Forgiveness

 

I have spent a fair bit of time in the last week thinking about what forgiveness means to me and how much better my life has been since I decided a few years back to start forgiving folks for my own good. I wasn’t particularly concerned with how it made them feel, and in most cases, they aren’t even aware that they were forgiven for their trespasses against me.

I wrote a few months back about a horrific accident that occurred here in the country that I call home and my own survivor’s perspective of the aftermath of these sort of events. I was focused mostly on the hope that all the support the boys and their families had following the accident, would continue through the years to come.

This past week it was announced that the driver of the semi that struck the bus has been charged with 16 counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death. The general consensus seems to be that he blew through a stop sign. He will have his day in court, or many, and based on the comments I have read (don’t ever read the comments section!) he will likely be far safer in jail or prison than he will ever be out on the streets again, unless he changes his appearance drastically. That saddened me. Really saddened me and brought up feelings I have long held onto related to my own “accident”.

Prison will not be the worst punishment he endures- not even close.

While I was never charged with anything following mine, my passenger in the car with me died that afternoon. She was very young- only 20. So, I am in the unique position of actually somewhat understanding what is going through that man’s head right now- and none of it is good. The only reason I didn’t receive criminal charges was because it was a known trouble spot of an intersection, and following my crash, the transportation safety board removed that particular vehicle crossing and made a new entrance. Here, it takes so many accidents/deaths by number, before they will make changes like that.

I was sued twice following – once by the step-father of my passenger, and once by the train conductor- each request was for a million dollars. I had been warned it would likely happen, as in the case of family members who lose a loved one, it is pretty standard practice. In my relative naivety, until the insurance company contacted me, I thought I was personally responsible for paying those millions, as I received my copy of the first letter prior to the insurance company receiving theirs.

I was still recuperating physically and hadn’t even begun the work on my psychological wounds when I received the letter from the step-father. I was in a pretty dark place and only dealing with those things that were absolutely necessary, like finding someone to drive to grocery store with my bank card to buy food for my kids, and doing my best to wake up alive every morning.

Every night/morning for over a year, I would jerk awake sometime between 1 and 3 hearing the horns and the screams and tasting the blood and smelling the gasoline, and feeling the weight of April’s body slamming into mine as that train hit us. Every single sense I had, wide awake and stabbing at me like unforgiving needles.

Not one inch of my body or mind was spared on those nights.

I would lay there and look up at the ceiling after the terrors and wonder if this was why I had been spared death, and not her. I wondered about suffering and retribution and about heaven and hell and how we all pay the piper in our own ways and in our own time.

I would try to understand the why’s.

Why her? Because she was pure and full of light and love and her journey here was over. She had done everything she was sent here to do. She had taught and learned the lessons and fulfilled her contracts with others.

Why not me? Because I deserved to suffer and be in pain. I had run and dodged and slipped my way through every dangerous event and place I had allowed myself to be a part of. Now I had taken a life. I had murdered a young girl with my stupidity and inattention to my surroundings. Only the good died young, as my mother used to say, so I was pretty damn sure I was left here with the purpose to feel this pain for the rest of my days. 

I worked with a psychologist who specialized in PTSD, and slowly started to heal. She utilized EMDR therapy on me, which was exhausting emotionally, but was extremely successful with my psychological trauma. It was the first and only time in my life that I went in search of help of that kind, having been brought up in a home where we kept our private problems in-house, and not to be shared with outsiders. During my time with Robin, other things came out that I had long forgotten, so it turned into much, much more than it had originally been meant to be. I saw her until my extended health benefits dried up. She had provided me with the tools I needed to take my first steps onto the path of actually living again.

Not surviving, not healing, not enduring- actually wanting to move forward and live again, for my sons and even for myself.

I will always hold a special place in my heart for her help in showing me the way through it all to the other side. At the end of our last session, she gave me a big hug and told me I needed to truly forgive myself or I would never recover fully.

5 years after my accident, I received a letter from a psychologist that was treating the mother of my passenger. He asked me if I would allow him to send me numbered questions from his patient, who was struggling to move forward with her own life following the loss of her daughter. He was working with her on forgiveness. On forgiving herself for past events during the time she was raising her daughter, and on forgiving me, in order to let go of the hate she held in her heart.

I sat on a chair in my kitchen for over an hour, holding that letter in my hand.

I traced my fingertip over and over the stamp edging, round and round, while my mind wandered to how I was going to deal with this request. In the days following, I asked my son, and my mother for their advice on what they thought I should do.

They both told me to not respond at all; their concern was for me and the progress I had made, and they worried that I would slide back if I had to relive any of it again.

What neither of them knew, was that I had never stopped living it. Not for one moment of the time since it had occurred. It was so entrenched in every part of me, it was now cellular.

Like the blood flowing through my heart, or the oxygen moving through my lungs.

I wore it like a branding on my soul and always would.

I ended up answering her questions and sent them back to the psychologist. I was more concerned with her healing than I was with my own. Some of them were very difficult to answer.

