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Truth Through a Child’s Eyes: Forgiveness, Healing, and Hope

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Forgiveness and healing have their own way of working. Sometimes, they can happen instantly, or within a few short days, weeks, of months. Other times, they might take years to transpire. However, there are some instances where forgiveness and healing never happen at all.

The film “In My Father’s House” is a documentary that follows the life of acclaimed hip-hop artist Che “Rhymefest” Smith as he embarks on a mission to reconnect with his estranged father. Being a teenager and not yet ready to assume the responsibilities of fatherhood, Che’s father left his life at an early age, and hasn’t contacted him in over 20 years. It is Che’s hope to find is father and start a new and loving relationship that he can be proud of for himself and his children.

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Truth Through a Child's Eyes: Forgiveness, Healing, and Hope

Che “Rhymefest” Smith and his father Brian

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As I watched Che’s story of the absence of his father in his life and his optimism in establishing a relationship with him, my heart cried out for him, and I couldn’t help but to reflect on my own story. My father left our house when I was seven years old. I still remember the night that it happened like it was yesterday. While it happened very abruptly, I remember initially thinking that with dad being out of the house, I no longer have to hear or witness my parents arguing and fighting in all of the time like they did. But when my mom disclosed to my brother and I that he was seeing other women, that thought was quickly replaced with emotions of anger towards the man that I looked up to.

I’d kept my distance from him for years afterwards, and he made very little effort to see me or spend time with me – even after my mother’s untimely passing when I was just 15 years old. However, once I became pregnant with my first child, I decided to reach out to my father in hopes to reconnect with him. Like Che, when I looked into my newborn daughter’s eyes, I realized that it was no longer about me and my feelings. With her birth, I had a legacy that was carrying forward, and I wanted a connection to be there that she could look back on.

My dad and I started out rough at first. However, our relationship became better over time. It took lots of consistent effort and tons of expression of love and dedication on my end, but we eventually cultivated a bond that was unbreakable – and I was all the better for it. It wasn’t long before my dad – just like Che’s father – started to make more of an effort, too.

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My dad with my oldest daughter and son.

My dad with my oldest daughter and son.

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The closer we became, the more I started seeing a transformation in myself. I grew more confident. I became better at my connections with my friends, family, and even my soon-to-be spouse. I took on things that I once deemed as impossible for myself and made them happen: such as landing a better job with much higher pay and climbing the corporate ladder, getting married, buying a house, purchasing a new car on my own, and finishing my education. I created my own family by having more children along the way. As time went on, I grew more empowered. I felt that with him by my side, I could achieve anything.

I loved my father more than life itself. And I made sure that he knew it – and that everyone else knew it, too. Similar to my days as a young child, I (once again) saw him as my superman. My strong, wise, and mighty dad that could do no wrong. When I had my sons, I preached to them to be just like their grandfather. My dad had a lot of children, but without a doubt, none were ever as proud or as happy than I was to have him as a father.

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Good times – 2002

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My father’s last birthday celebration – January 2014

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When he passed away in April of 2014, my entire world came crashing down. Since he was gone, I no longer wanted to be here, either. Toughts and even attempts of suicide plagued me constantly. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely hold a conversation without breaking down. I prayed day and night for the Universe to send Angels to guard me from harming myself for the sake of my children and my husband. Just when I thought the days couldn’t get any darker, my siblings dropped a bombshell. They revealed that there was much more to the reason for our father leaving our house than I was aware of. He had made a home somewhere else – with someone else – complete with children conceived very close to the time I was conceived.

But it gets worse. These same children – we attended the same school while growing up. Sat in the same classroom. Some of them bullied me and taunted me in school about my dad for years – some days to the point where I would run to the Principal’s office in tears and shame. But I never knew the real deal. I didn’t know what they meant by their words. Worse, I didn’t know that those same children were related to me by blood.

Years and even decades went by and no one in the family said anything to me about it. In fact, everyone – everyone – knew the truth but me. My mother (during the time she was alive) and siblings shielded me from the truth out of love in an attempt to protect me. While I am eternally grateful for their efforts, nothing could guard my heart from the devastation, confusion, embarrassment, and anguish that took place upon hearing the truth.

