I remember as a child being shut in my room and being told: “You can stay there until you are prepared to come out and say you are sorry !”
Mutter…mutter…it wasn’t my fault! How was I to know that Patrick’s silkworms would die just because I hid them in the fridge? It wasn’t for long. They had no stamina. Stupid worms! And now I would have to go and apologise to Patch. He started it. He shouldn’t have punched me on the arm…mutter…mutter…..
Yes, to ask for forgiveness is hard. And for Patrick to forgive his sister for killing off his four hundred lovingly raised silkworms was unthinkable!
Archbishop Tutu is a man I admire, look up to and respect. He is fondly know as “The Arch”! He speaks of forgiveness in “The Book of Forgiving” that he has recently published. He reveals the pain and utter helplessness of seeing his father abuse his mother when he was a young boy. He speaks of the anger that verged on hatred at times when he was a child. His father is dead now but he says that if he were alive he would forgive him. It is the only way to heal the pain in his boyhood heart.
He points out that we don’t forgive to help the other person. We don’t forgive for others. We forgive for ourselves. “Forgiveness is the best form of self interest.”
It took me, Gaynor, a while to understand that.
For those of you that don’t know, I was an actress, and, the understudy for the female lead in Camelot being performed at the State Theatre in Pretoria. On the 9th December 1989 I was called upon to take over. I had never had a dress rehearsal or a tech rehearsal and just before interval I fell eighteen metres down an unguarded lift shaft. I suffered severe brain damage.
Initially, I was completely out of it. I didn’t really comprehend what had happened. I was feeling my way in this new world of limited sight, no audibility, where my walking and talking were severely hampered. But later, months later, where I was more cognisant of what had occurred I was angry. I was very angry. I felt a great anger towards the director, the set designer, the company that had produced Camelot. That anger was deep. It was as deep as my deafness, my limited eye sight, my being unable to walk and talk. It was as deep as my spasticity. It was as deep as having all your dreams being torn to shreds and having to re-invent yourself. Re-invent yourself as what, was a question that flummoxed me.
The person that had directed Camelot, the person who had made the decision not to have a barrier in that incredibly dangerous spot, never apologised to me. He did not show remorse to me personally. Yes, he told others how terrible it was that I had had such a fall…etc…etc…and…etc! But he never actually said I’m sorry to me personally. I would have liked it if he had. Why didn’t he? He must have felt a terrible remorse. Imagine how he felt when I was lying comatose in hospital, when they thought I would die?
I am thinking that he probably didn’t know how to apologise. What could he actually say except: “I’m sorry! Forgive me.” (Forgive me for wrecking your life!) Sorry seems such an inappropriate word at times. Yet it was a word that I needed to hear.
I never did.
I received a letter from a friend of mine that I had acted with several years earlier. In it she told me that she was in a production being directed by this director. She dropped a bombshell.
“He is a very ill man and is having chemotherapy for cancer of the prostate. He is being very brave about it and I must say that I admire his guts in tackling this problem and coping with things. There is no question about it but you are ever on his mind. He often brings up your name and his concern with “danger” on the stage is almost pathological. He has deep, deep regrets about the past and will never ever get over the trauma of what happened to you. I thought you might like to know this.”
I put down the letter. I think it was then that the erosion of the bitterness began. I wrote to the director. I told him where I was living and how I spent my days. I said that I had heard about his cancer and about how brave he was being in coping with it. “I wish that I could say do such and such and then you’ll get better, but I can’t. All I can say is: Draw as much as you can out of each day. Live for the moment. It’s what we all should do.”
I didn’t get a reply to my letter. But that was alright. That letter healed me. I forgave him and with that forgiveness came peace.
It just amazes me at the vastness of God. How He can forgive so easily. One merely has to ask Him for forgiveness and…ZAP!…you are forgiven! I often think of Hitler and I pray that he didn’t ask for forgiveness and commit himself to God. I don’t want to be sitting next to him in Heaven one day!
My brother did eventually forgive me for “murdering” his silkworms. I had to bowl to him for a week as my apology!
“Forgiveness is the best form of self interest.”
How Tu Tu right you are, “The Arch”!
Prayer Before the Prayer
Can I even form the words
Dare I even look?
Do I dare to see the hurt I have caused?
I can glimpse all the shattered pieces of that fragile thing
That soul trying to rise on the broken wings of hope
But only out of the corner of my eye
I am afraid of it
And if I am afraid to see
How can I not be afraid to say
Is there a place where we can meet?
You and me
The place in the middle
The no man’s land
Where we straddle the lines
Where you are right
And I am right too
And both of us are wrong and wronged
Can we meet there?
And look for the place where the path begins
The path that ends when we forgive
From: The Book of Forgiving by Archbishop Desmond Tutu & Rev Mpho Tutu