There’s a point to this story, but it’s gonna take me a minute . . .
Once upon a time in the early 80s, a young man broke my heart. He asked me to marry him very early in our relationship, agreed to slow his roll and give me time to decide, and then, just about the time I was about to decide I wanted to say yes, he left me – abruptly and with no explanation. Time passed. I recovered – gradually at first, completely eventually. Fast forward to May of 2011 – almost exactly 30 years since the heart breaking. I was completely over it by then of course. Didn’t matter to me at all anymore. I mean really – 30 years, 3 kids, a few other heartbreaks endured and recovered from, and a lot of life gone by. Then I got a letter in the mail from him, asking if I was the Donna Hunter who knew a (his previous name) in Fort Worth in the early 80s. I knew it was him even though he had changed his name – because 1) he had always told me he was going to change it to that (although I sort of thought he was joking but obviously not) and 2) I’d seen him on TV, heard him on the radio, and seen his newspaper column using it since then. He asked me to contact him and I did.
He wanted to apologize – after 30 years. He said, “You were a good lady, and I was a complete asshole to you, and I’m sorry.” He was making amends – part of his recovery. He said that many times since that time when something really awful happened in his life (like a motorcycle accident that almost killed him and led to prescription pain killer addiction) he had wondered, not completely in jest, if he was being punished for how he had treated me. I laughed and told him that was probably it. I thanked him for contacting me and told him of course he was forgiven. We started a friendship that day that lasted until Jan. 1 of this year when he died suddenly and from somewhat mysterious causes (possibly some effect of his years before recovery.) He gave me counsel and support and laughs for those 5 years and I’m very glad to have enjoyed that friendship.
The thing that truly surprised me about this experience was how good that apology felt, how valuable it was, how much it really did matter to me. So much that I remember exactly where I was standing 5 years ago as I listened to his voice on the phone telling me this. It felt like I was receiving something I needed, and I had no idea until I received it. Hearing him acknowledge the wrong that was done to me – which, as I said, I was completely over – was still a healing kind of feeling. Maybe there’s only a certain degree of “over it” a person can get without acknowledgement and I had just accepted that level as the best it could be, but really there’s something a little better. That’s what he gave me that day. It did my heart good. It made my life better. And it did his too.
So here’s my point, and it is a message to me as well as everyone else: It is worth the effort to make amends for hurt you have caused, whether intentional or not, whether the blame is shared or not, and no matter how long ago it was. Maybe an apology is needed, maybe just an honest explanation, or maybe even just an end of silence. If you are both still alive, it is not too late. You can still bring good into their life, and into your own, by mending that fence.
Thank you, Lance/Ben for mending ours.