We didn’t have any traditions in my family for Father’s Day — no yearly breakfast or lunch, no predictable outing that matched something my father was fond of, like a sports event. We gave my father cards, and as children we cobbled together some kind of hand-made gifts. As we got older, we bought something we hoped he would like. But the day was never a family event; family was not really emphasized in my home. So I’ve thought a lot over the years about how to commemorate Father’s Day within myself.

This morning, when I woke up, I thought of one of the most powerful lessons my father taught me. After he was shot by John Hinckley, after he came within millimeters of dying, he said from his hospital bed, “I know my healing depends on my ability to forgive that young man.” He was pale, weak, his chest wrapped in bandages, but his eyes burned with determination. I knew what he meant. I knew he wasn’t talking about forgiving the act of attempted murder. Rather, he was speaking about forgiveness on the spiritual plane — remembering  that the soul inside John Hinckley wasn’t a murderer, he just chose to turn away from his soul’s light and plunge himself into darkness. Forgiving him meant grabbing on to what Hinckley had forgotten about himself. When I was a child going to Sunday School and learning about Jesus dying on the cross, saying, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” I came to my father, puzzled at why anyone would say that after being tortured and hung on a cross to die. My father explained to me that Jesus was talking about the men’s souls — the souls they had turned away from. God didn’t put them on this earth to do terrible things like that, he told me. They had free will and they chose to ignore the souls that God created within them.

As the sky lightened this morning, I thought that the best way to honor Father’s Day was to hold tightly to one of the most profound lessons my father taught me. At the moment, I’m embroiled in a business situation that involves betrayal and an arrogant disregard for the terms of a signed contract. It happens to be a project that means a great deal to me, so my emotions have ranged from despair to seething anger. Reaching for any kind of forgiveness has not been part of the story. But my father, nearly dying from bullet fragments that came so close to his heart it was a miracle he survived, instinctively reached for forgiveness, knowing that his healing depended upon it. I thought, on this Father’s Day, that’s the least I can do to honor him and what he taught me.

We are living in mean-spirited times, when those at the highest levels of government are showing callous disregard for laws, for ethics, and for basic human compassion. The comfort with cruelty and lawlessness has spread down from the top and infiltrated our lives in ways that, tragically, we are becoming accustomed to. There is much to be angry about. There is good reason for despair. But there is even better reason for pausing and remembering that the people who are behaving out of pure self-interest, and the people who are choosing to be vile and violent, weren’t put on this earth for that purpose. They chose to dim the light of their souls. We can call them out on their sins, their crimes, and even punish them, while still remembering what they have forgotten about themselves — they were put on this earth to be better than that. That’s what my father knew about John Hinckley, that was the belief that blossomed into forgiveness, and that was why he was able to heal.

10 Responses to ON THIS FATHER’S DAY

  1. David Packer says:

    What a meaningful writing, Patti-you have a true gift of words and you express yourself so very well. I often think about the cynicism and malaise our country is now feeling due to our current administration in Washington D.C. it is a very far cry from what your father would want for our nation. I remain so grateful for the vision and values President Reagan had. This must not be forgotten. I remind myself of this daily. I have always been grateful for the forgiveness your father had towards Hinckley. We can all learn from this.
    Thank you, Patti, for making a difference through your words. I for one greatly appreciate them.
    God bless you.
    David Packer
    Pasadena, Ca.

  2. DJ Barker says:

    As always my friend, passionate and inspiring. It gave me a new light as I deal every year with the ying yang of being a good father to two glorious sons, yet recalling the nightmarish childhood of having a violent, abusive father. An alcoholic with good intentions. Until he drank.

    Thank you for the renewed perspective, Patti. Although I find peace and understanding, sometimes I take it back.

  3. Ken W. Brown says:

    Thank you Patti.

  4. John Aaroe says:

    Patti, it can’t be easy to live your life in the public domain. However your comments today regarding your father are truly words to be taken seriously. By all. You are correct. We are living in unusual times. A time in which hate has replaced communication. A time that encourages people to unite behind small topics rather than big conversations. Small ideas over dreams. I am not certain America today has the commonality that existed when we sent a man to the moon. Small minds and small thinkers hate. In history the great achievements never were born from hate or dislike. They grew out of dreams, trust, a desire to do good for all. You have an ability to heighten awareness on important topics. You have done that today. You do it every day. I hope your personal challenge is quickly resolved to your satisfaction. I once ( regarding a business matter ) hated. In truth, I gave to much of myself away during that process. Wishing you best,

  5. Rodney Wilson says:

    Moving and powerful — the essay and your father’s wisdom lesson.

    And I’m sorry you’re going through a rough situation right now, so I’m sending warm thoughts for a satisfactory conclusion.

  6. Michael Baron says:

    Brilliantly written post, Patti! I tremendously appreciate the wisdom you learned from your father, and I am profoundly grateful for the wisdom you so unselfishly and extraordinarily kindly share with us! Many wonderful blessings!

  7. Lisa Sheridan says:


    I can relate so well to what you are going through. I have spent 10 years, four book editions and multiple screenplay editions on the life and murder of Sam Cooke only to find that somebody, an opportunist to the nth degree, went to my sources and hoisted enough information to cobble together a documentary on Netflix.

    The worst part is that they created their own narrative, one that has nothing to do with the truth. There are people I know who were involved but what’s worse is that they’re people who knew about it and said nothing to me.

    It’s always painful to find out who your friends are and who they aren’t. The irony is that Sam Cooke’s murder, which came about because he’d found out that his manager Allen Klein had stolen his titles of operation, namely his publishing, couldn’t have happened without his Inner Circle being behind it.

    One thing I want to share with you is that when I taught high school seniors, I had them do a portfolio of essays in which they reflect back on their lives before commencement to the next step as adults. And one of the last essays I would assign was a letter of forgiveness. They had a really tough time with that, because many came from homes in which they were abused, or were witness to their parents alcoholism, drug addiction, marital philandering etc.

    I had them read a number of essays on forgiveness. One was by Pope John Paul II who visited his assailant in prison and forgave him directly. Another one was an article in which your father spoke of forgiving John Hinckley.

    The students were so incredulous that a person could forgive someone who tried to kill them. So his forgiveness not only served him, but served my students over the many years that I assigned this letter. Hopefully it is a lesson they have taught their own children.

    I appreciate your writing so very much. It is always poignant and from the heart. I will keep you in my prayers and hope that you will get through this rough patch like a champ, and end up on top with the thieves looking up from below

  8. Peter Hovis says:

    Thank you…

  9. Michael Williams says:

    Once again you have shown us insights of what a true leader and man of integrity your father was. You are correct that we live in a mean-spirited world with so much anger and hatred being spewed in politics & social media. It is refreshing to be reminded how our last great president handled adversity and how his acts of forgiveness witness to you now in your situation. Keep writing, keep the faith. Keep listening.

  10. Rosario A. Iaconis says:

    Your father’s words are wise beyond measure. Forgiveness is no easy
    thing, but it allows us to shed the corrosiveness that turns anger into obsessive rage. Only then can the better angels of our nature emerge. Only then are our souls truly healed.

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