About four o'clock yesterday I got the word that the memorial service for our Taylor's mama who died a few weeks ago, would be this morning at eleven. Although I am not even sure I ever met Taylor's mother, Taylor herself is a part of our family and always will be and so of course I had to go to the service.
I wasn't looking forward to it- I mean, who looks FORWARD to a memorial service- and when I got up this morning it was pouring rain. That kind of rain which seems happy to be where it is, no plans to move on any time soon.
But I had to go and had agreed to pick up our friend Togi from work to take him and that cheered me. Togi is man I just adore. On the surface two people could hardly be more dissimilar than Togi and I are but somehow, on some deep visceral level, we are much the same and every time I've ever had a conversation with him, it's been a good conversation. We skip the boring shit and get right to the real shit and we make each other laugh and I think we understand each other in a lot of ways.
Today was no exception.
When we got to the church, the rain had slacked some and we were very early but we found Hank and our friend Anna and we all settled in. Now Anna is a good Lutheran. And her church family is a good family. They are supportive of her in many ways and have been there for her when times were roughest in real and concrete ways. And she loves her church. She is a Christian and a church-going one at that but she never says a thing when I spout my atheist stuff but usually just laughs and she knows I respect her and even what she believes because if Anna believes what she believes, there's a reason. She's one of the smartest people I know. So I sat between Anna and Togi, who is also a Christian although the Jesus he follows is a radical Jesus and he and I share many beliefs about religion.
So before the service started, I told Anna to please not be offended if I didn't say all those creeds and things because I just don't believe them and she said that was okay and I didn't and she did and that's totally cool. I did not feel uncomfortable one bit.
And we shared a hymnbook and I sang the hymns because I grew up singing those songs and I know them and that was cool too, although can I say that these particular Presbyterians could not possibly sing any slower and every hymn was a dirge to wade through although at one point, the organist (and they do have a nice organ) got a little jiggy with it and that was nice. Anna had helped Taylor organize the event and all of the hymns and prayers and she did a good job and the minister did a good job and he'd known Taylor's mama as well as Taylor and her sister, for thirty years so he could speak from the heart to Taylor and her sister which makes a huge difference in such circumstances.
This was the same church my mother went to and at the reception afterwards, several people came up to me and talked about my mother. Which was not always comfortable for me. One woman told me she'd gone to see Mother the day before she died and that she'd been furious with the way the nurses were treating her and had even complained to the supervisor.
I'd seen Mother the day before that and it was a horrible experience. She was so angry and was taking it out on the nurses and staff and saying terrible things about them which I knew weren't true. Between the onset of dementia and the pain she was in from having broken her ribs and the drugs she was on for that pain, she was not in her right mind and she was accusing everyone of things that they were not guilty of which is not uncommon behavior in such circumstances. And this woman who was talking to me today had no idea that the things Mother had told her were not not exactly representative of the truth, so to speak. I feel bad for the nurses she chastised. I wonder what Mother told her about me, if anything. She wasn't happy with me the day I went to see her, I know that.
But it didn't cut me, this conversation, the way it could have. Or might have, once.
I remember at least a decade before my mother died, talking to a friend of mine about my troubled relationship with my mother. She told me, "Mary, you need to work these things out now because one day she will die and you will have regrets for the rest of your life."
As much as I pondered that, I just didn't see then or ever how that was going to happen. The working-out part, at least. I'd given up by then.
And whether the burden of that impossibility rested on my shoulders or hers or both of ours, I accepted it. And yet, I was a bit afraid that my friend had been right and I would go to my grave with regrets.
Well, I do have regrets but not the kind my friend was talking about. I regret a lot stuff about our relationship. A LOT! But I don't think I could have changed anything and I'm at peace with that and although I may be deceiving myself, I think I did the best I could.
And she may have too. That, at this point, is neither here nor there. It is just the reality of it.
There's so much blah-blah in our culture about forgiveness and understanding and healing and you know what? Sometimes I just don't think it's possible. As much as people talk about how forgiving someone is for our own sakes, I disagree. And what does that even mean if you're doing it for your own sake?
Forgiving someone (and I'm not necessarily talking about my mother here) and coming to peace with the knowledge that something unforgivable was done to you and/or someone you love, are two entirely different things.
Will I ever forgive my stepfather?
No. And so what?
While he was alive I had no desire whatsoever to allow him to believe for one second that I forgave him. Am I a cruel and unenlightened being?
Possibly. But I don't think so.
And I've seen so many people suffer and waste so much damn energy because they feel it is their duty to forgive a parent or someone who did them irreparable harm and they have been told over and over again that until they are able to do this- to forgive the unforgivable- they will never be able to heal.
Guess what? Some things you never do heal entirely from. Ever.
I always liken it to a friend of mine who had polio as a child. Did he survive the disease? Yes. After years in an iron lung. Is the virus still in his body? I don't think so. Will he ever be able to walk without crutches?
Some things a person can heal from entirely and truly and go on, stronger than ever before.
Some things however, will leave marks, scars, even deformities that will never go away.
And how ridiculous would it be for someone to suggest to these people that if they just forgave their disease, their accident and let the pain go...they would be fine and whole again?
No one in their right mind would suggest such a thing.
Do I think that it's entirely possible to release a lot of the anger and do a lot of healing from emotional injury? Yes. I do. Obviously. But a lot of that has to be acceptance that it happened along with the knowledge that it was in no way the fault of he or she who was abused or abandoned.
And often, just those two things are about the hardest thing you can do.
Well, as Lyle Lovett sang in this video
"God does, but I don't,
God will, but I won't
And that's the difference between God and me."
Such a great song. Definitely a favored hymn in the church of the Batshit Crazy.
I'm glad I went to that service. Not even so much for Taylor although I wanted her to know that I care about her and love her enough to be there. But also because I got to be with other people I love (May and Michael and Mark were there too) and because I got to share a hymnbook with Anna and because I got to talk to Togi and because I was reminded of a difficult time and it was okay.
Plus- all those great little crustless sandwiches and the punch with sherbet in it. Good Lord, but I love church-lady food.
Well, I guess that's all and god knows it's enough.
And so do I.