Learning the truth explained everything. It explained why my dad was never at any of my track meets, or my brother’s basketball games. It explained why we never saw him on holidays, only for him to show up weeks later (still) expecting gifts. It explained why he wasn’t around for doctor’s appointments, awards ceremonies, class recitals, or the first day of school. It explained why he never took us to the park or the zoo, or to the movies, or out for ice cream. Most of all, it explained why my mom had to do everything by herself. Why we had to move from our huge house to an apartment in the projects, and why I would overhear her crying many nights for hours on end. Like Che, I wanted my dad to be there. I needed him to be there. WE needed him to be there. And he wasn’t. He chose to live a different, separate life. That truth will stay with me forever.

Unlike Che, I am struggling heavily with forgiveness for my father’s actions. So much so that, much unlike Che, I am unsure if I will ever be able to look past his wrongdoings. Look past his indiscretions; or the pain, embarrassment, and heartache that he caused my mother, brother, sister, and me. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t try hard at healing from all of the pain, but I know that I have to allow myself to be human. It is my hope that I will heal fully as time goes on.

There is a part of me that sorely regrets ever having a change of heart and deciding to love on him in the 20 years leading up to his passing. But at the same time, I’ve realized that those years spent working to be close to him were essential to my own personal growth and development. During those years, I learned so much about him as a person, and as time went on, I discovered that although I am indeed ‘my mother’s child,’ there is so much of him inside of me as well. My drive. My determination. My work ethic. My optimism and ‘can-do’ attitude when it comes to dreams, goals, challenges, and obstacles. My inner desire to strive for greatness and perfection with everything that I do. Even my thorough over-analysis of every single aspect of my life (which can sometimes be more of a weakness than a strength). I got it all from him – and I never would have never noticed any of it had I not spent that time with him. More importantly, my children would never have known the great man that he was despite his flaws. Because of this, instead of being bitter, I am grateful.

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The bond between father and child is invaluable. However, when it is all said and done, I do not live my life blaming my father for what happened. Instead, I’ve made a conscious decision let it go and to move forward with my life and my own family. I no longer associate with anyone or anything regarding my father’s side of the family. To do so would be much too painful, and I don’t want to live a life a life of pain – I want to live a life of peace.

For Che, that peace came with forgiveness, accepting his father’s shortcomings, and settling for his continuation as an alcoholic in order to be able to have his father in his life. For me, that peace comes in leaving the past where it is and the refusal to look back.

After watching the film in its entirety, I really empathized with Che, his dad, and his family (particularly his mom). I surely hope that their family dynamic continues to move in a positive and more hopeful direction. Most of all, it is my earnest hope that Che has truly found – and continues to have – the healing and redemption and he was looking for.

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Truth Through a Child's Eyes: Forgiveness, Healing, and Hope

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We all have our own stories of forgiveness and healing. The powerful film ‘IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE’  shines a light on systemic issues facing our nation today — like fatherhood, homelessness, and redemption. Acclaimed hip-hop artist Che “Rhymefest” reconnects with his father Brian after 25 years to embark on a shared journey of forgiveness and healing to create a new legacy for themselves, their community and the next generation of family.

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Truth Through a Child's Eyes: Forgiveness, Healing, and Hope ‘IN MY FATHER’S HOUSE’  is now available on DVD. Get your copy of the award-winning documentary at Walmart, or click here to purchase on Amazon today: bit.ly/IMFHDVD.

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‘In My Father’s House’ is a film that won at last year’s Bentonville Film Festival.

Founded by Academy Award Winner® Geena Davis and festival co-founder Trevor Drinkwater in 2015, BFF focuses on supporting diverse storytellers. The Festival’s mission is to encourage content creation in film and other forms of media that reflects the diverse — and half female — world we live in.  Now in its second year, BFF proactively supports content creation by minorities and women with a platform to showcase their work and, with the help of our partners, is the only film competition in the world to guarantee theatrical, television, digital and retail home entertainment distribution for its winners.

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Truth Through a Child's Eyes: Forgiveness, Healing, and Hope

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This year, Festival will be held May 3-8, 2016 in partnership with founding Sponsor Walmart, presenting Sponsor Coca-Cola and distribution partners AMC Theatres and Lifetime. BFF accepts films into its competition having two or more of the following characteristics:  Female or Minority Lead, Female or Minority Director, Female or Minority Writer, Female or Minority Production Company, Gender and Diversity Balanced cast, and/or Gender and Diversity Balanced crew, with guaranteed full distribution awarded to its winning films in the Best Narrative Jury Award, Best Family Film Award, and Audience Award categories.

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For more information about the Bentonville Film Festival, visit the website here. You can also connect with BFF on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also #ShareYourTruth and thoughts on the film ‘In My Father’s House’ and its addressed topics by joining the conversation using the aforementioned hashtag.

