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Person reflecting on life, expressing gratitude and forgiveness, symbolizing grace in action

Before You Die – Gratitude for a Little Window of Time to Love You – OR – Forgiveness: Good-Bye Grace in Action.

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It’s been a strange few days, weeks actually.

:::: Call for Prayers:  Over the weekend there were several horrible shooting incidents – resulting in the deaths of many innocent humans – just out living their life. Gilroy, California; Dayton, Ohio; El Paso, Texas.  I pray for the victims murdered and those still struggling for their lives and for their families. These are unspeakable sufferings that have been thrust upon them. The effects of these nightmare events ripple out to all of us.                         My prayers continue to be with them all. ::::

:::::  The weekend for us, my partner Steve and I, was a weekend of intended recovery – from the hard work week we’d both completed. It was an intention we both easily collaborated in, laying around watching movies and recharging our energy.

For me, what had just passed were several weeks of struggle with a mild depression that left me low on energy. The tasks that I’d walked through (aside from my business building and book tasks) were focused around purging and finally closing my Mom’s storage unit in Clovis, CA that had been holding her things since her passing in 2016. It was time. But that final, culminating release of the things that were hers was a rough one.  And I felt myself re-opening the channel of grieving, or perhaps completing some unfinished grieving that came bubbling to the surface. Ours, was a complicated mother-daughter thing – of the flavor of the “Gilmore Girls” (Emily & Loreli) variety. During this weekend time, following the completion of the storage task, I allowed myself the space to work through it and practiced the self-compassion and kindness that I speak to others about as a life empowerment coach and teacher. 

The last few weeks also included some travel to Nashville around the approaching launch December 10th of my book “roots of forgiveness” and the audio launching August 16th.  Plus,  all kinds of time was given in a big way to picking my way through the maze that is the Social Security system process. You see, I’d reclaimed my maiden name, I’d turned 66, and re-established myself as a single (divorced) woman – so these were big changes in progress. All significant shifts requested through SSA forms, followed up by corrections, clarifications and proof requirements, and tons of energy-draining paperwork that never seemed to end. Add to this, numerous visits to the SS Office and phone calls with 1+ hour hold-times and my days were consumed.

I recall these details for you simply to show, that I’d carefully chosen the things I’d spend time on to move forward with, and as well, what I’d decided had to wait a little.

July 21st – will always stand out because it’s my ex-husband’s birthday. This year he turned 76. But as of yesterday, it’ll now stand out for another reason, and here’s my biggest NEWS of all and the entry into the main topic herein.

:::  Yesterday I discovered that on July 21st this year – just 2 weeks ago from this writing – my Uncle Rudy died. He would’ve been 100 years old on August 15th.

I’d been trying to reach him for a week or so, with no success. His phone just rang. Then the next try it was disconnected.  An unusually long time had passed since our last phone visit, given our typical frequency of every 2 to 3 weeks. Fact is, I’d been busier for a while. So, when I couldn’t reach him – I began searching the obits of Ohio, for the town he lived in, and there I found his name.

I knew that when he passed, I’d have to discover it for myself. That there’d be no call or message sent to me from his sons, my cousins. I knew this because following a phone visit, in which we joyfully planned the idea of taking a trip out to see him, the next day, Uncle called me back and regretfully and tearfully shared that his son, his main care overseer, my cousin, was still holding resentment for an incident that had occurred between his parents and mine – decades ago.

::: I came to learn that sadly there are old family grievances turned to grudges, which have been nurtured over decades to deeply root. And while buried, have transformed from the old anger into new badges of bitterness – rather than forgiveness, healing and release. Some of those grudges became unknowingly inherited by me.

I held space to mindfully remind myself it was my turn to resist resentment, and to choose compassion for these members of my family – who had created their own suffering.

But let me be honest – in the moment – you might wonder, did finding out about my new inheritance hurt me? Yes, of course. And truthfully, I was initially triggered. My thought was – I didn’t do anything to anyone to create this wound – so why hold it against me?  AND THEN – I heard my inner voice yell at me – “loudly” to practice what I preach about “forgiveness”.

