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Father's Day Without My Dad

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The last time I saw my dad was on Father's Day in 1975. It was rainy and cold much like most June days in the U.P., short for Upper Peninsula. I grew up in the part of Michigan that looks like the mouth of the wolf. The wolf being Lake Superior. The mouth being the Keweenaw Peninsula, or the Copper Country.

It's a little-known fact that more millionaires were made during the copper rush of the U.P. than the gold rush in California. But I digress -- as I tend to do when I am talking about my father.

You see, the last time I saw my father, he had a rifle in his hand and he was raging at my mother, bullets flying. When all was said and done, both my parents lay dead by my father's hand and I was the only witness, the one left standing.

Most people assume I hate my father. Or worse, that I am glad he's dead. I feel neither.

You see, I have forgiven him for that horrid act and that forgiveness has softened my heart and turned into love. Yes, I love my father.

He has taught me more about love than anyone, because he has taught me everything about fear.

The first thing you read when you crack open my book, Fearless Living, is this:

Fear is a killer.
It kills hopes.
It kills dreams.
It kills careers.
It kills relationships.
In a flash, it killed my parents.
It almost killed me.

How is it killing you?

I know this because of my father. He killed because he was afraid of the emotions he couldn't control. He stewed when he was hurt. He blamed and attacked when there was an inkling of embarrassment or shame. Humiliation? He'd rather die.

After my mother's announcement that she was leaving him after enduring his jealous rages, infidelities and abuse for over two decades -- they were buried on what would have been their 20th wedding anniversary -- he put two bullet holes into her while repeating over and over again, "This is your fault. You made me do this. This is your fault." He was a victim until the bitter end.

My father killed (and died) because he was afraid. Afraid to lose, afraid to feel, afraid to be human.

This is why fear has become my specialty, my obsession. I am not going to let fear decide my life, my future, my fate. It isn't going to tell me what to do, or convince me to blame the ones I love how wrong they are, or suck one ounce of passion out of me. No siree.

I was a witness to the horror of a life lived in fear.

But fear is so subtle, so seductive, so invisible, I have had to learn all of its tricks to stop myself from following the easy path of a fear-driven life. That's what I have done for the past decade plus. I have devoted my life to understanding how fear works, learning how to process it in a healthy, loving way and master it so I can live the life my father was afraid to.

So here I stand. A daughter of a murderer. A daughter of a man who lived in fear. A daughter of a man who taught her how to love.

My father lived in fear and died in fear. I'm not going to do the same. I choose love. I know he'd be proud.