Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Forgiveness

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I put the brown plastic box in the closet as soon as it came back from the funeral home, two years ago, thinking I could at last give up all hope that a wafting white-robed figure would rise from the ashes of my dispair and say, “Oh, little one, my darling daughter, I am here for you now.” I prayed for my heart to soften, to forgive her, and love her for what she did give to me – life, great values, a lot of tennis lessons, and the best she could do. Unfortunately, the best she could do was terrible, like the Minister of Silly Walks trying to raise an extremely sensitive young girl, and my heart remained hardened to her.

So I left her in my closet for two years to stew in her own ashes, and I refused to be nice to her, and didn’t forgive her for being a terrified, furious, clinging, sucking maw of need and arrogance. I suppose that sounds harsh. I assumed Jesus wanted me to forgive her, but I also know he loves honesty and transparency. I don’t think he was rolling his eyes impatiently at me while she was in the closet. I don’t think much surprises him: this is how we make important changes – barely, poorly slowly. And still, he raises his fist in triumph.

I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over having Nikki as a mother, and I have to say that from day one after she died, I liked having a dead mother much more than having an impossible one. I began to call her Noraht as her nom de mort. I prayed to forgive her but didn’t – for staying in a fever dream of a marriage, for frantically pushing her children to achieve, for letting herself go from great beauty to hugely overweight woman in dowdy clothes and gloppy mask of makeup. It wasn’t black and white: I really loved her, and took great care of he, and was proud of some heroic things she had done with her life. She had put herself through law school, fought the great good fights for justice and civil rights, marched against the war in Vietnam. But she was like someone who had broken my leg, and my leg had healed badly, and I would limp forever.

I couldn’t pretend she hadn’t done extensive damage – that’s called denial. But I wanted to dance anyway, even with a limp. I know forgiveness is a component of freedom, yet I couldn’t, even after she died, grant her amnesty. Forgiveness means it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back. You’re done. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have lunch with the person. If you keep hitting back, you stay trapped in the nightmare – which is the tiny problem with our Israeli and Palestinian friends. And I guess I wasn’t done.

Anne Lamott in “Plan B: Further Thoughts On Faith”

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Written by Ryan

August 8, 2008 at 12:48 am

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