Forgive and Forget


I’ve been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. In truth, I’ve been thinking how liberating it is. For years I harbored resentment towards someone in my life for hurting me. I’m not even certain they knew I felt that way. Probably not. Several years back I decided to forgive this person. There was no need to tell them, I was the only one who needed to know. Hatred, resentment, jealousy – they’re like dark storm clouds crowding your heart . Those emotions eventually spill over until it’s visible to even yourself ; the hard set of your jaw, thin set of your lips and the furrowed brow. Gulp! Where did that cranky looking woman in the mirror come from? Forgiveness is the clean springlike breeze that blows it all away and allows the sunshine in. Once I made the decision to forgive and let it go, I felt lighter and happier than I’d felt in a long time.

In M.L. Stedman’s book “The Light Between Oceans”, the character Frank is asked by his wife how he can be so cheerful and forgiving. He says to her, “Oh but my treasure, it is so much less exhausting, you only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things. I would have to make a list… and make sure I hated the people on it the right amount. That I did a proper job of hating, too: very Teutonic!” I can’t tell you how many times I read that paragraph. It resonated with me so much that I grabbed my pen and wrote it in my journal. Now, when I’m wrestling with my ability to forgive AND forget, I remember that passage and it helps me.

By making the decision to forgive that person, I’ve come to see them in a new light. I love them, I enjoy them, and they’re someone I look forward to talking with. The person who was most blessed by forgiveness was me.


Bad Day, Good Day



Have you ever thought that you were going to have a bad day and it turned out to be pretty good? Yesterday I started my day by attending the anniversary mass I had said in Mom’s memory.  It still hurts to hear her favorite hymns, so I chose the early music-free mass.  As I walked into church, I took a deep breath and repeated my mantra, “I will not cry. I will not cry.” I wondered how I’d keep my composure as the priest began. “I will not cry. I will not cry.”  After the blessing, he announced the names of the people for whom the mass was being offered. Wait – what?! “Why didn’t he mention Mom?!” Still mentally reciting my mantra, I grabbed the bulletin and looked. Yep, there was her name but it was listed under the intentions for the later mass! Oh no, what was I going to do!? There I was at the very front of the church, so slipping out discretely was not an option. First I felt panic followed by anger that the mass had gotten switched.  Then slowly the humor of the whole situation just struck me. Suddenly my mantra changed to “I will not laugh. I will not laugh.”  That slip up freed my heart. Yeah, the bulletin may have said that the later mass was in Mom’s honor, but I knew she was enjoying this one with me.  And the fact that I could pray along with my fellow parishioners and be happy knowing she was getting a kick out of it was the best honor I could give her.

Later, I heard some news that I couldn’t wait to share with Mom so naturally I picked up the phone and started to dial.  And then it hit me that she’s not at the other end of the line anymore.  I sat down and just sobbed. While I sat there blubbering I thought about it and whenever I couldn’t talk with her, I would send her an email. So that’s exactly what I did; I wrote her the longest, most newsy email and then I hit “send”.  It felt good telling her everything that had been going on and about a situation that I’ve been praying on because I need some guidance. All the things I would’ve told her over the phone.

You know, I haven’t received that (email) postmaster notification telling me that it was undeliverable.  I hope she got my message.

I Have Plans



Even when I was little I was a worrier, a list maker, and a planner. I ALWAYS had to have a backup plan. If anything happened to Daddy and Mom, I knew that I would call my Uncle and he’d know what to do. He’d take us in, care for us, and love us like his own. Aunt V would love us the same way. I’ve never known a day when I didn’t have a plan or wasn’t practical. I had a plan. I was eight years old.

“Winging it” does not come to me easily. Actually, until recently it was a totally foreign phrase to me. Even now I have to remind myself that it’s okay to be spontaneous.

Recently, my friend at work just made the decision over dinner on a Friday night that YES, they should pack up, get in the car and drive to Florida. They (he and his wife, their three children along with their friend and her two kids) were on the road by 9:30.  Just like that! I marveled at that and was a little jealous of his joie de vivre! Later, when I expressed my envy to J, he looked at me with a look of astonishment and said, “You can do that.”  Oh my gosh, he’s right; I CAN do that.  All I have to do is say to him, “Let’s go. We’ll call in from the road.” and he’d be right there warming up the car.  Someday I just may do it!

But first I have to make a list of what to pack.

A Year of Firsts



This has been my year of firsts since she died.  All the holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. It’s been the hardest year of my life. My friends tell me that it won’t be better but it will be different. They said that I’d find ways of dealing with the pain so that I’ll get to a point where I can remember her and talk about her without breaking down in tears. When I had to tell Mom that she had a week or maybe two left, her exact words were “Thank God! Finally!”. Then she looked me in the eyes and said “And I don’t want you to cry. Promise me you won’t cry when I die.” I told her that I couldn’t promise that, but I could promise that I’d try.  I’m sorry Mom, I’ve failed miserably on that one. There are still days when I wake up crying.  I’m getting better, though. I gave myself permission to cry during this first year. And I’ve promised her that after this first year, I’ll honor her wish.  The anniversary of her death is the hardest of all the firsts.  

