More Than Serving Tea



Forgiveness Six Feet Under

Nine years ago today, on New Year’s Day, my mother-in-law died.

I think it was my father-in-law, in a moment of morbid and loving levity, joked that she had waited until the morning of the New Year so we would never forget the day she died. We would start out every year thinking of her.

He was right.

She had been under hospice care for more than a week at a hospital two minutes away from our home. The rare kidney cancer, held at bay through surgery for several months, had spread. Chemo and radiation were not an option because those treatments would do nothing. Months on a trial drug seemed to stall things for a bit, but my mother-in-law was convinced she would be cured of the cancer though tests continued to prove otherwise. She bought mangosteen juice. She tweaked her diet. She prayed, and she sought the prayers of others. She would not die yet.

We know this because months after her death my father-in-law and I were able to read through some of her final thoughts written in various composition notebooks. We could tell by her handwriting when she was having good days and when she was having bad days.

We could also tell that while she held onto hope of health and life, she had her share of regrets, a few fears of the future, and held onto a bitter and broken relationship.

Our bitter and broken relationship.

My mother-in-law was a strong, opinionated, driven woman. She could move mountains if necessary and she was fiercely loyal to her family. She was creative, funny, and  some of her friends warned me when Peter and I got engaged that my future mother-in-law was feared and fierce. At a family function she asked me if my parents were going to allow me to marry her son.

“Of course,” I replied in formal Korean.

“Too bad,” she responded.

I was not yet the woman I am now. I was 22 years old and speechless. I was offended and afraid. I was disappointed and angry. And instead of forgiving her I let those words set a tone for our relationship and sink deeply into my heart. We did not like each other, but we both loved her son. I had so much in common with her, but chose the bitter thing. We were stuck.

For better or for worse.

For richer or for poorer. 

In sickness and in health. 

Till death do us part.

I let her words sink too deeply and allowed disappointments and anger to chip at my sometimes fragile relationship with my husband his family. It has been almost nine years since we buried her. There are many things I have said many times are in the past, but when newer friends asked me and Peter to recount our wedding and family traditions I knew that the past was still very present in unhealthy, unhelpful ways.

How does one ask the forgiveness of someone and forgive someone who was buried nine years ago?

The start of a new year always begs for fresh starts and new beginnings. May this be the year of journeying into forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

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  1. Pick of the Clicks 1/3/15 | bronwyn's corner pingbacked on 3 years, 7 months ago

Comments

  1. * Wendy H. says:

    My friend told me that for him, forgiveness meant letting go of his need for his dad to say sorry. His dad had abandoned him at a young age and died before they were ever able to be reconciled. That phrase has always stuck with me because I for one suck at forgiving people. I almost always want them to say sorry. And a little groveling wouldn’t hurt.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 6 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      I suck at forgiving. It’s part of my DNA, personality, etc. but I think that is true of so many of us if not all of us.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 6 months ago
  2. * Marion says:

    I hear you and know a little about what you mean. I have had a similar – though not as direct- relationship with my husband’s family. Both of us come from families without much connection and it’s just increased as the years have passed. His grandmother was very ugly to me and his family pretty much ignored it so the hurt just continued. No one has ever (except my husband and myself) addressed it or dealt with it. Once, early on, he spoke with his dad who just blew it off. Now, 32 years later, I see the disconnect in his family and how my husband and his dad have essentially no relationship (his mom died before we married – it was her mother). No one is ‘mad’ with anyone; they’re just not connected. Maybe if my 27 year old self could have known more about relationships it might have helped but I don’t think it could have been any different.
    For me forgiveness is a process and I’m not fully there yet. Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily remove the hurt either, although I believe there is healing for these wounds. As a believer I find this an area where I’m working out my salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2). It isn’t always an easy fix and I believe the Lord knows that and there’s grace and mercy along the way (I mean, mercies are new every morning for a reason!). Time and distance are your friends 🙂

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Thank you for your story and your wisdom!