It was time to once again engage walking my talk – in real time.  Fully present I heard my inner voice “yelling” – especially directly after I read out loud the first draft of this blog to my son (total transparency – slight revision was needed to walk my talk…urk! Human-Girl here…). My wonderful impassioned son, who loves and wants to protect me, showed me his triggered response and his readiness to begin a new tallying of offenses with his own energy of impassioned payback, for my cousin hurting me with his judgment…BUT WAIT – There IT IS!  Right? The Truth is: We all have the power and capacity to either – mindlessly plant seeds of resentment and pain – or mindfully hold space for healing by de-charging the resentment – choosing instead – to soften our hearts, ignite our grace and practice forgiveness to heal and move on with love. And that’s what I communicated to my sweet son.

A legacy of family wounds passed on unaddressed, serves only to erode families and its member’s inner channels of open connection and love. The very connections which motivate family members to choose whether or not to acknowledge a belonging to each other and/or a family lineage– even to the smallest degree.

It became deeply sad to me to realize that this was an element of the current legacy my Uncle regretfully left behind with his son. I know my Uncle wished it could’ve been different. He tearfully told me as much. He knew that in the end, bitterness eats the owner from the inside out. We spoke of it often. Both believing it’s never too late to begin the healing, but acknowledging that it requires openness, willingness for forgiveness, grace and “biglove” in order to genuinely change things.

::: I can still hear the sounds of gaiety and sights of the evenings spent either at Uncle’s home, or at our home – coming together with my folks to play cards, visit, affectionately tease each other, all to laugh. They all loved to laugh. I can still see my Aunt, who my Mom called Ro, dealing the cards out to each player at their kitchen table, gaily instigating fun while balancing a lit cigarette in the corner of her playful smile, one eye closed to avoid the smoke billowing up past her cheek to the rays of light from the ceiling fixture.

Family nicknames like – Sis, Ro, Hon, Babe, Bobby, all tossed around in the fragile but sweet smoky space of energy and fun.  And if other Aunts and Uncles were there – it was a double hoot. Or the many weekend park outings, as a child, or teenager, at Roeding Park where Uncle spent cool morning hours playing tennis. He was quite an athlete. Overall, for me, there were very good memories of the times with Uncle. He was always kind to me.

And then – one day – he was gone. I never knew why until I was much older. But either way, suddenly – his whole family moved away and remained “vanished” – to me – for 30+ years.

::: I think of this as a “family fracture” – a crack in the fabric of a larger extended family – the result of an argument, a betrayal, a judgment – it seemed a common theme in my family experience. We were a very large family with many extended relatives. My Dad had 6 siblings.  My Mom’s family – which included Uncle – was made-up of 11 children.  And each of them had multiple offspring and then grand offspring and on and on. My Mom and her 10 siblings all possessed personalities which were strong, passionate, loving, generous, stubborn, insecure, angry, prideful and judgmental. Mix in a heavy dose of fear combined with the real struggles of survival and the rough social times of the ’40’s, ’50’s & ‘60’s and on – as first generation born immigrants.  Now add my Mexican born grandparent’s passed down dysfunctional practices as parents and it creates a family dynamic to overcome for generations. We all do the best we can with what we know. It’s not always a good deal.  Each naturally wanting to feel good about themselves in the larger world, but ironically, inner turmoil brewing, as the learned family behavior (passed on by my grandparents) lead to an unstable, vulnerable and fragile state of inner sibling connection, or mean-spirited disconnection. If only they could have known that each one was different, flawed and struggling themselves, to find their way, to be their best, and to be happy – and have that supported by the family. To be fair, many of my relatives are super wonderful, kind, forgiving and loving… it’s the ones that aren’t that push the seeds of pain.