I lied on the ones that I thought would only hurt her more. Questions about her relationship with her stepfather. Questions about why she left home. Questions about if she had ever shared information with me about her mother’s decision to side with her stepfather, rather than with her. I lied about her forgiving her mother for that. I lied and said she told me only a day earlier that she loved and missed her mother very much.

I answered truthfully on the questions that related to the accident itself.

She was dead instantly- she didn’t linger or suffer- she didn’t cry out in pain.

In the moments leading up to the impact, she was laughing and singing and excited and full of life and love.

I licked the envelope when I was done answering her questions, and walked the letter to the nearest mailbox.

I remember sitting on a rock after and looking at the clouds in the sky, through teary eyes, watching them slowly move and morph in shape as they drifted lazily above me. The sun was in the exact position it was in on that day in June, casting the same warmth, blinding me with the same dazzling rays, but this time I was alone.

While I was sitting there, a white butterfly caught my eye, and I watched as it fluttered and danced and flew closer and closer to me. From blade of grass to tree branch, to post, eventually landing on the top of my hand.

Its wings were transparent in the sunlight and I slowed my breathing and sat perfectly still, watching it settle in on my hand, twitching its wings softly on my skin. Seeing the flesh of my hand through its wings- watching in wonder as it sat there on my warm hand.

It stayed with me for as long as I needed it to and then flew away up towards the clouds in the blue sky.

I watched it until it disappeared from my sight and then got up and headed home to my children.

 

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Jack of All Trades

Following my accident, while being transported by ambulance, the paramedic asked me who they could call to inform them about my situation. Even in the depths of my pain, I knew I could not give them my Mother’s number. She could not have survived a long distance phone call like that.

My older son was at my home, but there was no way I was going to allow him to get a call from a stranger telling him that his mother had been in a horrible accident and struck by a freight train. I couldn’t bear the thought of his 13 year old psyche taking that kind of hit.

So, I gave them my brother’s number. He was tough, and while I knew he was irresponsible in numerous ways, I also knew he knew better than to just call my mother on the phone and drop that kind of news on her. He lived in the same city as her, so could, at the least, drive to her house and inform her in person, which he did.

Unbeknownst to me until months later, at the exact time I was beginning my trip to the hospital, my brother and my son were chatting to each other online.

When my brother got the call from the RCMP, he hung up the phone and then chose to relay the information to my son that his mom had been in a horrific car accident. Hit by a train. Not likely to survive. Then closed the chat by adding that he needed to go tell Nan about it in person, cus she couldn’t handle that sort of news over the phone.

My son then apparently jumped on his bike and flew over to his father’s house, three blocks away. As he was turning into the cul de sac , he spotted his dad pulling out of the driveway with his 11 year old brother in the passenger seat.

He jumped off his bike while it was still in motion ( remember having that skill as a kid?) and screamed at his dad to stop.

This 13 year old child (man), then had the emotional maturity to tell his little brother to go in the house as he had something important to tell his dad.

I can’t tell you with absolute certainty what my ex husband felt in that moment, but I can guess, based on the look on his face when I woke up in the trauma room and saw him looking down at me.

“If she dies, I’m going to have to raise these boys on my own.”

“I can’t believe she did this to me.”

” I wonder if she was still paying the life insurance policy?”

“I hope I’m not on the hook for a funeral-we were separated. For all I know, she’s seeing someone else already!”

He looked scared shit-less, for lack of more flowery prose. Absolutely terrified.

And seeing his face like that gave me the strength and will to fight through the pain and continue living.

Because I knew he was at the core a very unemotional and intellectually barren man. I had been married to him long enough to know all the reasons why.

In the beginning, he told me all of his sad stories of his childhood.

I shared not much at all, to be honest. There simply wasn’t enough room within our relationship for anyone else’s pain but his, and I was OK with that. I was already such a skilled enabler and codependent that I was the perfect girl for him.

The time was never right to open up to him, and I quickly learned to watch his expressions and those big blues, for signs of boredom or distaste.

He was and is an incredibly selfish man.

A man who keeps an internal list of who owes him and who he has helped in the past. For someone with that kind of memory of wrongs perpetuated, he has no side of the ledger where his trespasses against others are tallied.

He is the judge and jury of everyone he has ever met or interacted with his entire life.

He once wrote off his favourite nephew for borrowing $ 400.00 for a hungry wife and babies and not paying it back. It didn’t cause him to go hungry, or take on extra hours at work, or even cut down on his daily 6-pack, but it ate him to the core.

To the core.

Any time that particular nephew is brought up in conversation by someone, he just has to share that story with everyone, and I find THAT more distasteful than the act of not paying someone back that you borrow money from.

I have a PhD from the esteemed schools of Shit Happens and Hard Knocks.

I get how you can start a day with great intentions and end it with the covers over your head and shaking inside at how much shit has flown down the hill your way and knowing you won’t have the strength to deal with any of it until the next day.

My ex husband, father of my children, has always been such a dichotomy to me.

I began seeing him shortly after my father died suddenly. He was 27 and I was 17.

He was big and strong and loud and fierce in appearance. He had the bluest eyes I had ever seen in my life.

He liked to drink and he liked to fight. He had boxed for years semi-professionally and missed all that action, I guess.

