When Forgiveness Is Hard

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The older I get, the more grateful I become for the things my mother has taught me: how to give, say thank you, work hard and treat people with equal respect. And, most recently, how to forgive.

Although my parents were not a good match, they stayed together for 21 years and had six children. When my father finally left, my mother turned to her friends for support, particularly one close friend, Peggy, a widow whom she had supported through the death of her own husband.

What she couldn't know was that Peggy would marry my father less than a year later.

The new marriage was a terrible blow, but even more difficult was that for three decades my father and Peggy shunned my mother wherever they encountered her; parties, the bank, the grocery store. Divorce was uncommon in our small Midwestern town, and there were many social ripples. It was a painful time.

Five years ago my father died. My mother could have handled this any number of ways, but surprised everyone when she reached out to her old friend, Peggy. Many people were dumbfounded.


"Why?" they asked.

My mother told them, "She is by herself and I know how awful loneliness can be."

My initial reaction was to worry that my mother was setting herself up for more potential hurt. But she is no dummy, and as I watched these two women reconnect, my outlook shifted. By forgiving her friend and letting go of the past, my mother has given herself, and this friendship, chance at a future. At a time when many of their peers are ill or dying, these two women are rekindling their relationship, remembering how much they like each other and why they became friends in the first place.

Instead of the monotony of always eating alone, they share meals and talk about everything from local doctors to politics to the man they were married to. This would be impossible without my mother's wise decision, and the actual ability, to forgive.

It has been remarkable to watch. And I hope that should the opportunity arise, I could be so forgiving.

With a Perspective, I'm Jane Mason.

Jane Mason writes children's books. She lives in Oakland.