A few hours before catching my flight home from San Francisco, I found a message on Facebook from a long-lost friend. She asked if I was the same person who had lived in Hawaii Kai and moved to Concord.
She wanted to welcome me home, thinking I had moved back (or never left?). She asked for my US number and minutes later we were chatting, in real time, and couldn’t get our words out fast enough.
We were breathless, excited to catch up after more than 20 years of silence. I know you never can make up for time lost, but it was the next best thing to doing nothing.
As we shared stories, I realized that we had disconnected at a very crucial time in my life when I thought the bottom of my world had fallen out. I was wrong, of course, but I found that out only many years later.
At the time, I suppose I was in no mood for small talk or casual conversation. It is not necessarily true that misery loves company. Some want to weep and wallow alone and slam the door shut on the rest of the world.
As she spoke about her life, I felt sick and ridden with guilt. While I was on my pity party licking my wounds and blaming the world, she had lost her only child, survived an aneurysm and a divorce, lost her home, and filed for bankruptcy.
I had wondered about her at the time but was reluctant to call, too proud to show that I was falling apart and was not indestructible after all.
I was as clueless about her trouble as she was about mine. I ask myself now if it would have made a difference. We were so focused on ourselves that we would not have bothered with anyone else.
Are we really so busy and distracted with everyday stuff? Or does the swift flight of time make us indifferent? I remember caring deeply about this friend. But when the storm hit, why did I turn away? Why did she? It makes no sense now. What were we thinking?
How easily we forgot that we are all fellow travelers on a journey that is not easy, never smooth; that the bumps don’t hurt as much if there is a hand to hold or an arm to lean on.
We were quiet for a moment. Maybe we were both thinking the same thoughts. How could we let it happen?
Peace and quiet
We tried to lighten the moment. I think I made a joke. She asked about my life and I told her about my children, grand and great-grandkids, that I was happy back in Manila and that I was writing again. She was pleased.
Life has not been as kind to her. She is not well. But she did not complain and sounded almost happy when she confessed being only a few weeks away from moving into a high-end nursing home near the ocean.
My heart wanted to break. When I was quiet, she told me not to feel too bad.
“All I want is peace and quiet, and to not be too big a bother to anyone. After that big debacle in my life, I lucked out and married an extremely wealthy man. He was good to me. When he died, he left me a fortune. So I now can afford to fade away in style.”
She chuckled and then turned serious. “I am looking for the people I have offended through the years. I will ask them to forgive me. If I give you some names, can you help me find them? I want to do this soon, before the night overtakes me.”
She said it quietly. It was not meant to create drama or evoke pity. It was a statement of where she is today at this time of her life.
It took a while for me to digest the significance of her words.
She gave me several names. One was mine. We cried. We forgave. Talk about “putting your house in order.”
I left for the airport with a light heart, her last words ringing in my ears: “Will you write about me?”
Forgive and forget
I read somewhere that the hardest thing to do is to forgive someone who has not asked to be forgiven. If they are not sorry, how can we forgive? Why should we? It is, I guess, human nature to wait for the culprit to grovel in contrition and cry copious tears.
How do you forgive when there is no sign of true remorse? Will you settle for an apology? The Greek word is apologia or “a speech in defense of.” It is, therefore, only an excuse, often sadly inadequate.
Genuine repentance is an admission that you have wronged someone; that you want to make things right and wish to be forgiven. You cannot fake contrition. Your heart must be engaged.
On the other hand, forgiveness has nothing to do with the condition of the offender. It is a decision, an act of your will. “It is not hypocrisy to will forgiveness when the emotions are screaming for vengeance.”
Can you forgive and forget? Forgiveness does not carry a promise to expunge the memory of an offense. For many it takes a lifetime to set it aside.
Some quote the Bible to suggest that God forgets our sins. The prophet Isaiah writes: “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake and I will not remember your sins.” In Hebrews it says: “Their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
But God does not forget our sins. His promise is that He will not call them to mind. In His infinite goodness and mercy, He chooses not to remember them. This is His awesome and amazing grace!