99. Pen and Paper

99. Pen and Paper

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Pen and Paper

It takes a strong person to say sorry, and an even stronger person to forgive.

~Author Unknown

I was seventeen and a freshman in college. My boyfriend attended another school in a different state, and I’d even considered transferring there as a sophomore. When his father realized ours might not be infatuation, and his plans for his son’s graduate education might be altered if we were serious enough to marry when I finished college, he insisted the relationship end. It did… right before New Year’s Eve.

Earlier, I’d dated a young cadet from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy not too far from my Long Island girlhood house. His depth of affection for me and his gentle manner had made my mother comfortable enough to telephone the cadet about my “broken heart,” and I instantly had company. Being young and self-centered, I took my upset out on the cadet, who only offered whatever comfort and kind words he could and listened. But I was so devastated that even at midnight I would not let the cadet kiss my cheek to celebrate another year. I cried and cried and used a young man, who loved me, as if he had no feelings.

Many decades later, my daughter and I were discussing people we’d hurt that we wanted to apologize to, and I mentioned the cadet. I wanted to thank him for his kindness, and I wanted to tell him I was truly sorry for hurting him. My daughter encouraged me to make amends, and told me to write the academy and have my letter sent to that alumnus if he was still alive. I did that, and in the letter mentioned my enduring marriage to a man I’d met right before I went to grad school, and that this letter was an overdue apology and a thank you and not a let’s-get-together. The letter found him; he wrote back, accepted my apology, and said that I was important in his life and he was glad I was well and happy.

Several years later, I received a note from a man with the same last name: his son. The cadet had died, and in his personal items was my letter of apology. His son, seeing the address, wanted to let me know his father was dead and that this letter must have been important for his father to keep it. The son returned the letter to me.

I thanked my daughter for encouraging me to make amends for a situation that had happened when I was only seventeen but had been on my conscience. I was glad that I’d let a once-young cadet know, before he died, that I was sorry for caring only about my own emotional anguish when he was so kind to me. I regretted hurting his feelings. My husband clasped my hand, approving of my reaching out to apologize to someone I’d hurt. And I was able to forgive myself, finally.

~Lois Greene Stone

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