::: The truth is – this wounded acting out exists in many families and communities. This is the reason we have wars in the world. This is the reason we have the kind of violence that’s terrifying our communities. Each person believes themselves righteous to think and act as they do. And they’re willing to break connections and erase lives to hold their view.  There’s a way to transform our practice of creating our own suffering in our life and unlock our own cage. With forgiveness, love, compassion and courage we can widen our perspective to accept that no one’s perfect, and we all need forgiveness and acceptance.

::: I was blessed to be able to reconnect with my Uncle again in 2016 and go behind the curtain to see the heart of the man he was – at his core – warts and beauty and all. And to show him who I was. My Mother had been reaching out to reconnect with her brother for many years following the communication break and had laid a path for me, before she died in 2016.  I’m grateful. I reached out to him with a call and he answered, and I found my Uncle again. He was deeply hungry to connect on this level. In his nineties, he spoke of feeling isolated and lonely for connection. He lived near his son, but his son, a professional, was naturally very active and busy working long days. So, my Uncle, by his own choice, spent a good deal of his time alone, especially after he could no longer drive.

::: We re-bonded from our first call after all those years. I deeply loved and will miss our calls. Our lengthy multi-hour calls – speaking with me, and my partner Steve, an Army Veteran, with both of us, he would dive into the sadness of his experiences of WW II, fear, loss, anger, death and the profound wounds that he still suffered with.  And then together we’d rise to reflect on some moment of beauty, or love, or humor, moving through the tears of sadness into spontaneous outbursts of laughter and JOY – where we played in a dance to know each other deeper.

He would tell me that I was an angel.  “Kiddo, you’re a god-damn angel. You know that?” he’d say. “.. you’re really special. You know, I didn’t really know you when you were young. But you are special.” I loved when he’d say that – he allowed me to feel loved by him and to feel special to him. I felt connected.

::: Then there were other times when he’d say difficult things. He’d tell me his version of stories about my parents. He’d bring up their mistakes, trespasses, flaws – and speak with a poor opinion of them as people.  It hurt me.  But I’d patiently tell him that I knew they weren’t perfect, and I’d invite him to consider whether it might be better to forgive them and allow that they were doing the best they could – just like him. Just like me.

We would talk at length of the power of love, of forgiveness, about pain – how to relieve and heal it, and we shared wishes of what could’ve been. But then we’d look at NOW and how life is FOR us and how the roads taken have gotten us to this moment – full of love.

And he’d say, “Mija, you know, you’re an angel, a goddamn angel, I mean it. I just thank you for talking with me and making me feel so good.”  Forgiveness does that. It allows our hearts to soften and let in the power of love to heal and lift our burdens.

:: The truth for me is that HE gave me so much – he didn’t even know he did. I’d tell him that he was giving me something wonderful in talking to me, and he’d respond by telling me how much our calls and I meant to him.  The fact is he gave me a special energy of love – that is ‘family’. He gave me the shared tribal family energy that’s part of my Mom. That’s part of all my Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents – their core family – all but 2 gone, as of this writing. His phone calls were a gift, and with each phone call and each time we’d say good-bye we’d say good-bye as though it was going to be our last conversation, because we knew he was frail, and that he was ready to go when the time came, which could be any day. So, we said “I love you” a lot, and expressed our appreciation for each other each time we spoke. We laughed and cried together and gave each other a lot of time in our calls with a lot of love. We cried at how much we’d miss each other when that final time came. We gave it all, each call, our best energy and sense of appreciation and contentment that we could – knowing all the while that I wouldn’t be able to go to see him. And we compassionately forgave that state of family restriction, as well, and simply accepted it. We worked through grace with what we had to work with to connect. We honored with gratitude the gift of the moments we had – each one by one.

Reflecting back, to the time around when he passed and I didn’t know, I can’t help but wonder if my mild depression wasn’t a spirited communication of a higher-conscious awareness of his passing and an ignition of the natural mourning that serves to soften us through the power of grace.

And in writing this and reflecting back, I ask myself to look at what I learned from our re-connection.

