All that God asks is that the heart should be cleansed from sin, full of love, whether it be the tender heart of a little child, with feeble powers of loving, or of the full-grown man.
The summer after my father died, my mother and I took an afternoon walk, making our way through the cemetery where my dad was buried. The cemetery is divided in two – one side for Protestants and the other for Catholics. A silver fence made of heavy-duty industrial pipe separates them. As we prepared to navigate the divide, my mom took hold of the pipe and stretched her leg across it like a ballet dancer doing her barre exercises. As she did, she said that it reminded her of dance school when she was a girl.
“What? You took ballet lessons?” I asked with surprise. I made her tell me all about it. I was 39 years old, and I'd never known. It was one of those sweet moments that I’ll remember forever. As I reflected on it, the beauty and sadness of it were ever so tightly entwined. You see, the piece of advice my mom had shared with me – “You keep your backpack closed” – had also been shared with her by her mother. But not only were the difficulties and pains kept zipped up in the backpack, the joys and delightful moments were too. A tragic loss.
I never took ballet lessons, but when I was all grown up and had opportunities to watch others gracing the floor in pointe shoes, my heart was captivated. I’m a little too old for it now, but I am delighted that I have a darling niece who dances in The Nutcracker at Christmastime, and I hope to dance vicariously one day through my granddaughter, who is often seen sporting a tutu and practicing her spins and twirls.
Nine short years after my father died, my precious mom suffered a stroke. She worked hard to overcome the battle. With the exception of losing her driver’s license and car, she managed to remain independent. My all-time favorite memory with my mom happened at a car wash, of all places. Had she not lost her license and car, I probably would have been alone at the car wash and missed the memory.
It was in springtime, when waiting lines at the wash are quite long here in Minnesota: everyone wants to get rid of winter’s salt and grime. Once you are in the line-up and cars start filing in behind you, you don’t have a lot of options. So we waited. And we visited.
As we talked, my mom made a comment that shocked me: She said she wished she and my father had chosen differently about a major life change, 45 years earlier. I gently scolded her and spoke the words from an aphorism that immediately came to my mind: "If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas.”
The saying made her laugh. I wanted her to remember it, so I turned it into a song and sang it repeatedly with her until she had it memorized. We were having so much fun, I forgot about the line, and someone behind us honked. We continued singing our silly tune as we entered the wash bay and my car got lost under a thick coat of rainbow-colored soap.
I glanced over at my mom seated next to me, and I saw a little girl there, singing a new song with her eyes sparkling. Every ounce of hurt and pain locked away in my heart from days gone by melted away and ran down the drain with the rainbow soap that day. Love washed over my heart and loosed the chains.
Forgiveness was forever complete – the way it is supposed to be.