(on going to a convalescent home) I have been going there for four years now. I don’t even really look forward to it, but I keep going back for reasons I do not quite understand. Perhaps I am subconsciously hoping it will help me get into the Junior League someday. Still, the moment I walk in and smell those old people again, and find them parked in the hallways like so many cars abandoned by the side of the road, I start begging God not to let me end up like this. But God is not a short order cook, and these people were once my age. I bet they used to beg God not to let them end up as they have….and I struggled to find meaning in their bleak existence. What finally helped was an image from a medieval monk, Brother Lawrence, who saw all of us as trees in winter, with little to give, stripped of leaves and color and growth, whom God loves unconditionally anyway. My priest friend Margaret, who works with the aged and who shared this image with me, wanted me to see that even though these old people are no longer useful in any traditional meaning of the word, they are to be loved unconditionally, like trees in the winter. – Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life
When it is time for the winter of my life, I hope to move through it without any regrets, grudges and old angers. I hope to not be bitter when I am parked in the nursing home hallway like a car on the side of the road. I hope to be joyous even if I am an invalid and have to have someone else take care of my personal needs. I hope to be spending my last days anticipating my Home-going and looking forward to see my Heavenly Parent.
The only way to have those things come to pass is for me to forgive. And let go. And remind myself that I have forgiven and let go each time the old pain surfaces, until, finally, there is no more pain to surface. I am beginning to believe that forgiveness is not a onetime deal, even for the same incident. If the pain goes deep – really deep – we’re talking inner self deep – then forgiveness is a continual work. Like the proverbial onion, there are many layers to hurt and pain and with each one peeled off and cast aside, there is always a new one underneath until we eventually reach the core.
With that in mind, I understand that it is okay to forgive someone for hurting me and when something else surfaces that is a painful reminder of the original hurt, I tell myself “I have forgiven that person and I choose to do so again.”
All pain and hurt is relative to the person experiencing it. In other words, what is painful to me is not necessarily painful to another. The deepest pain is the hardest to heal and forgive. Someone else might see my struggle as futile and repetitious just as I might see their struggle and wonder why it is taking them so long to forgive. We all need to be mindful of how we approach another person’s healing process. God is ever patient; so must we be with ourselves and others.
Help me, O Lord, as I pull back another layer of pain in order to forgive.