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Makeba Giles is a Digital Content Producer and Founder of Faith Health and Home, a digital space with information and resources for physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being to help families live an inspired lifestyle.

25 Comments
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Brandy

This is such a heart touching story, it really is. I always admire the strength that comes from forgiveness, it really is an amazing thing for everyone in life to have more of. Thanks for sharing this, my tears welt up in my eyes as I read it.

Carol Cassara

I found this inspiring. I, too, had things to forgive my father for. In fact, I deeply believe that forgiveness is the meaning of this life, at least for me. I found your story very personal and relatable. Thank you for sharing.

Bim
Bim

I don’t even speak to my mother anymore, so you’re doing better than you think. It’s difficult to forgive, and you’ll never be able to forget. BUT if you can find a way to connect on a real level, that’s something.

andrea

we can all find forgiveness and healing from our pasts – but only through God

Pam
Pam

Thank you for sharing your story so openly. In My Father’s House sounds like a really touching movie.

Jacqui Odell
Jacqui Odell

Such a touching story! Forgiveness has always been hard for me to do. I admire you for telling your story and going through forgiveness. This movie sounds pretty touching!

Monica
Monica

What a remarkable story of healing and love. And an important message of forgiveness.

Mallory

Wow, thank you so much for the vulnerability you shared. It is a powerful message. And I agree with a previous commenter- the movie sounds really interesting!

Theresa

That must have been difficult for you to share, so I admire your honesty in this story. I’m still battling with forgiveness with my own father being absent for so many years as well, but I know once I reach that point, I’ll feel much freer.

Ora
Ora

This kind of thing happens so often, leaving children with a dash of information and a gallon of hope that somehow things will be better when they grow up. Your dad may never know how lucky he was to have a wonderful kid like you, and was fortunate to experience the joy of your children. Thanks for sharing your story and the good advice presented with it.

Obviously MARvelous
Obviously MARvelous

I am so happy to know you were able to reconnect with your father before his passing. Forgiveness can be extremely difficult but I try to remember one of my favorite quotes – “When somebody hurts you they take power over you, if you don’t forgive them then they keep the power”

rowellreviews
rowellreviews

This sounds like such a powerful story that everyone needs to watch. I love documentaries and real life stories so will have to watch it!

Beth

I am happy that you got to reconnect with your father before he passed. I am sorry that there was so much pain for you.

nicole
nicole

This is absolutely a great story. I love reading real story about life.

Migdalia - @MsLatina

Thank you for sharing Che’s movie, In My Father’s House. I plan on watching it with my sons. I believe it would be good for them. Thank you also for sharing your own experience. As a child of a divorce I can understand much of what you went through. I’m so very sorry for what you found out after your Dad’s death. But it does not negate the good that came from your forgiveness. It changed your life and your children’s lives. And I’m sure finding out also helped you understand so much more why things happened the way they… Read more »

KIMBERLY
KIMBERLY

What a beautiful story. There was a time I didn’t like my dad at all. But one day, I realized that maybe he is this way bc of how he was raised….time passed and I loved him more than ever. He passed away this past September. Still makes me sad.

mary

What a powerful story. Both the movie, and your very own story too. I’m glad you reconnected and sorry to hear of his passing

Toni

Wow. I’m speechless really. First of all thank you for sharing your story. It must be very painful to go through it all. I feel so sad you were never able to reconcile the truth with your father before he passed. It undermines all the positive strides you made together and is very confusing I’m sure. The love you shared is the truth independent of his other choices.

Crystal
Crystal

There’s so much depth to your story and Che’s as well. I Can’t imagine all of the emotions tied up to your relationship with your father.

Tara

Thanks for your review and for sharing your own story. The bond between a father and child can be very strong and special. I am glad that you got to experience that.

Brianna

real life, vulnerable stories with authentic endings are the best! Thanks for sharing yours!

Mardene Carr

Forgiveness…so hard to do yet so very important and necessary. Once it is done there is no better feeling

Tracey
Tracey

Wow thank you for sharing your own personal story. It is powerful to read and I admire your ability to forgive.

Lily

Wow!
Thank you for sharing such a powerful and personal story. I too have issues with forgiveness and Family members, some have now passed and some are still alive; all I can say is that I respect your choice to share your story and admire you for it. Xoxoxo

Latoicha

I pray for your healing! However, I will encourage to forgive because it releases your spirit from pain. Thank you for sharing your story.