That’s part of what it means to grow up. And I think that, for me part of doing that work has to do with also re-conceiving what we mean by forgiveness. It’s not one act at one time. It’s not one decision. It’s not one day where you have an epiphany and then all of your sorrow and rage is gone. It’s years. It’s decades. it’s decades of saying here I am and you might have been a dark teacher but you were a teacher. And thank you.
— Cheryl Strayed