I didn’t know them long. Quiet-spoken, kind people. A nice, older couple that graced our church in their later years. They loved their granddaughter and America. Part of the Greatest Generation that has been talked about for so long. When a minister at that church, we honored those who had been married for more than 50 years one Sunday and asked if they could submit photos of themselves when younger. He had just one picture of her from before 30 or so (a reminder that we are blessed in an age of prolific digital memories) that he was reluctant to share, just in case something happened. The picture, like the relationship, was precious.
She got quite sick. I went to visit the family in the hospital, and after a few days it appeared it was just a waiting game. Those are the hard visits, but they are always glad to have you there. One day, when her breathing became laborious, it was nearly time. As the doctor broke the news to the family, the husband was overcome for a moment reached for his wife, and loudly exclaimed “I forgive you for anything you’ve done to me and ask your forgiveness for anything I’ve done to you!” Then he wept.
I was struck then – and now, years later – by their last moment together. He sought reconciliation, unity, restoration, forgiveness. I don’t know if there were long-standing matters he had in mind or just a general cover-all; nor does it matter. What the beauty of the moment brought to mind for me was the power of forgiveness, acceptance, and deep, life-long love.
Relationships are things of complex beauty, or at least they should be. The daily interactions, sharing of life, and investment in something other than oneself is a noble, difficult, and worthy task. We all desire wholeness and intimacy wither others, whether in a marriage setting or with familial ties and deep friendships.
I left the hospital that day with a new resolve: to love others deeper and ask for forgiveness more readily. These are ongoing tasks. I try to never turn down the opportunity to share time with others in small-group settings (< 8 especially. I find I do better in smaller groups). I am getting better at asking for forgiveness; but pride gets in the way sometimes.
I aim to live long enough to watch beautiful relationships be temporarily severed by death. I cherish the times I have seen that played out in person.