I've always read that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, but, never understood what that meant, until a few months ago. My parents were divorced, and their marriage was one of constant upheaval while I was growing up. I finally had to break away from the dysfunction, or drown in it. It was a lonely choice, but, a relief, in time. I tried to stay connected with my far flung family, and for the most part, did, with many bumps and hurt feelings along the way.
Then, my mother's health began to fail, and I realized that there was no more time for hurt feelings or anger. I had already realized that, although their best made me feel sad, lost and frightened as a child, that it was still their best. Over the years, I had to finally let go of the past, to go forward in my own life. Not an easy thing, since I am a ruminator, from a long line of those who lived their lives shadowed in the past. But, I chose to let go of it all. Did it really matter? When my mother was gone, would I wonder what else I should have said or done?
So, I wrote her a long letter and let it go - accepted my part in our ongoing misunderstandings and asked her if we could just let it go, and love each other now. She accepted, and all too soon she was gone. But, my comfort, now, is that we found peace in our relationship.
Then, my father, who had even a more tenuous relationship with me, lost his wife (my stepmother, who was a very nice woman), and then became ill.
So, across the miles, I wrote him a letter, again, letting the past go, and telling him of my sadness that we aren't closer.
Today, I received a lovely letter. It seems, that we too, have a late chance to remind ourselves of a relationship we once had, in better moments.
I know I could have held on to my angers and hurts of the past, but, love opens so much more in life. I am fortunate to have a much better relationship with my grown daughters, and the Friday afternoons I spend with my granddaughter are magic (I drive an hour one way to babysit for her after fitting 40 hours into 4 1/2 days - worth every minute and every mile).
I hope my children have much happier memories of their childhood, and I try really hard to not let misunderstandings and anger grow between us. The joy of sharing in their lives is worth every minute of effort. Because, facing the end of my life someday, I hope they will be there, laughing and sharing memories of what was good in our lives.
So, forgiveness is something that I have given myself, and letting go of anger has opened my heart and soothed my soul. The past can't be forgotten, perhaps, and we should learn from it. But, it should never be the anchor that wears us down and drains us.