Love Lessons

June 10, 2009

 The greatest lesson I have ever learned is from my mother.

 She taught me a course on forgiveness. A curriculum of love.

 When I was sixteen years old my mother disappeared. She had been in a relationship with a man who we had come to learn was not the knight in shining armour he said he was. For years he managed to keep his lies a secret from us all. We were but puppets dancing to the manipulations of the strings he controlled.  Over time, his grip loosened on my sister, on myself and others and we began to see the truth. But he would not let go of my mother. After months of desperately trying to set her free from this relationship, she vanished into thin air.

 There was no goodbye letter. No phone call. Nothing. She was just gone.

 Her disappearance was the secret I carried with me as I struggled to balance math, and rehearsals, and everything else that comes along with being sixteen. It was not something I was allowed to talk about in my father’s home, so I began searching for the answers in my mind.  I waited for the phone call saying that they had found her body, murdered by the man whose lies she had loved, but it did not come. If she was not dead, the alternative was worse. If she was not dead, she had left on her own accord. She had abandoned us. My sister and I, the little girls she had said she loved more than all the stars in the sky, and all the grains of sand, but not more than a man in a red Ferrari driving her straight into his hell. If she was not dead then all that love had been a lie.

 Months past, though it felt like years, and finally one day in late may I came home to a message on my answering machine. “It’s me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

 It has been six years since that phone call. Six years spent learning to forgive.

 I would be lying if I said forgiveness came easy. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t so angry I couldn’t breathe. I would be lying if I said the road to forgiveness wasn’t filled with pain. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also filled with love.

 On my seventeenth birthday, just weeks after that first phone call my mother sent me these words;

  …At times, I have been lost, scared, frightened of the force of that love and in my fear I have not always managed to be the “perfect mother”, the “perfect wife”, the “perfect person”. Though I have always managed to be perfectly me, in all my beauty and pain. And, my love has always been and always will be perfectly alive. It may not always seem the perfect gift to you. It may at times feel like a burden and rather than the blessing I send it as, possibly even a curse. But my love for you can never end for it is infinite.
 
Remember when you were young how I would tell you “I love you more than all the blades of grass that will ever grow. More than all the drops of rain that will ever fall. More than all the grains of sand that will ever be. And so much more”? It is true. There never will be a time when my love for you does not flow. There is nothing you or anyone else can say, do or believe that could destroy my love for you and for your sister. For love is perfect, love is limitless and love can never die, for we are Love. It is the gift of our lives that never ends.

 I wanted to believe it, but I needed answers. Why had she let this happen? How could she have done this to us? What kind of mother was she? Would she do it again? I told myself when I had all the answers, a map of what went wrong, I would forgive her. But sometimes the answers aren’t good enough. Sometimes answers don’t make it all make sense.

 Having an answer doesn’t magically transform pain into trust. My pain was my protector. It was my shield and my sword. If I hold on to this anger you cannot hurt me again. In the many months following my mother’s return to her own life and ours I would test her. I would hurl my anger at her-blades of words aimed at the places where I knew it would hurt. I waited for her to leave again. What I didn’t know is that love does not leave. It does not die.

 And in forgiving, I set myself free.

 The road to forgiveness was not easy. It took patience and time. But mostly it took love. And in the end, forgiveness was a choice. A yes or a no. I forgive you, or I don’t. There are no strings attached. No restrictions, no fine print. Forgiveness is a river, the water can’t go back. Only forwards, over the waterfall, straight into love.

 I wonder sometimes what might have happened if my mother did not come back. What if his grip had killed her?  Every way I look at it, I know love would still have been the answer. It is the gift she gave us that has no end. Maybe I would have travelled on the river longer, maybe I’d still be on the journey to forgiveness, but I believe, without a doubt that it’s where I would end up.

 That is the teaching of my mother.  A lesson in love.

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9 Responses to “Love Lessons”

  1. Louise said

    Thank you.

    I love you.

  2. Mark said

    what a great tribute; as a writer, clearly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree – your prose is …..prosaic . . prosey, rosey, humbling and clear . .

    your piece, particularly the reference to water not flowing backward, needs to be on billboards, bumper stickers, t-shirts and more …beautifully crafted

    I agree, from my experience at least, that your mother is a spectacular broad . . and her frequent un-biased swooning about her daughters is no doubt appropriate and well founded

    all the best,

    Mark

  3. Anne said

    Alex, thank you for sharing your wisdom! It is an honor to know you, your sister and your mother! The gift I see in you is Grace, you definitely are an angel amoung us!!

  4. Janet said

    Dear Alexis, you are an wonderful, amazing young lady, filled with wisdom that usually takes a lifetime to aquire. Poetic wisdom……….. thank you!!
    Big hugs, Janet

  5. Rosemarie said

    Alexis, what an amazing young woman you are! You are incredibly eloquent and you have a beautiful heart. I am happy that it has been allowed to heal, and be set free!
    You deserve it.

    Hugs,
    Rosemarie

  6. Jackie Trafford said

    Dearest Alexis,
    To forgive is the ultimate emotion that allows us to love to infinity. To have learned this lesson at such a young age and under difficult circumstances has allowed you to grow and be the amazing young woman that you are. It is sometimes so difficult to forgive because we want to be right. I’m so glad that none of us were stuck in the angry and hurt stage for very long. I do believe we must all go through stages of emotions. Looking forward with forgiveness in our heart allows us to grow and to live with peace and harmony.
    All families weather storms but not all are wise enough to let the river flow. I’m honoured to share the river ride with Mom (Nana), my sisters and my special nieces.
    Loving you to inifity Alexis,
    Auntie Jackie

  7. Anne said

    Hello my dear Alexis,
    It has always been clear to me that you are wise beyond your years .. and this blog is another shining example of your wisdom and your beauty that shines through with every word you write. Your words flow so gracefully like a river and like a butterfly spreading its wings onto the world — thank you for sharing your wisdom and your love, and I too am honoured to share the flow of the river of your love.
    With much love and hugs,
    Auntie Annie

  8. Jerry Weber said

    Hi Alexis
    Louise forwarded this to me the other day, I did not get around to reading until now.
    Sure glad I did not delete without reading. What I want yo uto hear is WOW. and that does not cut it. Remember the 93% is non verbal? I think of the quote..what words fall from the mouths of babes… or some such quote. What I think is you express some very deep message here for such youth. You are certainly not a kid, but youthful. And I reflect at myself and think…how did she ge this far so soon? Or , I sure couldn’t think like that at her stage or age. These are all compliments Alexis. You are special. Know it, beleive it and relish it. I am honored to have you, your sister and mother as my friends. Yes, love is the answer I think. Always was, always will be. It was the gift God gave us all. And you use it.
    blessings
    Jerry

  9. BA said

    Alexis! Read your Mom’s blog today, clearly the apple does not fall far from the tree. Beautiful, inspiring, wise, intelligent, grounded, insightful, open, sensitive, compassionate, devoted, kind, caring, giving, loving …….

    Hope you have a wonderful day and a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY full of love, laughter and a whole lot of fun! Cheers to you!

    With love and affection,
    Betty Anne

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