I remember her telling me a long time ago that the words "I'm sorry" were the most useless words in the world and no one would ever hear them come out of her mouth.
She would never let go of any hurt, and could give you the date, time and exact words that were told to her in the way she heard them.
When I was younger, she had accused me of stealing a ring from her. I was blamed for many things I didn't do (and conversely, probably not blamed for some things I did do!) When she was old she told me that she had discovered the ring in one of her keepsakes. I reminded her that she had accused me of stealing it.
For the first time that I could remember, pain for someone else etched across her face. With tears forming in her eyes she said, "I'm so sorry. I don't know why I would have said that."
In her later years, she wondered if God could ever forgive her. She knew she wasn't good enough to go to heaven. (Who is???) And she accepted some forgiveness...however, there was some she said she couldn't.
Softening of the callous called bitterness had begun.
I watched her inch her way across the desert of hurt, anger and yes the bitterness of unforgiveness. She would stop along the way and refill the tank with crude oil. But as she slowed down and began to take in some of the softening agents of God's word, a metamorphosis began.
She started seeing a little good here and there. She complimented more and talked about people less. She began to say "I love you" more and she quit pointing her fingers.
She was just beginning to see how important she was to God...she was just beginning to feel what forgiveness felt like. And she had just begun to live...
And then she died.
But her life was not in vain. Because of her:
- I learned to apologize when I've hurt someone--even if they don't accept my apology.
- I learned to forgive people for hurting me.
- I learned to forgive myself.
- I learned that I cannot change people, but I can change myself.
- I learned that in order to be a good teacher, I have to be a better student.
- And I learned that true love can soften even the most captive heart.