FORGIVENESS?

Editor’s note: Here’s a page from my spiritual journal:

One TV-dull Saturday night Hubby asked, “Wanna’ watch a movie?”

I chose the shortest one, Railway Man. It was dated 2013 and featured King’s Speech’s Colin Firth.

The blurb said it was an autobiography of Eric Lomax, a young British Army officer who was captured by the Japanese during WWII. He was taken to a POW camp to work on the Thai-Burma Railway.

Lomax survived torture and near starvation at the camp and returned home, but the war never left him. To quiet Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he rode the British railways he had always loved.

Following a brief love story, the story turned dark. Lomax could not shake his PTSD. He continually relived the abuse and torture at the hands of the Japanese, instigated by their English interpreter.

Riveted to the unfolding tale, JK leaned toward the TV. On the other hand, I had to repeatedly leave the room, and not return until Lomax’s tortured cries were replaced by normal dialog tones.

As the story evolved, post-war Lomax later located the Japanese interpreter and traveled to Burma where he confronted the man, planning to kill him. Instead, a complicated kind of mercy evolved and eventually Lomax found peace by forgiving the Japanese interpreter.

That night, I dreamed of a young man I emotionally mistreated when I was twenty-two. In my dream, I saw tall, slender, Cuba-born Luis. I loved him, but sadness surrounded him. When I tried to hug him as a kind of apology, he remained stiff and unbending.

I awoke distressed. Like the Japanese oppressor in the movie, I needed forgiveness.

Fifty years ago, Luis and I were engaged, but I abandoned him. I suppose I tried to explain back then, but I hardly understood what was happening. All I knew was I was caught in a whirlpool, spinning down. My behavior in trying to save myself, shamed me.

I thought back to 1965-66. When Luis and I began dating, I was doing my University of Florida student teaching in a small town. I worked hard and was successful. But troubles began soon after I graduated. I got a job in the same Florida school system where I’d student taught, but at a different school and level. I was still teaching English, but a modern version I had not studied.

Starting mid-term, I inherited middle-school students and unfamiliar materials. I dragged myself from lesson plan to lesson plan, barely staying ahead.

Looking back, I was sinking into my life’s second major depression. In the 1960s, more serious forms of the malady were still treated with shock therapy. However, as they coached me four years before, I believed I needed only to “get a hold of msyelf,” put on a happy face and push on.

Acting competent and smiling drained my energy. I slept often. I could hardly find words for my distress, but Luis hugged and kissed me. While I always felt better for a time, my dismay returned.

My boyfreind knew I had trouble at work, but he didn’t know I also felt out of place. Weekends, I drove

around areas of the Florida city, trying to find where I “fit.” I saw gated mansions and small, neglected houses–no middle place to start out.

I never told Luis my doubts. Speaking them might collapse our world and I wanted stability. I needed his love, too. It kept me going. In his arms, I forgot all the worry and upset of work and not fitting in.

One day is etched in my mind. I picked Luis up after work, and he was grinning. He presented me with a small jeweler’s box. “Open it!”

I hesitated, afraid it contained a heart promise I could not deliver. He lifted the lid and showed me a ring set with diamonds. My heart sank. Luis is working for funds to go back to college. I protested. “You can’t afford this.”

His smile was huge. “I’ll pay it off!” He urged, “Put it on!”

So sweet, so loving! He was trying to help me, make me feel secure and quell my misery. Instead, I felt worse. I can’t take on a marriage. I can’t even handle my job.

Though I saw no future for us, to please the man I loved I put on the ring. No guts to face the hard stuff.

Six weeks later, I had a break down. I quit my job saying I had to return to Indiana where my mother was gravely ill. My parents, who had dropped by to see me on their Florida vacation, took me back with them.

Luis was baffled –and hurt. I just cried and cried. I’d made an awful mess. On top of giving up on my job, I hurt the guy I loved. I was twice a quitter. Gloom closed over me.

I never saw my fiance? again. Eventually, I sent the ring back, but the dream told me I still owe him.

Recently, I found Luis on the Internet, but made no contact. I asked my Twelve Step sponsor what she thought I might do. She said, “You’ll know what to do when the time comes.”

Doesn’t my dream mean the time has come? … Yes. But, what to do?

Make amends? Yes! But how? A phone call? Too abrupt. I don’t want to stir up trouble.

Write a letter? Maybe … a letter is not so intrusive.

Pray? Yes! May God bless Luis and grant him all he wants and needs.

But action is only half the amending process. I must also re-double my efforts to speak truth in my relationships –no matter how hard it is to say or how unclear my message. And, I must also follow truth with right action.

God, help me make amends to Luis, to myself and to others I love and have loved. Grant me courage and show me “the next right thing.”

Frances Fritzie

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