A father is one of the most pivotal and monumental people you can have in your life. For Damian Radcliffe, losing his father between the painstaking ages of 14 and 22 was filled with challenge and anger.

“When I was 14, my dad went for milk, and I didn’t see him again until I was 22 years old – in an aisle in the Walmart in Clareview,” says Damian, recounting the difficult memory of seeing his father again after eight years of him walking out. 

When so many of us are celebrating Father’s Day with cake, gifts, and a fun-filled family day, others are reeling at loss. For some, their father was taken too soon. For others, like Damian, their dad chose to voluntarily leave an absence in their life. 

As Damian came to terms with seeing his dad buying an oil filter that day, there were eight years of questions and confusion to rewrite. Learning that his disappearance was rooted in mental health challenges and embarrassment, Damian softened. He could remain angry, or he could forgive. However, only one option freed him of his pain and offered him the hand of his father back in his life. 

So, Damian forgave.

“I was angry with him, it destroyed our family. It was a difficult period,” says Damian. “When other people had dad’s fixing their cars, I had to fix my own. I had to build my own speaker boxes and put my own stereo equipment in. It was difficult. I didn’t have that person with me to teach me how to be a man.”

For some of the most important parts of his youth, Damian had lost the leadership of a father; Until he had the opportunity to have his father back in his life. 

“From that point on, I had twenty awesome years with him. He was a fun guy to be around and he was more intelligent than he let himself believe,” says Damian. “It made me understand that mental health issues can truly impact really good people. They can make really good people make really bad decisions.” 

Damian’s father ended up living on the streets shortly after getting milk that day. His mental health struggles had overcome him and caused embarrassment. It was difficult for him to maintain his current life – so he walked out. An impossible decision for someone in his shoes. 

For Damian, who now serves as the Director of Operations of Paladin Security (an empathy-led security team), he takes his understanding and sympathy for the homeless to work everyday. What once seemed impossible to understand now makes more sense.

Because Damian was able to offer love and understanding to his father, he had the opportunity to spend twenty fulfilling, loving years with his dad. Without his ability to forgive, he would likely still be harbouring anger and would have missed the chance to make incredible memories. 

With Father’s Day around the corner, holding forgiveness in your heart may soften the blow for those who are feeling a little less whole this year. Regardless of the circumstances between a person and their dad, offering forgiveness can set you free. 

It might even provide the memories you’ve deserved all along.

By Celina Dawdy

The following video captures Damian speaking about his journey: