A Poignant Lesson in Forgiveness – Like Jonah Revealed and Redeemed

I now think that our paths crossed for a greater purpose not so much because she needed to teach me a poignant lesson in forgiveness, but rather I think that it was God’s way of telling me that I need not hang onto this story or experience but rather that I ought to share it. However like Jonah instead of doing what I was compelled to do, I gave God thanks, promised to be a very good and forgiving person from here on in, and I simply chose not to share, because I deemed it too revealing. I now know that running into this young lady was God’s way of saying to me, like he did to Jonah, who when sent to Nineveh but instead went in the opposite direction, that the lesson was not only for me but that I needed to share. So here I am open, ready to peel away the layers, and about to reveal.
 
You may wonder where I am going with all this. I suppose I will begin on the morning of March 12, 2012. As Caribbean people we know that our culture is steeped rich not only in tradition but omens, and dreams which are deemed a sign of things or events to come. I grew up with my grandmother so trust me I am quite aware of these omens, and dreams. I woke up on March 12, 2012 and I told Ivan about a dream that I had had the previous night. It was a dream wherein my grandmother and I were about to go on a cruise, and if anyone knows me, this is quite odd because I have a fear of boats, so a cruise is definitely not on my lists of things to do. In the dream, my grandmother and I were standing at the dock, the last passengers about to embark, and a crew member was beckoning us to come.  I told my grandmother that I wasn’t going to embark because I had not seen my luggage go on the boat. The crew member kept beckoning, saying that I should not worry that I could purchase clothes on the ship or at another port of call. I was adamant that I was not going until I saw my luggage. Not being one to force me into doing anything that I didn’t want to do, my grandmother told the gentleman that she would go without me. We said goodbye, and the ship left. A few days prior I had a conversation with friends who were going on a cruise so I thought that that was why I was dreaming about a cruise. Although I ‘chalked it up to that,’ there was still a nagging feeling because I had dreamt my grandmother. It’s been 10 years since she has been gone, however whenever I see her in my dreams I know that she is trying to tell me something, so I was a little unsettled.
 
Later that morning I opened my email and read that a very close friend had been hospitalized, and that she was in a critical state. The uncanny thing was that the person who sent the email was not one to relay or report other people’s business, but she thought it pertinent that she should tell me this news. The thing was that this friend who had been ill was someone who I always said to people that if this person needed a heart transplant that would be a tough one for me because I would consider giving her mine. We were that close. I hadn’t spoken to this friend in almost a year because I was really upset at her for something that I thought she had done. She emailed, called, and asked for forgiveness, and because I felt that I was justified in not talking to her, I cut all communication and moved on with my life. The news of her being hospitalized disturbed me so greatly, I cried. I couldn’t believe that no one contacted me. I couldn’t believe that she thought that my heart was so “iced” that I wouldn’t care whether she lived or died. I picked up the phone and I called my friend who answered quite ‘cheerily,’ as she was happy to hear my voice. I expected at least a cold or dreary response when she recognized my voice, but I got the most welcoming greeting. It was as if nothing had happened. I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably. We spoke and we made amends. I revealed a story of the Sunday in which I went to church and when I had returned home, two white doves had flew into the living room, and we joked as I told her that I had a ‘hell of a time’ trying to ‘shoo’  them out. She told me that the two doves were probably a sign or omen of us, and that we needed to mend our friendship. I sent an email to the friend who had told me of friend’s illness, and told her thanks, and that we had made amends. She responded, and as usual with her spiritual and uplifting words told me that I should have forgiven my friend a long time ago, and she knew that although I had said that I did, her spirit told her that I truly had not done so, so she felt compelled to send me the email. She reminded me of Nelson Mandela’s quote that, “having resentment against someone is like drinking poison and thinking it will kill your enemy.”  My heart was lifted after making amends with my friend but throughout the day I was bothered and my spirit still felt very heavy.
 
I didn’t share this with Ivan as I was too ashamed to tell him because he too had admonished me, and told me the importance of forgiving my friend. He came home that evening and began preparing dinner. Just then I remembered that I was invited to a friend’s mom’s 75th birthday celebration. The family was like an adopted family. Even though I was not feeling up to it, I told Ivan that I would go ‘as manners’ and ‘just to show my face.’  I sat on the couch. My spirit was heavy. He realized and asked what was wrong with me, but I refused to tell him. He kept telling me that it was getting late. He insisted that if I had planned on going to the party that I should go now because he didn’t want me driving in an area that I didn’t know that well at such a late hour. He said that he would watch the kids. As I know they can be a handful, I offered to take one. He didn’t agree with that decision, and insisted that I leave them both. I was testy and I snapped at him. Being headstrong, I ignored him, and I strapped my younger son in the car seat. As I did this my older son came to the car in his pajamas wanting to come. I went inside got him a change of clothes and changed him as I sat in the driver’s side of my car, then I strapped him in the car seat. Just then I looked back and saw my sons, knew I was not in the best of moods, I glanced at the time; it was now almost 10:00 p.m. I unstrapped both of them and sent them through the kitchen door to their dad who was waiting in the doorway. The thought of possibly getting a flat tire or being stranded on the road with two infants at that hour crossed my mind.
 
I drove to the event; however I saw no sign of activity.  I turned around and headed back home. It was late. I didn’t know the area that well. I ran a stop sign which wasn’t quite visible. The next thing I knew I saw a car spiraling in front of me. It landed in a fence. I ended up a few feet ahead. I got out of the car. I was hysterical. I saw a young lady get out of the car that I had hit and she was holding her head, and walking in circles. Neighbours heard the crash. They came out. I tried to approach the young lady but she was still walking ahead so I thought it best at that point not to, as I didn’t expect a good reaction. I called Ivan he said that I should call the police and wait for them to arrive. I did. Just then an older gentleman approached me, and in a calming manner he put his hands on my shoulder and told me to calm down. He looked into my eyes and told me that I should be thankful that none of us were hurt, and he went on to say that the vehicles were only man made matter. He was such a great source of comfort. He was. He then went on to tell me that the driver of the vehicle that I hit was his daughter and he was grateful that the accident wasn’t that bad. He kept repeating that I ought to be grateful for life, but I was crying hysterically because I knew that only minutes before that I had my two babies in the car, and that I had snapped at Ivan before I had left, and he had no idea that I was in a bad mood because of what had transpired earlier in the day, and most importantly my negligence could have cost this young lady her life. This man comforted me, and comforted me. I was in such awe of this gentleman as that was definitely not the reaction that I expected.

The police arrived on the scene. I looked at him and recognized him as Officer Williams. He was the Officer who was at church that Sunday playing with my sons as they ran about the vestry. He was on duty that Sunday morning but had popped in just to ‘get a bit of Jesus’ he said. He recognized me, and seeing me hysterical, he asked that I calm down and that I be glad that I was still alive and well enough to care for my boys. As the Officer took both statements, I had the opportunity to see the young lady face to face. I asked her if I could say something. She was a bit shaken, but within her, as I realized with her father there was a state of calm. I told her that I was sorry, and that I understood that she would be angry. She looked at me and said that she wasn’t angry. She said in the most calming and comforting voice, “Accidents happen. It’s all a part of life. I am not angry. I am just happy to be alive.” Then she asked me if I was okay. I said yes. All through this I was still crying.  She then began to comfort me. Again, this was not the reaction I expected. In an instant she forgave me. In an instant her father forgave me, a total stranger, and someone who given the situation, forgiveness ought not to have been so automatic. In the distance I saw Ivan walk towards us, two boys in tow, again I broke down, again the young lady offered words of comfort.
 
In the days following I spoke with the young lady who might I add was only nineteen but rather mature for her age. I had the chance to speak with her mother as well, a mother who again possessed a very calming spirit, and like her daughter and husband, explained that accidents do happen, and that they were just very grateful that both of us were safe. In one of our conversations I tried to provide an explanation about the circumstance surrounding the accident, and the young lady, again in her calm voice, explained that if I wanted to explain it was okay but that there was no need to because she had already forgiven me. Since then I have seen her, and each time I do I get a sunny smile and greeting. There is still as sense of guilt, however what I learnt was a very valuable lesson in forgiveness. I thought that for months, almost a year I held onto to resentment, and refused to forgive my friend, but here I was on the receiving end of insurmountable forgiveness from a total stranger who I had wronged. When I prayed the evening after the accident, I promised God that I would share this story. I thanked him for granting me another day, because if dreams mean anything it was possibly ‘my time’ as we say in our vernacular. As the days went by I kept saying that I ought to share but I didn’t, however when I saw the young lady on Wednesday, then again yesterday, a voice in my head told me that I was being like Jonah, a voice in my head told me that God had given me a message, and that I was being disobedient by not sharing, because that lesson in forgiveness was not only for me. It was meant to be shared.

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