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Learning Unconditional Love From My Son

How I courageously faced childhood trauma and embarked on a journey of family revolution.

Candace with her family (l-r), daughter, Livity, son, Mateo, and husband, Patrick.
Candace with her family (l-r), daughter, Livity, son, Mateo, and husband, Patrick. Photo by Tina Nomura

by Candace Caballero
West Hollywood, Calif.

My journey of faith began while I was pregnant in 2019. I struggled to connect with the baby and felt terrible about it. This was a completely different experience from several years prior, when I had felt an immediate connection with my daughter, Livity. I was now carrying a boy, and that terrified me. It forced me to deal with a horrific event I had tried to forget.

Just before my fourth birthday, my father murdered my mother. He was
a fugitive until I was 16. I have spent most of my life trying to block out this trauma just so I could survive. I compartmentalized all events in life into good and bad, and I simply tried to ignore the bad, including my father.

I came to realize that I feared having a boy because I knew he would grow into a man who is one-quarter my father. I had negative thoughts that he would commit heinous acts as my father had. I knew I shouldn’t think this way, but I couldn’t help it.

Toward the end of my pregnancy in October 2019, I was introduced to chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Through attending SGI meetings and studying Buddhism, I learned about family karma, and I realized I had the power to transform the cycle of abuse and trauma that plagued us. I began to see my father as a traumatized individual who didn’t know how to cope.

In September 2020, I learned my father, who had been imprisoned since I was a teenager, suffered a second stroke and was transferred to the prison hospice. I felt compelled to call him, but when I did and heard his voice for the first time, it was cold and defensive. I was left feeling more hurt than before. I often discussed my father’s situation with my seniors in faith. They explained that there was a profound reason why he was in my life. I thought that I might eventually develop compassion for him, but never could I think of him as a perfect father.

Through encouraging others, I’ve developed unconditional love for myself.

I decided to chant for his happiness and peace, and after some time I began to feel heartfelt appreciation for him. I realized that he was the catalyst for my inner transformation. He’s part of the reason people take me seriously and why I have grit. The experience with my father has also helped me to encourage others with similar hardships, especially young women with father issues whom I seem to attract. Through encouraging others, I’ve developed unconditional love for myself, and I have him to thank for it. He may not be a perfect father, but he was the perfect father for me.

Candace and her parents.

Candace and her parents.

Exactly one year after receiving the Gohonzon, I received a text from my half-sister informing me that it was our father’s birthday. With my newfound appreciation, I called and wished him a happy birthday and thanked him for putting me on this earth. “Thank you, sweetie,” he said. “I’m glad your mother and I put you on this earth too. I am so sorry about everything, and I never stopped loving you.” After hanging up, I felt a sense of peace come over me. This was our final conversation.

On Dec. 18, my father died. The peace I felt in my heart was actual proof that I had transformed my family karma.

My Buddhist practice and study also helped me realize that all those delusional thoughts about my son, Mateo, came from a place of fear, not love. Mateo is my fortune child, as he led me to this practice. Mateo is now a lovely 18-month-old. He is such a sweet little boy who adores his older sister, Livity. Livity taught me what love is, and Mateo solidified that love by teaching me how to love others unconditionally. I feel like a lion! This year, I’m determined to live a life of courage that inspires others.

You’ve struggled and suffered far more than others. Because of this, you stand to gain incomparable happiness. You are supremely qualified to help others become happy as well. This is the teaching of Buddhism.

Ikeda Sensei, The New Human Revolution, vol. 5, p. 79

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