Share a story where it was very difficult for you to forgive the perpetrator for wronging you, but you did it — you forgave them.
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I’m not a person who usually struggles with the whole “forgive and forget” thing. In fact, I’m most generally far harder on myself than I ever am on anyone else. But just reading this prompt brought back a distressing scene in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona where my dad was dying of congestive heart failure.
Dad had struggled with congestive heart failure for awhile, but he’d finally gotten to the point where the medications he took to keep his heart pumping adequately were not able to stay ahead of the fluid that filled his body. He was 76, and for reasons I can’t remember now (this was February 1997), dialysis was not an option for him. By the time my sister, brother, and I had gotten there, the doctors had raised the possibility of peritoneal dialysis where the water was drained off by a tube through the wall of the stomach. They weren’t sure if it would do any good or not, and it was a fairly uncomfortable procedure.
Dad was all for it. He loved life and planned to hold on with both hands. But mom was having no part of it. She was so adamant about not trying it that we were all stunned. We ended up in quite a row in the waiting room, with both of us saying things we shouldn’t have. I accused her of not loving dad if she wasn’t willing to do absolutely everything we could to get him better and out of there. I was so angry. I felt horribly wronged, as did my brother and sister, while mom just stayed strangely quiet in the face of our confusion and accusations.
As it happened, two days later, before anything could really be decided, dad lapsed into a coma and died within several hours, his stereo earphones on listening to tapes of his band. He died quietly and peacefully. But there was a part of me that just grew angrier and angrier at my mom. I didn’t believe for one minute that she had loved my dad. I didn’t understand how she could just let him go like that without a fight. Though we had spent a lifetime, it seemed, being at odds, our relationship suffered more than usual after that.
I’ve shared on here before how my mom passed away 18 months later. She never did recover from my dad’s death. She didn’t answer the phone one particular morning, and when I got to the house to check on her I had to break a basement window to get in. All I could think about was had she fallen down the stairs in the night and been lying for hours in pain unable to get to the phone? And then this little thought intruded into my mind: Please let her be dead. She was. She had died peacefully in her sleep, thanks be to God.
But I couldn’t understand or deal with that tiny little thought that kept accusing me of wanting her gone. It felt for all the world like revenge. I ended up seeing a grief counselor, and it wasn’t until that counselor asked me where that idea had come from that I realized I couldn’t have stood the thought of her suffering there all alone.
And in the moment I articulated my feelings to her, I knew exactly why mom had been so dead-set against trying the dialysis with dad. He’d already suffered so much, and there was no guarantee that this painful procedure would be of any help at all. The truth was, she loved him so much that she was willing to let him go because she couldn’t stand to see him suffer any more.
I learned a lot about letting go in that one counseling session. I learned that you have to love someone a heck of a lot to be able to put their life in God’s hands and leave it there. And I learned if there was one thing mom did, it was love dad.
I forgave her that day for what I had thought was the worst betrayal ever, but it was too late for me to make amends. What I wouldn’t give for just five minutes with her again to be able to say, “I get it now, mom.” Unfortunately I managed to pick up that mantle of unforgiveness and put it on. It was another three years before I was finally able to understand and forgive myself for how I had wronged her.
It just this second occurred to me as I looked at the date on the computer that today would have been their 66th anniversary.
Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad!
We miss you!