It wasn’t that I didn’t completely forgive her, or that it was not a genuine forgiveness. But it was a forgiveness of the will, the kind that comes when you make up your mind to do it and ask God to help you even though you’re not feeling it inside.
This is what we are taught to do and it is good and right.
And God being faithful, brings the feeling of forgiveness even though the understanding is not there.
He did that for me with my mother.
After all she did to me, to my sister, to herself, her parents, all of us. Back then I was only thinking about what she did to me. Back then I didn’t even realize that she was wrong. I just knew that I was mad. I just knew that I felt hatred for her.
Then the Holy Spirit came to live in me, yes me, it could be you too, the Holy Spirit can and will and wants to live in everyone and is no respecter of persons. When the Spirit came, I began to see that my mother was so very broken and she needed my forgiveness and I asked God to give me the ability to forgive her.
Mom didn’t really seem to want my forgiveness. I spoke with her the second to last time she went to the hospital, I didn’t know how very close she was to the end, she didn’t tell me – part of me thinks she expected me to just know. She was about to be wheeled down the hall for surgery to put a stent in to drain fluid out of her body, at least that is that way I remember it, and I stood by her and told her that I loved her and I forgave her and I hoped for her to come to see life from my perspective.
She angrily told me she just wanted to die.
And is so often the way with these kinds of desires, before too long she did die, and I was left on my own with my prayed for and willed forgiveness, and a whole bunch of questions.
I got busy with life and didn’t grieve too much. I never cried after mom died, I couldn’t dredge up the tears or the feeling of true grief because after all I did not have and never had a deep bond with her. I could not feel the direct loss of my mother because I had already lost her long before the day of her death. But back then when life was just getting fired up for me I didn’t really understand that. I just wondered if I really loved her since I didn’t feel like crying now that she was dead.
I wondered if I really loved her because the moment she died I was down the hall lying on a couch – I didn’t feel well. I couldn’t even be a good enough daughter to be there with her when she took her last breath. Did she do that on purpose, did she know I was out of the room?
Many years later, with grown kids and more time on my hands to focus and reflect and a higher perspective, my view of my mother began to change. I began to understand more about her life and the timeline of her birth, childhood, and marriage. I saw through adult eyes, eyes that were as old as she had been when she did the things she did, and I started to understand.
Instead of a sketchy blurred outline, I took the colors and filled in the portrait of my mother, not just a headshot but with all the details of her life surrounding her. Parents who were not as perfect as they seemed, struggling with their own childhood issues. The death of a baby sister. The pressures of being an only child. The act of rebellion that she may have regretted. A husband who was already shattered by his upbringing. The fact that six weeks after I was born his mother was killed by his father in a drunk driving accident, and a man without a solid moral compass spiraled into chaos.
And then there’s mental illness. I have to face the possibility that it runs in my family. I wouldn’t have thought it or admitted it but I can see its fingerprints tracing back on both sides of my family and into the present and future.
There are days when tears of frustration brim and overflow at the dark parts of life and I have felt profound connection with my mother. “I understand, mom, I get it, I can imagine how you must have felt,” I say to her. I set my will every day to continue this life with its vale of tears, and more than just to continue but to thrive. I never want to fall into the maw of despair that my mother was trapped in – but I have approached it. And that much I understand. I empathize with her in a new way as I have passed her age. I have a new perspective.
And I have a new kind of forgiveness. It is no longer just a forgiveness of the will, it is a heart forgiveness. It springs up naturally, emanating from a new, deep connection and bond that I feel with my mother. It comes from a place of love and understanding. I get it mom. I understand those feelings you had. And you felt you were alone. If I could give you a hug and a kiss on the forehead, I would tell you that
I love you so much
and you’re beautiful.