What he saw in me, I really don’t know, and he wasn’t the sort you asked silly questions like that to.

I asked him once about 10 years into our marriage if he loved me. It was while we were laying in bed together in the dark, waiting for sleep to take us, and I spontaneously asked him.

His response was a loud sigh of displeasure and then he said ” That’s a stupid question. I’m here, aren’t I?”

I never asked again.

Another time, after watching a segment on the Oprah show, I closed my eyes and asked him what colour they were. We had been married about ten years by then, and he guessed wrong.

He also shared with me that he has read 2 books in his entire lifetime and both times, they were mandatory assignments in school.

Oh- and he doesn’t really like music.

I tell these anecdotes not to disparage him, but rather to give the most precise examples I can recall from our relationship in order to best describe him to someone who has never met him.

I truly believe that my children are the reason I survived that accident but I must give Jack his due, as well.

There was no fucking way I was leaving those two amazing, intelligent, loving boys in his solo care…ever.

I knew he would damage them in ways they would never recover from. Not from anything intentionally done, but by his negligence and lack of ability or sense.

He would forget them, or their needs, or give to himself first, as he always had.

They would receive the scraps and there was no way I could allow that to happen to them.

They would have figuratively been like two small trees drying out and bending until they snapped from lack of water and the nutrients they required in order to continue to grow and thrive.

Their roots would be weak and rotting from the inside.

They would never survive strong winds or sunless days.

They needed me to provide for them in those ways, and I believe the fates knew that and allowed me to survive for that reason.

While they were fixing all my broken pieces in the trauma OR following my accident, my sons were in a quiet room (rooms in hospitals where they hide people who are likely going to receive bad news and they can smother the sights and sounds of grieving) with Jack and another family member, and my older son shared with me years later that his father kept muttering , ” she won’t survive this, she’s a goner, it’s just too much damage.”

Apparently to the point where my son snapped and screamed at his father that I would, in fact, survive. He pleaded with his father to stop saying those things he knew were not the truth.

As I was being put back together in a state of nothingness, that little sapling of mine was railing against strong wind, rain, lightning, locusts and the mighty oak, Jack!

You already know who was right and won that one, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind Closed Doors

What is behind this door that you want?

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Imagine having the key.

What is stopping you from opening the door?

This week’s sandbox writing challenge asks us to picture a door and imagine what is behind it that we want. Also, to think on what may stop us from opening that door.

I always seem to go off on another path with these challenges than I think the intention is but I will trust that I should be following my instincts rather than the rational mind, as my artist son tells me constantly, when we are viewing art. “Mom, it doesn’t matter WHY you like it, you just DO; it is speaking to you for a reason. That is the beauty of art.”

The sight of this door reminded me of William Blake’s quote on the Doors of Perception from The Marriage of Heaven & Hell and how profoundly that impacted me as a teenage girl. It opened my mind to so many ideologies and religions and incredible free-thought. I have always been a voracious reader and can lose myself in books, not even looking up when someone is snapping fingers under my nose.

Reading and dreaming and imagining have been such a huge part of my life since childhood and that moment…remember THAT moment? The first time you read or hear something that makes your spidey-senses tingle. Something that your Catholic parents would never agree with or your teachers would never share with you? Something that perhaps is speaking directly to your own soul and your need to begin organizing your very own belief system? Cataloguing it, if you will? For use at later dates and ages, when life will reign blows down on you and you can pluck it out of your memory and feel it cool the sting as you let it flow through you?

I believe I am infinitely intertwined with all energies around me. I believe that everyone I have had contact with, even in the smallest way, over my entire lifetime up to now, has little pieces of my energy field and matter mingling with their own, as I have theirs.

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I see it in my mind’s eye like dust appears in sunshine. Those fluttering silvery specks that dance in the sunlight. I do my utmost best to send out white light to all those I cherish the most and also to strangers who I sense need it/me. My years working in hospice were when I used it the most. So many different energies surrounding me daily. Some dark, but most light. I sat with the dying and held their hands and watched their organs and bodies stop, but the energy, the spirit, the soul. It never stops. It lingers, in fact, at times. One of the  informal and non- policy driven rules where I worked was that you would not put another patient into a room where someone had passed away for 24 hours, if possible. You must allow the spirit or energy time to move and transition without hurry. Peacefully. 

I have also visited places that made me feel physically ill from the energy swirling about. Not all of it was recent, I don’t believe. Ancient energy lingering in cracks in walls and drains of tubs. Walls that have heard cries for help and bars that have had fists clenched around them for so many years, the metal is worn.

A native elder once said to me ” You are the light. Look at how these people are drawn to you. You have never met them, and they come to you immediately. It isn’t your smile or your nature. It is what is within you. You radiate healing energy and they want that. You need to protect yourself from that, as well. But your purpose is to heal and shine.”

My purpose is to heal and shine.

The door I am afraid to open is the one that will show me that I have wasted time worrying and fussing about material matters, and the minutia of survival, when I should have been studying and planning and healing and sharing my light with others that needed it.

I am afraid of the infinite possibilities within me.

Once I open that door, I know in my soul there will be no turning back for me.