Friday, September 14, 2012

Wandering Mystic Meditation From Spokane

I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter, because the flesh will get weak and the ashes will scatter, but I think it's about forgiveness, even if you don't love me anymore. - Don Henley

My husband Steve left me and the children in 2005 after 17 years of marriage. He left because he didn’t want to deal with his self-destructive habits. In 2002, he'd started earning a high income for the first time in our marriage. He climbed to the mountaintop, where the view should've been breathtaking and should've made him never want to depart. However, the mysteries of the dark valley below were too enticing.

He began drowning himself in drugs and debauchery, in addition to the already established vices of abusing alcohol and me. The divorce was final in 2007. He disappeared and ceased all child support, visitation, and phone calls. He traveled to a place that was unreachable. In my view, he was evil and had migrated to a self-constructed hell on earth. He was one of the unforgivables.

This year, we heard that Steve was in the hospital with advanced stomach cancer from his lifestyle. By then, I had forgiven him. I flew with my children from California to Washington to see him.

Steve’s brother, whom he had been living with for the past year, picked us up at the airport. Steve had been taken from his hospital room for a 3-hour procedure. It was nearly 4 PM and Steve would be sedated afterwards. So, we decided to wait till the next day to visit. In the meantime, I retrieved my phone messages. One was from Steve himself, frantically dissuading us from coming, saying he'd be “unavailable” to see us. He desperately didn’t want to see us.

Not to be persuaded, we went to the hospital in the morning. Steve cried and hugged Dana briefly. He then reached for the boys. Erik was fine, but Paul was apprehensive. Steve barely acknowledged me, so I left the room. After thirty minutes of catching up on his children’s lives, he announced that he was tired.

We returned to the hospital after lunch. This time I didn’t go into the room, but Dana spent much time with him. Paul's not a big talker and didn’t know his dad well. I think Erik was frustrated. His dad reprimanded him several times for sitting too close or touching too much. Erik has Down syndrome.

Paul’s 15th birthday was the following day. So, we gathered at Steve's brother's place for pizza and chocolate cake. Dana and I had brought gifts for Paul, plus his uncle handed him fifty dollars. Despite my feeling inadequate, Paul was grateful and content.

On our final day in Spokane, we stayed at the hospital till time to go to the airport. The boys and I sat in the waiting room while Dana visited with her father. Once, when I peeked through the door to Steve’s room, she turned and I could see she was crying.

Finally, it was time to say goodbye. I was in an awkward position. Steve didn’t want me there. He was still bitter and hateful towards me. Yet, he was my husband for nineteen years and the father of the children who were now watching me. I took the boys into the room ahead of me and watched them say goodbye, knowing they would likely never see him again. Not a happy birthday. I approached Steve and put a hand on his forearm saying, “You have three amazing children.” 

I don’t know what I expected him to say, but I was totally unprepared for the icy, smug and terse reply. “Thank you.” He then said “Take care.” I responded similarly. A few words like strangers parting summed up our life together.

This was certainly not the experience I wanted for my children. Over the next months, Steve softened and felt the guilt that often comes with sobriety and looming mortality. I couldn’t afford another trip and my boys weren’t much interested, but we were able to send my daughter one last time.

As Steve’s health deteriorated, I thought of him lying there alone and waiting to die. He had burned nearly all of his bridges. Two friends visited him and two others called him. I had a sudden unexpected realization, “That’s more than punishment enough.” I felt compassion and found myself ready to write a letter to him. I remembered long-forgotten tender moments.

In that letter, I recalled to him the early years of our relationship. I conjured up a place and time when our love was fresh and strong enough to tame his tormented soul. I reminded him of the good memories: the laughter, the fun, and the passion. I reminded him of kind and loving things he had done, of the wonderful guy and father he had been in the early days when family took precedence.

Although I had forgiven him in my heart, I hadn't yet gathered up the grace to tell him. I was waiting for him to ask. Didn't I deserve to be asked? Not necessarily and not so important. So, I ended the letter “with love, forgiveness, and understanding.” These words came not from a wife, but from a human being.

Steve died at age 52 on August 15th. He passed just minutes after we called to speak one last time. I like to think he died with his mind in that better place of long ago. I am now at peace, the kind that passes understanding. Gone is all semblance of bitterness.

Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a great gift. Forgive the “unforgivable.”

Linnea Larsen is a freelance writer. Her current projects include a fictional biography and a book of poetry. She also edits work for other authors. Her sons Erik and Paul live with her in California, while her daughter Dana now attends college. Linnea publishes a blog at www.linneann.wordpress.com.

