the act of forgiveness

I believe strongly in what goes around, comes around.

I am an angry woman who doesn’t forget nor forgive easily.

My family’s evil gene expressed itself in my uncle. Already wealthy, his greed and feelings of self-entitlement meant he cheated my mother of money and a few items from my grandmother’s house. During the sale of the contents, house, land and later the estate, he consistently lied to me – even in the lawyer’s office.

After her stroke, my mother’s perceptions, attitude, personality shifted. Dementia only heightened these changes. Her reaction to my uncle’s actions varied from anger to excuses. She was adamant that I not mention anything about our disappointment to him. She wanted me to do as she did, pretend it never happened. (Although, she often said unkind things about him and his greed, arrogance and ego.)

My uncle developed Parkinson’s. Under control due to medications, he continued to be his arrogant, self-centered self. I wished he “paid” for his transgressions, but not with illness. The development of his disease was not the revenge I wanted.

His greed “cost” my mother and myself a lot – not just in terms of money. I wanted him to feel betrayed by someone he trusted. To be lied to by his kids or grand-kids. Something that would break through his feelings of self-entitlement; for him to feel abused, betrayed, unfairly treated Not battling something like Parkinson’s.

I was still angry and remained in a not forgiving mood. I cling to the past (especially the unjust or painful episodes) like velcro.

In December 2013, my aunt wrote that he had lost the use of his legs and had been hospital since October. Stabilizing his medication and condition might allow for regaining some mobility. He was scheduled to be transferred to a rehab facility. I heard nothing further until the following Christmas.

This time, my card contained just the standard family “newsletter,” usually an impersonal, over-blown story of the wonderfulness of him and his family. The letter began with news that my uncle was now in a small clinic, unable to use his legs, and falling deeper into dementia. The irony was not lost on me.

I forgave my uncle. What goes around, came around. But not in the way I expected. He lost the use of his legs and was falling deeper into dementia.

In 2010, after 8 weeks in the hospital, my mother died. By then, due to pain and fear (of falling), she had lost the use of her legs; unable and unwilling to get out of bed.

Each week also added a year to her decent into dementia. Her executive functions were already lost, her ability to remember today fading. The hospital stay made this pattern worse.

I’m writing a letter to my uncle (for my aunt to read or give to him), taking dementia into consideration. I’m not going to talk about transgressions or forgiveness. I doubt he ever felt guilt; realized the consequences of what he did. Forgiveness? For what?

It is an hello. This is what I’ve been up to. Weather. No questions. Easy to understand language. The first draft of the letter to my aunt was snarky; I’m still dealing with her complicity in the matter. It’s part of the whole, but one forgiveness at a time. This is a new experience for me.

I’m not just forgiving him because he is now like my mother was. I need to, like a snake, shed the skin of the past. If I can forgive him, I am working towards healing. If I forgive him, perhaps I can forgive myself.


12 thoughts on “the act of forgiveness

  1. wendy January 6, 2015 / 10:13 pm

    my dear friend, you are not too broken. You are doing well. I am amazed you put this out there. Wow! You have come a long way baby! You are going to make it after all. (pardon the old quotes…I read the Mary Tyler Moore quote today and I thought about us! I knew I read it for a reason!)
    My dear Warrior Princess, you have been fighting for a long time….the anger you can let go of…forgiveness is a good thing. That doesn’t mean you forget and let someone just run over you gain…but forgiveness is something I have had to do. Sometimes the anger creeps back in…it has recently and I have focused on forgiveness meditation again. I thought I had forgiven…sometimes you have to do it more than once I think. The heart hears it and you feel it, but then that anger pops back up…and well, I have had to work on it again. you know what I’m talking about. Family is some wicked stuff.

    Yes, he has ended up like your mother, and I bet he has been betrayed by his “loved ones” too.

    I have been so angry and I couldn’t let it go for so long. it’s funny when I’m not stable, when my meds aren’t working right, and when I was on the steroids the anger comes back. I have been fighting with it for the past few months. But I’m calming down now. Forgiveness is easier. and it is much better for me. It isn’t for them. It is for me. Remember that.

    I’m proud of you. but you know that.

    you are far from broken.
    broken people can’t be such good friends.