      Yes, time and distance are my friends and forgiveness is a process I’ve found does not always stay focused on a particular person or event but wounds that are deeper and have ragged edges. Here is to God helping us through the process.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 6 months ago
  3. * Melanie says:

    Kathy, thanks for your honesty. I wonder if the thoughts God puts upon our hearts to work for change are the things that He desires for us in preparing to be reunited with Him and those who have gone before us. For some things, I know this is the case. If there was unforgiveness in our spirits and the future holds reunions, it would be wonderful for God to heal us and work with us now to prepare us for those reunions in Heaven. Maybe for those who have left us, though we cannot talk to them, maybe our times with God and working through those issues are enough. So I pray for precious times of journaling and writing out the feelings and allowing His release for you of them. Praying also for the reminders and remembrances that God wants to forgive and release you from the sins present and past…then it is our job to know what it means to live as forgiven followers.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Thank you for your prayers and words, friend. I cannot yet think about reunions. I’ve come to realize it is far too painful and too long a litany of words and hurt I’ve tucked away to consider it a joy to be reunited though that is what I would hope for my husband and his mother. However, I know digging deep into this space is part of the gift of this season so I do covet your prayers!

      Like

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
  4. * Tammy G says:

    Love your open, honest heart. Your heart matters deeply to Jesus.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
  5. * Jon Ido Warden says:

    does the Hebrew verse that talks about “a cloud of witnesses” mean they that have gone before us watch us? some have thought so. sometimes i want it to be so. i want to be watching my daughter when I am gone. if so, then perhaps they can see, read and hear and we can let them know our feelings even if we cannot hear them. if not, i do know Jesus watches us and they walk with Him. perhaps He can pass it on? peace as you make peace sister.

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      I would like to believe I will be watching my children and other loved ones when I am no longer walking this earth. I think it will take some more time before the thought of my MIL watching me brings comfort rather than anxiety and anger to be honest. May the way be covered in grace and peace.

      Like

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
  6. Thanks for being honest–even about the hard, broken spaces. It’s a humbling reminder that we all have them & forgiveness is a continual choice. 🙂

    Like

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
  7. i definitely think putting your thoughts into words in a letter to her would be helpful. it is a way of apologizing to her and also asking forgiveness of both her and the Lord.

    the benefit of putting it down on paper is that it will be concrete for you. you can say what you really think, not what you might say in person through a filter. thinking of the ways you sinned against her by protecting yourself from hurt, ways you hurt yourself and your husband as well by holding resentment…writing it down is helpful to see not only how you hurt her, but how you hurt yourself in the process of self-protection.

    it will benefit the relationships you have now too in that you probably use some of the same ways of dealing with others that you did with her.

    unforgiveness is so tricky. we think we are hurting the person we don’t forgive when the person we hurt the most is ourselves.

    and even at that, it is still a process. bits and pieces of the situations still come back to haunt us at times, but we can continue to forgive as each part comes back. it isn’t perfect by a long shot,

    remembering what GOD has forgiven us helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      It is a process! Thank you for reading and for the reminder that the element of self-protection can backfire!

      Liked by 1 person

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
  8. Hi Kathy and Happy New Year! I’m sorry for the struggle you’re experiencing now. Such a hard place but one ai know can be redeemed. I think all of Diana’s suggestions are good, especially the part about having a conversation with her. Maybe even writing a letter and physically releasing her in what ever way you feel comfortable or necessary. I’m in a season of forgiving and your words touched the soft spaces of my heart for a friend I thought I no longer had soft spaces for. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      Lisha, yes! Soft spaces! Perfect words to describe this work God is doing in both of us. The idea of a letter makes sense…would appreciate your prayers for the words and timing, sister!!

      Liked by 1 person

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
  9. * pastordt says:

    Oh, Kathy. This is so hard. And I am so sorry for the continuing pain. I’m not sure how to answer your question, I just know that it is possible – even though she is gone from here. This will sound weird, I’m sure – but I still ‘talk’ to those I love who have left this place – my dad, my best friend, my brother. And I ask for forgiveness – for all kinds of thoughtlessness and resentments. Part of the work is letting the truth of it all rise to the top, grieving what needs to be grieved and then releasing it all. Maybe (not sure) Leslie Leyland Field’s newest book on forgiveness would be helpful? Praying for you in the midst of this day of remembering.

    Liked by 1 person

    | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago
    • * Kathy Khang says:

      It doesnt aound weird at all. It is, however, scary to think about letting it all rise to the top. Thank you for your prayers and the book suggestion!!

      Like

      | Reply Posted 3 years, 7 months ago


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