22 comments:

  1. Thank you for having the courage to share your experience. It's amazing how forgiveness lifted the burden you'd been carrying for so many years. Congratulations on achieving peace with your ex-husband.

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    1. No matter how much we've been mistreated, forgiveness is worth the effort, and it is an effort and often a process. Thank you, Sandy.

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  2. Linnea, your prose is as beautiful as your poetry--so honest, so poignant!

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    1. Thank you, Sandra. Prose was all I knew before May! :)

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  3. I am so moved I am crying... this is so beautiful,forgiveness of another is the only way for us to be forgiven by God. /this is such a sad sad life your Steve chose over his beautiful family I like you, think your letter had given him some sense of peace and let him know he was forgiven.
    I am sorry that you had to endure such pain. God Bless you and your house.

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    1. Thank you, Len. Thankfully, in the end, his life was not a waste.

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  4. My Dear Linnea,
    Isn't it wonderful how God works through forgiveness? Not only did He free you, but He freed Steve as well! When we forgive like that we learn what true agape love is. I have that with the one person in my life I should hate by the world standards. Yet he is the one person I love more than I ever imagined. There is no bitterness, no pain in relating the past abuse, just love for him. Unimaginable love. Thank you for sharing your story with us. You are amazing.

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    1. Thank you, Deirdre. I think if people can understand the peace forgiveness brings, they would be more open to it. That's the message. It's not easy.

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  5. What an anazimg blog post Linneann. I feel honored to be permitted to have this insight of part of your life.
    Thank you.

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    1. Thank you, Raani. I am honored that you commented.

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  6. Linneaa, This was a heartrending thing to write as well as to read, but you did a wonderful job of conveying your life without rancor or judgement. I'm so glad you realized you had to forgive him for your sake, not his and I feel that while he was too proud or ashamed to show it--it meant something to him to have you there and share your feelings. You are an amazing young woman.

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    1. Not so young, Micki! It took a long time to forgive. Sometimes, it's a process. We want justice, we want vengeance but "vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." And it's between Him and each one of us.

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  7. Hi. I'm Nicki, a fellow contributor to Barbara's travel book. I thought I'd drop by to say 'hi' and I am now following your blog. Best Wishes.

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  8. Hello,
    I have so enjoyed reading this, walking with you on your path to forgiveness. I know it was not easy and I admire you for taking the steps to initiate it. Forgiveness is a path that we will be on as long as we journey this earth and it is vital to growth and moving forward.
    You are free because you stepped up to the plate and forgave.
    I love you Linnea and keep marching forward. Your journey has many wonderful surprises waiting for you.
    Shalom,
    Patricia

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    1. Patricia,
      This whole "ordeal" has turned into an amazing "journey." He truly does bring all things together for good. Now I know, if I can forgive Steve, I can forgive anybody. Looking forward to the surprises. :)

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  9. That is a very heartfelt and moving story. Thanks for sharing it. It helps.

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    1. Thank you, Kerry. I'm very glad it helps. Why write, after all, if it does not help someone.

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  10. You have set a wonderful example for your children of what the Lord expects of His children. Your obedience to forgive not only set you free but also set Steve free from the kind of bondage our unforgiveness produces in others. I am so pleased to know you are at peace about this whole issue. You can now move forward with no regrets.

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  11. Linneann,
    You are an angel from above. Please do not judge yourself for taling time to process the hurt. You knew from your owm love of God when to listen and let go. Your warm heart will be rewarded many times over. I am so proud to be amongst your friends. Forgiveness is so difficult and maybe someday I will learn the secrets to that same conclusion. Your honesty is so refreshing as your words.
    Many blessing to you My Friend,

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  12. Dear Linnean!I believe that writing your forgiveness into this work represents a manner of closure. Even though you had much earlier forgiven Steve, as long as he still walked this earth, it was not over. You did everything you possibly could to mitigate any damage done and to assist him, through his children and your letter to him, to achieve the measure of peace that he needed to allow himself to let go and pass. Doing these things to put it all behind you has tested your inner strength and you have rallied. What an amazing life lesson you have taught your children.

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  13. Diane, Rosemary, and Linda,
    Thank you all for reading and commenting. Your words and your support mean so much, although, Rosemary, I am no angel.:) This particular act of forgiveness was years in the making and I myself learned a great deal from it.

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  14. Thank you very much for sharing. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you, given those circumstances.

    Forgiveness is something I'm working on. I'm not where you got to yet, but in my case, therapy is helping.

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