A Beautiful Soul, A Forgiving Soul
My younger daughter Nini is a beautiful girl with a beautiful soul. That’s how I’ve come to know her and to describe her and I hope that is how others will get to know her. She used to just be known as the beautiful girl who is legally blind, has autism, and has a seizure disorder. The autism causes her to experience a myriad of social and academic problems. But the more that I have gotten to know Nini, the more I have learned that she has a beautiful, forgiving soul that those who don’t have the disabilities that she has would be blessed to have. In fact, because of her beautiful, forgiving soul, her path to heaven is straighter than many of ours.
I experienced an extreme grace during the 2011 Lenten journey and I am grateful to God for it. First, I won’t pretend that I am a holy Catholic Christian. I, like most of us, am a work in progress. Though I prayed daily during Lent, I won’t pretend that I spent hours praying daily to make up for the Facebook time that I did not have since I gave it up for Lent. I even had good intentions about reading some books by some great theologians. But alas, I did not finish them during this past Lenten season. I am just a regular person, a regular mother who has begged the Lord for a special grace for a long time and whom the Lord showed that grace toward the end of the 40 days of Lent.
I have a lot to work on (all of us do and most Christians understand that). This past Lent, however, I realized that the Lord really wanted me to work on forgiveness. That may not have been MY priority when I began Lent but it was HIS priority for me and He let it be known in ways that are His supernatural, spiritual, and subtle (and not so subtle) ways. And He used different people, including my younger daughter, as well as different media (books, others’ personal testimonies, etc.) to help me in this area in which I have struggled greatly.
I am blessed and cursed with a good memory. It’s not that I remember EVERYTHING but what I do remember, I usually remember well. My mother once remarked that “Nalida has such a good memory, she remembers when she was in the womb.” The curse of this memory is that I can remember past hurts and the pain that goes along with them. Jesus said to forgive and pray for those who hurt and persecute us. But this has been difficult to do with the people who have caused me great pain. Priests and spiritual mentors have urged me to continue praying for those people and asking God to help me forgive and one day, it will come.
Intellectually, I can understand the importance, indeed the necessity of unburdening oneself of unforgiveness. But emotionally and spiritually, it is not that easy. Yet somehow, my daughter Nini has been given the grace to not even hold on to the hurts in the first place. She simply does not hold a grudge and is quick to forgive. And it’s not that she doesn’t understand if she has been hurt. She will be sad and say, “She hurt me. I’m sad. And that’s not nice” for instance. But then she quickly lets it go. If someone tells her sorry, she says, “That’s okay.” And she means it. She could be teased or her sister for instance hit her and when she forgives, she lets it go and goes on with her activities and her life and truly does not hold it against the person. She has the gift of being unburdened by grudges and hurts. She has the gift of being able to forgive effortlessly. And as I’ve watched her in wonder, I have not been able to understand how.
On my birthday on March 21, I took Nini to her doctor’s appointment and we talked on the way into town. She takes things literally but then sometimes she is simply uncomplicated. As I drove, I thought back to how many setbacks she has had, including one a few years ago when she was abused by a school district employee who was supposed to be providing services for autism. The summer of that year, we were in Maine for vacation and there was a woman who looked like the villain. Nini actually tapped the woman’s arm and said, “Hi ____.” It was not the woman but I was flabbergasted. She knew the woman had done something wrong. I had asked her, “Aren’t you mad at ____?” and Nini simply looked at me and answered, “No. I’m not mad.” Nini’s nature is simply to forgive.
As I reflected on this, tears ran down my cheeks. I thought, this child with all these issues is able to do what many of us cannot easily do, what Jesus did on the cross when he said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” But even then, I realized that I still couldn’t let go of some deep hurts.
In the next week or so, I was driving and listening to the Station of the Cross Radio and heard a replay of an interview with two men. One had lost a child. The other one’s child was responsible for the death. The testimony was on the Power of Forgiveness and I later purchased the CD (www.brothertobrotherministries.com). I wept when I listened to their testimony on the radio. I was so moved by the grace that the man was given to truly forgive the young woman who was responsible for his son’s death. He talked about how it was a process but that he finally was able to do it. Again, I continued to pray to the Lord to be able to do this.
Then, about a week before Palm Sunday, I was reading a Christian novel where one of the main characters had struggled with unforgiveness and holding onto and nursing grudges until is really hurt her spiritually and emotionally. I had no idea that this supposed light reading would have had this theme interwoven in the book. But it did and I couldn’t help but wonder that the Lord knows when we need to hear something because it just kept coming up.
That week, I woke up early one morning and something in my soul just said, you really just have to do it. And I agreed and said yes in my spirit. Even those who have really hurt me in the past, I said to myself, I will let the unforgiveness toward them go. Then I felt a nudge in my spirit saying, even the woman who hurt Nini. And I immediately said “no, no” and wept quietly. My child’s pain had hurt even worse than mine. But another thought came in reply, yes she is your child but you have to forgive just as she is able to forgive. But I still could not. I just redirected my thoughts elsewhere and did not think of it again.
Then on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, something happened, not of my own doing but by God’s grace. I woke up and could hear my children quietly in the house. I felt so grateful to God for all three of them. I smiled as I thought that Nini was probably checking in on her baby brother in his room as she is now always looking out for him. I heard him giggle and something broke inside of me. I began to weep quietly, not wanting to wake my husband. I went to the bathroom and showered and continued to weep. I couldn’t stop. I finally felt the deep heaviness lift from my chest and begin to leave my soul. I silently wept and kept saying, “I forgive you_____” adding all the names that I could remember, even the one who had hurt Nini. I finally remembered what a spiritual mentor had told me years ago when she asked me why it was that I carried those heavy burdens when all I needed to do was hand them to the Lord and he would unburden me. I finally received the grace to begin to forgive and unburden myself.
So, in that final week of Lent, instead of my becoming more deeply knowledgeable on theology, God instead gave me the grace that I needed—to begin unburdening my soul and begin truly forgiving so that my journey could continue on the right path toward Him. And I’m still amazed that one vessel that the Lord used was my little girl with her beautiful soul to guide me in this part of my journey.