Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lessons Learned the Hard Way: On Forgiveness (and its many forms)

When I was a little girl, age 5-8, I remember going to my Aunt Stacy's house. She was my godmother. I absolutely adored Aunt Stacy, and she felt the same way about me. My parents would take me to her apartment and I remember playing on the balcony with my cousin Agatha and eating fruit salad.

Somewhere, there is a picture of me in a Communion dress (I grew up Catholic, remember?), standing in my Grandma's backyard with Aunt Stacy. I thought she was the most awesome woman in the universe, with really cool curly hair and awesome jewelry.

We kept in touch after my Dad moved us to America. She sent heartfelt cards to me and I felt really, really loved.

The year I turned 14 all hell broke loose. My grandpa died after a heart attack. When he died, my grandmother was in the hospital, fighting cancer for the second time. I can't imagine how awful it was for her to be there, ailing and alone, after her husband of 50-something years had died.

One weekend, we called my Grandma at the hospital, and she sounded good. Really, really good. Hopeful. My Dad made plans to bring her to America as soon as remission hit. Two weeks later, she was gone.

During a phone call to oversee the pickup of Grandma's belongings, I found out that Aunt Stacy had been in to see her. How sweet, I thought. What she had said to Grandma was not so sweet.

"You're better off dying. Nobody is going to want to take you in. You are just a burden."

It was like a switch went off. I refused to take Aunt Stacy's phone calls. On September 11, 2001 she made the mistake of calling the house while I was home and I let her have it. Other than that one outburst in which I called her everything but the kitchen sink, I haven't said a word to her.

She doesn't know I'm married to a wonderful man.

She has no idea I have two daughters.

She has never seen a picture of Ella.

Sunday night, with pen in hand, I sat on my couch with a Bible on my lap and wrote her a letter. Told her I was sorry for not keeping in touch. Told her about my husband, children, and a walk with God. I am sending pictures so she can put faces with names. I want to repair that relationship. Life is short.

Monday morning, I woke up to some disturbing news. Someone I had trusted, someone my family had trusted had lied to us. For months. Finances were involved. We won't go there. Long story short, I confronted this person and was met with more lies.

After spending most of the day trying to get the situation under control, alternately angry and crying, I collapsed on the bed, next to my husband and explained, in a fit of tears how stupid I felt for ever trusting this person. How I was so angry. How I would never forgive them.

And then he said something which made me remember why HE is the head of our household, and the leader of our little family unit.

"Forgiveness is not for them. Forgiveness is for you. Just because you forgive (insert name here) you have to forget about what happened. You've just learned an extremely valuable lesson about trust."

Of course, Gabe is right. (See what I said about him being head of household?)

God wants me to forgive. So I am. It does not mean that I have to keep company with anyone who hurts me or betrays me, in any way. I have to love them. I do not have to love what they did.

Forgiveness is so very, very important. I teach my daughter not to hold grudges. I teach her to forgive if someone hurts her. I teach her to love others, even if it has to be from a distance.

Life's too short to let other people steal your joy.
Forgive them.
Move on.
Have a blessed and beautiful day!

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