Cathy Peacock

For one local man, life was unfair when he was a child, yet he never lost hope. Instead of growing up angry and resentful, he remained loving and strong, ultimately forgiving the person who caused most of his suffering. His choice to forgive literally saved his life.

His faith story reminds us that God is always with us, guiding us each step of the way. Our witness declared, “I know it was the Holy Spirit!”

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He was 8 years old when his father left. He grew up in the public housing projects on public welfare.

Recalling his childhood, he said, “I remember always being cold and hungry. Many times, the sisters at my school would send me home with food from the convent. My father had a chip on his shoulder the size of the rock of Gibraltar. Though I do not recall him ever hitting me, I was deathly afraid of him because I knew he hit my mother. The police were called several times. At least on one occasion, he was arrested and spent time in prison.”

After his father left the family home, he didn’t see his father at all until many years later. Our witness explains, “I survived the projects and graduated from college. I began a successful career and met the woman I would marry. One Saturday afternoon, my fiancé and I attended a Monet exhibit in the city where my father resided. On the way home, we joked about seeing ‘dear old Dad.’ At a rest area, on a whim, we called information and were given my father’s number and address.”

When they returned home, his fiancé called the number and asked if certain named people were his siblings. Our witness said, “He wouldn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ He kept asking what this was about.”

The couple wanted to know the truth. To confirm, they drove to his apartment and knocked on his door.

“My father thought he was being harassed and called the police,” he added. “When the police officer arrived and knocked on the door, the man opened it and I knew immediately that it was my father.”

Our witness continued, “I gave him his mother’s maiden name and asked him to confirm it. He snarled, ‘Yeah, that’s my mother.’ I replied, ‘Then, I’m your son.’ My father seemed pleasantly surprised to meet me, and the shocked police officer left. My father ran into another room and brought out the many photos he had kept and framed. He told me he never forgot his children.”

After spending time in conversation with his father, our witness learned to see his father through a different lens, perhaps closer to the way God may see him.

“I learned that my father had grown up in a similar negative environment,” he said. “Clearly, his circumstances affected his perception of the world, and ultimately his behavior. He wanted to renew a relationship with all of his children, but my siblings refused.”

Our witness stayed in contact with his father: “I saw an old, beaten-down man who made a big mistake, messed up a lot of lives in the process, and lived to regret it.”

A few years after re-establishing their relationship, his aunt called and said, “Your father is in the hospital and it is terminal.” His father had developed prostate cancer that metastasized. Our witness was grateful to be there, saying, “I was able to pray by my father’s bedside with my aunt and a priest before he passed.”

At his next physical exam, our witness told his doctor how his father had died. Despite being asymptomatic, the doctor ordered tests. Our witness was shocked to learn that he, too, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Following his surgery, the surgeon explained that they thought they got it all, but they didn’t. A year later, he underwent 40 doses of radiation.

Early detection was actually a blessing that he was able to share with his brothers. He hopes sharing this experience will help others.

“If you have one blood relative with prostate cancer, you are twice as likely to get it,” he said. “If you have more than one blood relative, you are eight times as likely.”

Our witness declared, “There are no coincidences. If the Monet exhibit wasn’t in the city where my dad lived, if my father didn’t have a phone (he only had a phone for six months), and if I hadn’t forgiven him and reconnected for his sake, as difficult and awkward as it was, I may not be alive today.”

In closing, our witness shared this wisdom: “There is tremendous healing power in forgiveness. Do not carry a bad situation through life. The burden could crush you and God does not want that. Put it down and God will give you strength to move on to a life that he wants for you. You can’t change what happened, but find the hand of God in the life you have now. Let him show you the way it is supposed to be.”

Our witness and his wife are active members in their community and parish in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

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Cathy Peacock is a certified public accountant, holds her master’s in theology and is a member of St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Wayne. She asks all to share this story on social media, and to send highlights of their own faith story to joyofknowing@gmail.com.