    • phylor January 7, 2015 / 12:49 am

      Thank you. It’s taken me a very long time to do this, as you know.
      I remain an angry woman. There are others I need to forgive too. But this was the biggest and the hardest. I tried when I learned he was hospitalized and no longer had use of his legs. But I was still too angry, still stuck in the patterns of my past.
      I think you are amazing, too. You not only have the compassion to forgive, you can face the anger and forgive again. That takes a lot of self-reflection.
      I don’t think I’ll forget. And, that may mean the anger returns. I need to learn to think of the past in a new way. And, I have to face something even scarier and harder — the future. I still have great difficulty thinking and looking at it. So, I still have a ways to go.
      So, Warrior Princess, we are in this for the long haul! Thanks for listening! You’re part of the coming a long way too.


  2. sunshine and chaos January 4, 2015 / 9:35 pm

    I think one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself as part of healing is forgiving others. It’s not easy, no on-off switch, but necessary to help you move forward.

    As for being too “broken” to be fixed (if I may add another way of looking at things), then we are all “broken” in some way. We all have experiences that have shaped and defined us, not all of them good experiences.

    It reminded me of what Japanese do with broken pottery, called kintsugi, where the pottery is put back together with lacquer that has powdered gold, silver or platinum mixed in with it. And to quote a couple of sentences from the wiki page:

    “As a philosophy it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

    “As a philosophy kintsugi can been seen to have similarities to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, an embracing of the flawed or imperfect.”

    If you’d like, check out the wabi-sabi link from the above sentence as well. It is the first sentence in the Philosophy section. It’s basically we are all imperfect and there is beauty in imperfection. Just another point of view of being broken.

    Hope it gives you another way of looking at things.


    • phylor January 4, 2015 / 9:49 pm

      Thanks — it does give a different perspective I hadn’t thought of.
      I like the concept that there is beauty in imperfection; and repairs are part of an object’s history, not a disguise of a break.
      I will check out what you have suggested.


  3. sunsetdragon January 4, 2015 / 2:30 am

    Forgiving him brings you peace and this is a good thing.


    • phylor January 4, 2015 / 11:06 am

      Thank you for your observation. Peace is a feeling that I need to find.


  4. Curious to the Max January 4, 2015 / 1:19 am

    It is sad that your uncle was never able to experience compassion and generosity. What a loss for him and for you.

    My Baha’i beliefs give me a totally different perspective on forgiveness. Basically, I believe we are here on earth given tests and trials to learn to express virtues (compassion, love, honesty, justice etc). What we don’t learn in this “first life” we will have to learn in the next! When someone acts from greed, hate, treachery etc we have the opportunity to not react/respond in kind but to elevate ourselves by responding virtuously. It is up to God to forgive. It is up to us to learn.

    Obviously I can’t PROVE any of this!

    On the other hand. There is no need to put ourselves in harms way. People who are “not nice” should be avoided as far as I’m concerned.


    • phylor January 4, 2015 / 11:18 am

      Your Baha’i beliefs provide an interesting way to approach life and those who come in contact with you.
      I hope to learn to be more forgiving and less angry. I think this will take a while but is a necessary part of my healing process.
      Therapy in 2014 (weekly March to December) provided many “aha” moments. I am still wondering if I am too broken to be fixed, but I have learned where to find some of the needed crazy glue.
      Thank you for dropping by and sharing your observations. Hope all is well with you! Sorry I don’t drop by. I don’t seem to get very far from home these days!


      • Curious to the Max January 4, 2015 / 12:11 pm

        You are not too broken to be fixed – impossible from my Baha’i beliefs – we are all created by God, some of us have more capacity than others but there’s nothing to be “fixed”, just learn and access the virtues of loving-kindness, compassion and honesty. (I personally have received all of that and more from you).

        Self awareness is the first and hardest step and sounds like you are doing just that. Bravo!!!

        P.S. My other belief is that there is a “next realm” and in that realm we have no ego and clearly see what are our lessons here on earth were.

        If humans were able to transcend ego it clearly would be “heaven on earth”!!!!!


        • phylor January 4, 2015 / 9:42 pm

          Thank you for the compliment.
          Gaining self-awareness has been a difficult and painful process. Fraught with old traumas, new fears, and scary truths. On a more positive side, there have been aha moments, validations, “rewiring” the self-talk, etc.
          Like everyday, it is part of the learning process.


  5. summerstommy2 January 4, 2015 / 1:02 am

    It takes great inner strength to do what you are doing. I understand that in many ways it requires you to take a bitter pill but as you so wisely say it is a step towards personal forgiveness. I often think that one day I can extend the same forgiveness to my ex-wife. Time will tell.


    • phylor January 4, 2015 / 11:07 am

      This is probably one of the hardest things I have done. I hold grudges. I am an angry woman.
      But, I need to let it go. And the irony is to great not to. For all his greed and money, he still ended up like my mother, the person he ripped off.


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