Late that Friday afternoon I told her that J and I were running out to the big-box store and would be home in two hours. She said that she wanted to sit at her computer while we were gone but she was so weak I asked her to stay in bed until we got home. She was disappointed but agreed. We got home in less than two hours and when we got there, she said she had some pain in her side. I gave her some morphine but it didn’t seem to touch the pain. I called the nurse who said to give her more. That didn’t work either.  I called a family member who’s a nurse and she came over right away.  She said we could give her more morphine and I did. Finally she said her pain was down to a three. We got her changed and comfortable and then she looked like she was sleeping. My cousin left and I said I was staying the night with her so J went upstairs to our place. Her breathing changed and it sounded like she needed to cough. I tried talking with her but she was staring at a point on the wall.  I sat rubbing her arm and holding her hand for hours. I told her that if she wanted to go, it was okay. I promised her that I’d be alright. For the one and only time during that whole night, she looked at me. I told her I loved her and that I’d continue to pray for her. She turned her eyes to the wall again and I continued to rub her hand. A while later she pulled away from me and slapped my hand! I realize now that she was busy and I was distracting her. I think her angels, no… I KNOW her angels were there and they were helping her prepare for her final journey.  I just sat there listening and praying.  Sometime around daybreak I called J and asked if he would come down for just a little while. “I have to leave the room for a bit.” He came right down and I cried that I just couldn’t listen to her breathing-that I wanted to reach down her throat and clear it for her. He suggested that I go catch a quick nap, just thirty minutes and he’d call to wake me.  I had just crawled into bed when the phone rang. It was J and he was sobbing, saying “She’s gone”. I couldn’t believe that I’d left her for no more than fifteen minutes and she was gone! NO! I was supposed to be there! I was supposed to hold her hand so that she wasn’t alone! I FAILED HER! I ran downstairs and hugged her tight, never wanting to let her go. “MOM! Don’t leave me! Please! Oh God, please!” J left the room to call my cousin and I stayed there holding my Mom until the nurse came and  made me let her go.  She was my Mother, my first friend, my best friend. And now she was gone. I never knew how deeply one can grieve until I lost her.

I’ve never told anyone about that morning. J is the only one who knows because he was there.  I’ve held that memory inside where it’s been eating at me. All those feelings – I shouldn’t have left her. I was selfish for needing a break. I’m awful because I left her to die alone. I should’ve been holding her hand or praying or something! My family and friends tell me that I was a wonderful daughter and that I took such good care of her but they don’t know that secretly, deep down I’ve been thinking that I failed her. I wasn’t there in the minute it mattered. 

Early this morning, long before it was time to get up, I woke up. As I laid there I knew that God had been talking with me. He said that it wasn’t the minute that she died that mattered, it was all the millions of minutes before then.  He whispered that I had been a good daughter and that how I treated her in those minutes is what matters. My Mom always felt bad because her own mother had died after everyone left the room but I guess it must be a private thing. Mom waited until I left for a reason. Was it privacy? Did she know and want to spare me? I don’t know and probably won’t until we see each other again some day. Maybe when we do, it won’t be important anymore.

I Can’t Forget


, ,


I don’t want to remember but I can’t forget. I have these memories – snapshots of different moments in time of caring for my Mom. If I write my thoughts here, perhaps I’ll be able to turn the page in this chapter of my life and finally move forward. My Mom died exactly one year ago after a five year battle with lung cancer. She shocked everyone with her determination to fight and beat it. Most of all, she shocked me. I never knew my Mom to be a strong person; not that she was a weak woman, nope, not her, but she was never the best in a crisis.  We used to laugh at how Mom would be the first to run away when there was an emergency and we still laugh.

No, when she was first told about the cancer her response was, “Not now. I don’t have time. I’m selling my house and I’ve got to get it packed up!” That was in January. The doctor called her in April, right after she had moved into her new modern, spacious apartment.  This was the first time in her life that she had the things she thought were luxuries – a dishwasher, washer and dryer right there in her apartment, a refrigerator with an ice-maker! Best of all, she had her cousin and friends living in the same complex. Anyway, the doctor asked her if she was done moving and was she ready to go in for more testing. Reluctantly she agreed.  After a myriad of different tests we got the news and it wasn’t good. She had small cell lung cancer. The bad news was that it’s aggressive, good news was that it responds well to chemotherapy and the radiation should knock it back. “Chemotherapy? Radiation? What do you mean?” she whispered. I held her hand as we listened to her doctors spell out the course of treatment.  “Okay” she said, “Let’s do it.” Privately she said to me “What am I going to do? Wait to die without fighting?”  I was so proud of her that day.   

She started her treatments and once she understood that she needed to take the pills and drink her fluids and do everything they told her, she rocked it. Then her hair started to fall out. She’d been told it would and she already had a beautiful wig on standby but she wasn’t emotionally prepared when it happened. We had to rush out and buy her a baseball hat that she immediately plunked on head. But later, when she took it off, her hair came with it.  She decided it would be better to shave her head rather than have her hair fall out in clumps so off we went to the salon where my stylist buzzed off what remained of her pretty blonde hair. She sat there with her eyes closed as he snipped, clipped and buzzed.  She finally looked into the mirror when he was done. She didn’t make a sound but I saw the tears rolling down her face. I saw such sadness in her eyes. It broke my heart to see her like that.  I told her she was even more beautiful than before. She took my hand and kissed it. Then she looked at me and called me a liar. Even on one of her most difficult days she could smile.