Saturday, July 28, 2007

Forgiveness is a river that flows

He hasn't spoken to her in 12 years. He doesn't know if she's alive. He doesn't know where she lives. She moved and didn't leave a forwarding address, 12 years ago, when she realized she could not stop his drug-addicted behaviours from destroying his life. She knew she had to stop him from destroying hers.

She is his mother.

I wonder how she feels. To know that the miracle of life that had come from her body, that the little boy who once played Lego and wanted to be an astronaut, the boy who sat on her lap and played with her fingers, the boy to whom she once sang lullabies and told fairy tales could be, possibility might be, dead. To not know for all those years. To carry the pain. To wonder if she could have done anything different. If she'd only... and then to remind herself, I cannot change the past and then to move on with the ache in her heart, always there, easing a bit, but always there. I wonder how she feels. I can only imagine. I cannot know.

He came into my office yesterday and said, his voice strong, his hands steady, "I'd like to write that letter now. Is that room available for me to use?"

I nodded my head. I wasn't sure I could speak. It was a big moment.

Earlier in the week he'd come into my office, his ego bruised from an encounter with a couple of clients which led to a staff-member unfairly targeting him for something he didn't do. We'd talked through the drama. He'd got it straight in his head what had gone wrong. Where he was wronged and where he had wronged another in the process. He knew what he wanted to do to make it 'right.' He's a courageous kind of guy.

He was getting ready to leave when he blurted out. "I want to write a letter to my mom. I'm afraid to do it."

"And you're afraid because...?" I asked.

"I haven't had contact with her in 12 years. Last time I saw her, I stole from her." He shrugs his shoulders, a pained look flits across his face as memory surfaces. "I caused her a lot of pain."

Tears well up in his eyes. I wait.

"She doesn't know if I'm alive or dead." He pauses. "I don't know if she's alive or dead. She's in her 70s. She had to move. She was scared of me.... I don't blame her. I was scared of me back then. I was a scary guy."

He looks at me from where he sits on the other side of my desk in the blue chair, his slim hands clasped between his knees. He throws his head back, he looks at the ceiling. He sighs. "I want to tell her I'm alive. I want to tell her I'm sorry. I want to tell her so many things and I'm scared. I'm 41 years old and I'm scared of my mom." He looks at me. "What should I do."

"What's in your heart."

Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Yesterday, after a lifetime running from the truth, this courageous man conquered his fear. He wrote the letter he's been avoiding since getting sober a year and a half ago. I went in to see him after a couple of hours. He'd just finished. He sat at a table along the window. The view looks out across the river valley to the tree covered hillside beyond. Houses peeked out from amidst the greenery. The sky above was crystal clear blue. His blue eyes were cloudy with tears.

"I didn't know it would be so hard," he said. A tear falls onto the page in front of him. He laughs. "I'm such a cry-baby."

"I see you as a courageous man."

He looks down at the folded pages in front of him. He picks them up. Holds them out to me. "Here. Read it. Tell me if I said the right thing."

I hesitate. "Did you write from your heart?" He nods his head. "You've said the right thing."

He holds the letter further towards me. "Please?"

I take the letter. "I'd be honoured."

I try not to cry. I try not to let my emotions attach themselves to the words on the page. I don't have a script for this. I don't have a guidebook telling me what to do. What to say. I let my eyes fill with tears. I can't stop them.

I finish the letter. His eyes have never stopped watching my face. I hand the letter back to him.

"Thank you."

He looks surprised. "Thank you?"

"I once did to my daughters what's happened to your mother. I thought I'd forgiven myself, but I forgot. Forgiveness is a river. It is always flowing and sometimes, I need to dip into it to refresh myself. I've never had happen to me what happened to you. But your letter gave me the gift of knowing, whatever happens in life, whatever I do, forgiveness always opens the door to my heart."

"Do you think I should send it? What if she doesn't care? I mean, I know why she turned her back on me, but what if she just doesn't want to know what's happened in my life?"

"Mothers always care. She may have been forced to turn away, she may have had to do what she did, but a mother never closes the door to her heart. Love for a child can never be shut off."

He looks at me. Glances back out at the trees and houses across the river. The cerulean arc soaring above.

"I need to do the right thing."

I nodded my head in agreement.

He doesn't know if she's alive or dead. She hasn't known of his whereabouts for 12 years. We googled the town where he last knew she lived. His uncle still lives there. He wrote a note to his uncle on the outside of the envelope with his mother's letter inside. Dear Uncle M. Please get this to my mother. I love her. I love you. He signed his name and tucked the letter inside another envelope addressed to his uncle.

Somewhere in a post office a letter sits in a pile of letters waiting to board the plane that will carry it to its destination. It is searching for a mother's heart. Hoping it is still beating in time and in love.
An ending. A beginning.

He's done the right thing and can let go of another fear holding him back on his journey. He doesn't know the outcome. The outcome isn't what makes the difference. Though he fears he may be too late. He fears she may not be alive, or even willing to read his note. Whether she reads the letter or not, she will know that he's alive. He's done the right thing.

In life, we are always called to do the right thing. Sometimes, fear, anger, sadness, sorrow, grief limit our ability to step with courage into our fear and set ourselves free. To create new beginnings, we must begin at the end where we left off. We must do the right thing to step beyond that place where fear would tell us to do nothing.

May you live your day in freedom to do the right thing, regardless of the outcome.

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