I’d been mad at my cousin Judy since I was a child. I was mad at her for 50 years but in all that time I don’t think she even knew. It wasn’t a great burning hatred. I didn’t want something bad to happen to her. I just didn’t like her and told myself I would be perfectly happy if I never saw her again.
When I was growing up, our family and my aunt’s family (my mother’s sister Margaret) were close. I remember being so happy when the cousins were coming to visit or when we went to see them.After a while I wasn’t so happy. Judy was mean to me. I remember little things like jumping rope together. My sister Carla and I turned the rope while Judy jumped and Judy and I turned the rope while Carla jumped but when it was my turn to jump Judy was ready to move on to something else. Judy made it clear she preferred my sister to me causing bad feeling. It was like this every time we got together and often I was completely left out. Sometimes Judy indicated she wanted to hug me. I was so happy but at the last minute she would say or do something hurtful and of course no hug. I always wondered why she didn’t like me.
Last fall I took a flight to San Antonio to visit my Aunt Margaret who is 94 years old and was diagnosed with heart problems. My aunt had sent me a card asking me to come visit her since it had been quite a while since she’d seen me. So I did.
When my sisters and I arrived at our aunt’s little apartment my cousin Judy came to greet us as we got out of the car. I thought to myself, “I was hoping she wouldn’t be here.” She’s slim. I’m not. She’s beautiful. I’m not. She was dressed perfectly. I was feeling pretty dumpy. She was much the same as I remembered her. Very smiley. I’d forgotten about the dimples in her cheeks. She was bouncing around, talking fast. Same old Judy. We went inside. I sat on the couch next to Aunt Margaret and had just started talking to my aunt when Judy proceeded to tell everyone goodbye. She told her mother she would be back later. Impulsively I said, “Wait! I’ll walk you out.” So I left my aunt, my sisters and my other cousins as Judy and we went outside together. I remembering thinking, “What am I doing? Just let her go!”
Once outside I said “please don’t leave. I haven’t seen you in so long.” She told me she had a few minutes to talked. I asked about her mom. She updated me on what was going on. I said, “How are your girls?” She was happy to tell me, I asked if she has any grandchildren. She showed me pictures on her phone. I was thinking, “Same old Judy. She hasn’t asked about me or my family.”
Then she looked at me with a bit of seriousness on her face. I had a moment of concern but then she reached up and took a few wayward strands of hair that had fallen across my face and tucked them behind my ear and she smiled her beautiful smile. As it was happening I remember thinking, “This is it!” “This is all I ever wanted!” And at that moment all the bad feelings flew out of my heart. I hadn’t realized how much these feelings had been bothering me all these years but in one second my heart flooded with love and forgiveness. Gone! Gone! All gone! I felt lighter. What a joyful holy experience!
This story might have ended differently. Should I have told her how I felt all these years? Would she have told said she’s sorry? But No. We were not alone. Jesus, Our Lord who is merciful and forgiving was in our midst. Yes the story could have ended differently but I’m certain it happened exactly as God planned.
Remember this: Jesus asks the Father to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Saint Teresa of Avila tells us to look closer at the Paternoster (the Our Father). Is Jesus telling us to forgive others? No! In this perfect prayer, Jesus is assuming that we already have forgiven those who hurt us.* Forgiven them unconditionally.
*St. Teresa of Avila; The Way of Perfection; chap. 36; pg. 111