October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Cancer has touched just about every life, and breast cancer, in particular, touched mine. It took my mother. My mom was an incredibly strong woman. She endured much and worked hard her entire life and there is much about her I admire. She had a strong work ethic. She was determined, passionate, and smart and she loved a good laugh. Unfortunately, as happens to many people, she died far too early. She died too soon to meet all of her grandchildren (whom she would have adored!) let alone watch any of them grow up. She died before she saw my sister become a published author and before she would be able to watch me complete a Master’s degree. She would have loved every minute of it.
But what makes me really sad is that, as far as I could tell, she died before she was able to reconcile all the pain in her life. I loved my mom, but all that strength and determination could at times, go awry and God help the individual in its path.
I now work with a group of strong, kind and smart women. Each one of them brings her own particular sense of humor, gentleness and boldness into my life and for that I am so grateful. I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with these women over the past weekend and I was once again struck by how remarkable it is to be in the presence of women who love life and love others. Having come from a family of strong women it is a comfortable and familiar place for me to be.
The women I work with are gentle and bold, they are kind and strong. They speak their minds—and they do it well—but there is a confidence and a gentleness in their voices as they speak which was not always present in the voice of the strong woman who raised me. You know what I’m talking about—there is a great deal of difference when someone speaks his or her mind from a place of healing and strength rather than from a place of strident anger or self-righteousness. The women I work with have done the hard work necessary to root-out bitterness and unforgiveness. Spending time with a kind, strong women is a powerful thing. Being with an angry, bitter woman is a powerful thing. One is inspiring and energizing, where the other is, well, just a little bit scary.
Each of the women I work with has walked through her own battles with the world and, very likely even more, within herself. I know this is certainly true of me. There are numerous issues any of us could, and do, feel passionately about, issues which motivate us to make a difference in the world and in the lives of other women. But for most of us, forgiving someone—or many someone’s—is part of our battle. Why is it so hard to forgive an injustice? Because it cuts us to the quick. Forgiving can feel like we are giving the offending party a “pass,” essentially saying “no big deal, its fine.” But here’s the thing. Saying I forgive you is not about making the other individual feel better, or acting as though the offense was “no big deal.” Forgiveness is about letting go. It is about choosing to no longer hold onto the offense, or even the other individual as though he or she were in a choke hold. It is about saying I am moving on. I will no longer allow this event, this memory, this person to wreak havoc over my life and within my soul. Funny thing is, anger feels strong, but forgiveness actually makes us stronger. Self-forgiveness is often harder than other-forgiveness. We can spend a lifetime in self-condemnation and regret, or we can take responsibility for what went awry, let it go and begin again. Easier said than done, I know. I have found that, for me, when I have trouble forgiving I can call upon the One who lives in me to take my words “I forgive you” and make them real. Sometimes it takes a long time and a lot of prayer, but He is faithful, even when I am not.
I know that my mom is now healed and whole and with the very One who has loved her since the foundations of the earth were formed. At times I hope the Lord allows her a glimpse at the family she left behind, so perhaps she does know her grandchildren after all. And her great-granddaughter. She would be so proud.
So this Saturday, I will put on my Pink Ribbon T-shirt and with my sister, we will join thousands of others in the Central Florida area as we walk Lake Eola, Making Strides against Breast Cancer. My mom was a really great woman. Was she perfect? Absolutely not. Are there things I have had to forgive? Absolutely. And I am grateful that I was able to forgive so that I can now remember her with love and admiration. So mom, this one’s for you. I love you still.