96: Please Forgive Me

96: Please Forgive Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Please Forgive Me

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

~Epictetus

In his last years, my father suffered from a kind of dementia that caused him to associate with people who took financial advantage of him. When my sister and I discovered he was deeply in debt and had no way of paying off the credit cards others had tricked him into using, we knew we had to act.

We contacted an attorney and had him file for bankruptcy. Then we brought him to live close to us and believed our troubles were over.

However, our father started repeating his old patterns, and we were faced with the agonizing decision of having to take him to court to protect him. Finally, after much prayer, my sister and I knew we had no choice but to ask that we be placed in charge of his finances. The judge overseeing the proceedings agreed with our request.

The scene in the courtroom was ugly that day as our father lashed out in anger at what he saw as his daughters’ betrayal. “Why did you do this?” he asked over and over.

“We didn’t have a choice,” I replied honestly.

Eventually, our father forgave us, but I could occasionally see the hurt and bewilderment in his eyes, an expression that I knew was reflected in my own eyes. I could not reconcile this confused, elderly man with the strong man I had idolized for all of my life.

When he passed away, my sister and I cried together. They were tears of grief, not just for missing our beloved father but for knowing that we had caused him pain.

Those feelings refused to go away. I’d hurt my father, the man I had loved for over fifty years, the man I had looked up to, the man who had served as an example in everything I did. How would I forgive him? How would I forgive myself?

Over the years, I had developed the habit, while taking my walk, of talking to those who had passed. I always had the feeling that my loved ones were close by and were watching over me and my family. I drew comfort from these one-sided conversations.

“Why, Dad?” I asked one morning, tears streaming down my face. “Why did you cause us to have to hurt you that way? It broke our hearts.” I swiped at my tears. “I’m sorry we hurt you. I hope you can forgive us.”

I had poured out my feelings to my father on other occasions, always to no avail. I was no closer to making peace with him and myself than I had been before.

Then the words appeared in my mind. “I was sick, Jane. I didn’t know what I was doing. Please forgive me.”

I came to a standstill as I listened intently.

“Please forgive me.” The words sounded in my mind once more. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.”

My father was asking for my forgiveness even as I had been asking for his.

Several years have passed since that incident. At times, I still struggle with coming to terms with everything that happened, but I know that my father forgave me just as I forgave him.

Now when I talk with those who have passed on, I make certain that I listen as well.

~Jane McBride Choate

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