::: I learned that “within” my extended family of relatives – emotionally injurious interactions have left wounded hearts on the battlefield, abandoned to scab over best they could, exposed to fear, shame and judgment of themselves and each other – which created a deep defensive divide and fracturing of the collective while fertilizing the already unhealthy learned behavior driving it even deeper, in some instances, into the lineage of my family.

::: I learned without the active intentional learning and practicing of compassion, kindness and forgiveness – our strongest impulsive behavior when wounded might be to shield ourselves with vindictive anger because it seems better than addressing the fear of FEELING and working through the pain and the shame – that the wound produces.

::: I learned that my family is just as humanly vulnerable to break – as any family or community of people – who are stubbornly unwilling to practice with commitment a culture of empathy, patience, forgiveness, compassion, and courageous transcendence through love.  That in my family the outcome of not practicing forgiveness was viscerally evident, once unearthed.

~ STILL ~  I’m not discouraged.

As Uncle and I spoke over the course of the few years we had – we danced in and out of the stories of the events that had occurred. It wasn’t easy. It was in fact painful to hear about the misunderstood and divisive pain that lived in my larger extended family for decades which involved my own parents – total truth or not – generally unbeknownst to me.

::: What I do know is that although I moved away from my hometown at the start of my twenties – I took with me the learned seeds of anger, stubbornness and judgment – but I also took the love, generosity and passion seeds. And as years passed, my life shook me up deeply enough to bring me to either choose to become awake, softer, open, forgiving and more flexible – or become harder, angrier and shut-down. I chose the first, and Life expanded my perception and my choice of how to deal with it all. And today I live with a deeply grateful heart, still evolving intentionally to be more loving.

::: Life gave me a magical chance – a little window of time with my Uncle – to connect, find understanding to forgive ourselves, to be forgiven, to love, to laugh, to comfort, to listen, to share and to validate the uniqueness and gifts of each other – in a deep and meaningful way…and THIS is the Gift that I will carry deep in my heart for all my days. I’m so happy that I embraced the chance to engage in this little window of time with you, Uncle, for the opportunity to express lots of love to you before you died.

::: And this brings me to the BIG Thank you – to my cousin.  Who with full awareness that Uncle and I were communicating and with full ownership of his deeply seeded disapproval of our communications – to his credit – he did “nothing”, nothing to stop us.  He didn’t send me messages and tell me to stop; he didn’t call me, text me or mail me – to leave Uncle alone. He did nothing. And by doing nothing he actively gave me the biggest Gift of Love. A window of time to love my Uncle before he died. Thank you – Cousin. I will always be deeply grateful.

Thank you – Uncle for engaging with me in forgiveness, open-hearted sharing of your suffering, and for choosing to be open to give and receive love, for sharing your wishes and your joyful energy. For laughing and crying with me.

::: For appreciating how important “letting go” of the hurts, anger, resentment and judgment about being bad is – allowing the good love and good energy to finally flow in – especially as your being ALIVE was coming to a real end.

I’m so grateful that you allowed me feel as though I brought a gentle healing to your heart during your final time on earth and offered you a gentle loving way to view yourself and your life with self-love – through the eyes of my love and friendship for you.

I will miss you. Both Steve and I will miss you. And your voice and energy of YOU will remain alive and happy in our hearts.

May you rest in Joy and Peace in the cradle Heavenly Love – free of physical and emotional suffering – in delighted joyful wholeness – laughing and loving with all family and friends gone before you and now with you.

And may you help me be a messenger of love, grace, forgiveness and healing for all those suffering in the bitterness of unhealed wounds and injuries.  So they may realize that hate no longer serves them, and to choose instead to unblock their most loving, light and life.

May you along with all our loving family and friends send your energy to support, strengthen and heal our earthbound Spirits and Hearts.

I love you Uncle, always Chris

#forgiveness, #rootsofforgiveness, #familylove, #healingthewounds, #lovebeforeyougo, #thelovinggoodbye,