To the man who gave me life,
You gave me my name. You stole my heart after my first breath. You were my hero, the greatest man alive. From the very first day, my love for you has shaped who I am.
October 11, 2000. I can still hear my mothers screams from the laundry room as my brother and I stared towards her in fear. I’ve never heard my mother scream like that before. I’ve never heard such a heart wrenching cry. All I could do was sit there trying to be brave for my little brother, but frozen in fear. That night I went to sleep without an answer. “Mommy, what happened,” as my dad, David, ushered us to our rooms for a restless night of attempted sleep. Almost 24 hours later, sitting in my living room with my mother on one side of me and my dad on the other, my mother fought through tears to tell me my life would be changed forever. The man who gave me life, my first hero, had committed suicide.
I don’t want to describe what follows. I don’t want to relive that moment. I wish no one has to experience what I went through that first night. No one should ever feel that level of rejection from the person who brought them into this world.
Just like that. You were gone. Forever. It wasn’t enough for me to barely know who my father was. It wasn’t enough to barely see you once a year, barely speak to you. None of that was enough.
I was raised by a mother who would give her life for me; who is my everything. I have the greatest example of who a mother should be to their child. Then, I have you. The parent who taught me just how detrimental rejection can be.
For years I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t enough. If my mother can live for me, if my brother and I were enough to keep my mother pushing everyday of her life, why weren’t we enough for you?
After many years had passed, and after rejection had attempted to destroy the relationship between me and the man who chose to raise me as his own, I started to learn about who you were and what you battled during your short life.
Bipolar disorder is defined as a mental disorder marked by alternating periods of elation and depression. That’s what mom told me you suffered from. Before that day, I never really understood what a mental illness was. I was naive in thinking physical ailments were more powerful. I still struggled to believe that being bipolar was enough of a reason to permanently reject me.
This year I saw your grave for the first time. It was almost too much for me to grasp. My body became numb. Tears ran down my face as though you had just died. There you were, Marc Douglas Stewart, in a rose garden in Santa Rosa, CA. There I was, gazing at your name and feeling an indescribable pain. Just as I stood there, tears running down my face, the Holy Spirit whispered “Forgive him again.”
See, I had made the decision to forgive you years before. I prayed, asking God just how to begin this process. I was tired of watching my harbored unforgiveness destroy relationships, create insecurities, and alter how I received love from men. I desperately wanted to walk in my purpose, yet every time I tried to move forward the weight of unforgiveness would weigh me down. I was done bearing a weight I didn’t need to carry. Yet, as I stood there, just a few months ago, seeing your name for the first time since your funeral 17 years before, I was told to forgive you again. Somewhere in the years after I had made my decision to forgive you, I had forgotten that forgiveness wasn’t just a one time thing. I needed to forgive you, everyday, until that weight was gone.
After your death, I had learned how to push certain thoughts out of my scope of consciousness. I learned how to build walls around places in my mind I wished not to explore. It was my way of “fake forgiveness.” I hid my tears whenever they came. I wrote about those hidden feelings and then destroyed these poems as though I didn’t want to acknowledge the reality of my emotions. As I stood there, watching them pour my Nana’s ashes next to your rose bush, I decided I was done.
I realized that day that I would miss you everyday of my life, that I would love you everyday, and that I would reawaken the generational blessings you bestowed upon me by giving me life. I would carry your love with me everyday and leave the weight of unforgiveness behind.
That weekend I spoke to two very key people in your life. One was your best friend. He shared things about you I had never known. He spoke of Marc Stewart with so much love that I was honored you were my father for the very first time in my life. The second was Bishop Parnell Lovelace. You committed suicide in the lot across from his church. Possibly the last person who saw you alive. All of his words about you were beautiful. I cried, but with tears of joy this time. I was proud to be the daughter of a man who left such a lasting impression on someone’s heart.
Daddy, I don’t know how it feels to be a black man in America and suffer from bipolar disorder. I will never understand how you felt or what you battled during your life here with me. I know now that forgiveness isn’t about my understanding, but loving you and myself anyways.
I promise to fight for those who suffer from mental illness the best way I know how. I promise to fight the desire of Satan to take my mind. I promise to love you unconditionally. I promise to love myself unconditionally. I promise to show the world just exactly what Marc Douglas Stewart’s seed can do. I will be a powerful woman of God, for God, for myself and for you.
I love you.