On Forgiveness

In case you haven’t been reading my blog, or it’s been awhile, my eighty-seven-year-old mother moved in with me December 30th, one week after having a heart attack. She lived with me 3-5 years ago, and it didn’t go very well. She was still as stubborn, critical, rude and bossy as she was when I was growing up. I thought I had forgiven her for things she had said and done in my youth, but I hadn’t, and I was constantly tormented by memories of the past and resentment. When she got mad at me for refusing to take her to Olive Garden for the third time in a week and insisted on moving in with my sister in Memphis, I felt a surge of relief. Yes! I almost cried aloud. After 1 year and 11 months, I was finally going to be free. Looking back, I should not have endured such bad treatment from her. My sister certainly didn’t. My mom lasted exactly one month at my sister’s before a major fallout. After that she lived in an independent living “retirement resort” where she lived 2 1/2 years. During that time, I was able to forgive her and we had pleasant talks on the phone and visits in person. (It seems that it’s much easier to forgive someone the more physical distance there is between you.)

On December 23rd (three and a half weeks ago), she had a heart attack. The doctor at the hospital said she probably didn’t have long to live since she refused to have a stint put in, a decision she now regrets. I realized that I had to let bygones be bygones and take her in since she couldn’t live on her own anymore, and my husband agreed. I have to admit that hearing the doctor say she probably wouldn’t live long made the decision easier. I hoped she would be respectful once she moved back in with us, but I figured that if she wasn’t, at least it wouldn’t be for long.

It turns out that things are very different this time from the last. My mother is frail, and her condition seems to have humbled her quite a bit. She needs my help with doing everyday tasks such as showering and dressing.  She also says please and thank you, something she wouldn’t do last time she lived with me, no matter how much I told her I would appreciate it and it would make her seem less bossy. In fact, she would actually laugh at the idea before, but lately, she has been saying please and thank you quite a bit, and a few days ago, as I was dressing her, she said, “God bless you for helping your old mother. I really hope God does good things for you.” I was truly taken aback. This was not the woman I remembered from before!

Since then, we’ve had a couple of talks about death and dying. She told me one afternoon that she’s done some bad things like saying terrible things to her mother, and she hopes God forgives her. I asked if she truly felt sorry and if she has asked God for forgiveness, and she said that she did. I assured her that God gives his forgiveness readily to those who truly feel sorry, ask for forgiveness, and forgive others. I asked her if she held any grudges toward anyone (something she excelled at when she was younger), and she said, “No, I don’t feel any anger towards anyone anymore.” If you knew my mother, and the vendettas she used to harbor toward others, you would know what a truly remarkable transformation this is.

Yesterday, when she asked me what I thought Heaven would be like and what she will do in Heaven, I told her that when she gets there, she will probably see her mom and pop as well as her six brothers and sisters who have gone on before her as well as my dad and my brother. I told her that they’ll probably surround her and give her hugs with big smiles on their faces. Then they would all sit down at a great big table outside, and it’ll be loaded with the best Italian food you can imagine, and all she will feel is peace and joy all around her. She seemed to like that version of Heaven. I really hope that’s what it’s like, and I hope that Jesus is sitting at the table with them and feels joy at knowing my mother and her family are happily reunited.


Mom loves it when CJ comes over to her for attention.


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