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The Long Road to Forgiveness

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

Dear Anna,

I'm supposed to be writing about how I forgive you, but I think we both know that neither of us is ready for that letter yet. We may never be.

The truth is, I can't say that I forgive you. I can't say it and mean it. It doesn't feel right in that deep down place where my gut clenches around all my untruths and half-truths and outright lies. It doesn't feel real.

I also can't say that I blame you. At least ... not entirely. I have divided my blame into equal serving sizes. I clutch one bit to my chest, and lay another at the feet of the doctor who told me her heart was fine. I give a portion to the nurse who performed her physical two days before, and the insurance company who wouldn't cover the sleep study that was ordered. And I save a bit for the school and the government that demanded a vaccine that may be entirely blameless but feels like a smoking gun to me.

The rest I toss at anyone who ever looked the other way when a child's heart was skipping, who tries to reiterate again and again how "rare" this is, who can't be bothered to wheel an EKG machine down a hall and spend two minutes taking a reading "just in case", who otherwise dismisses, minimizes, or overlooks symptoms that are benign in one chest and fatal in another.

And then there's that smear I reserve for the world at large. Because fuck anyone who's breathing when my baby girl isn't.

I know that last bit isn't fair. Nothing about this experience is fair. But the fury in me isn't concerned with fair. It just wants to protect her, even though it's too late for that.

So, no. I can't say that I forgive you. But here's what I can say instead.

I don't want to kill you ... most days. And believe it or not, that's progress. You and I both know it wasn't like that at the beginning. It wasn't like that for a very long time.

I don't hate you. I hate what happened. I always will. But I know you hate it too. I know you wanted anything and everything but that.

We're on the same side of this shit storm, you and I. I guess that makes us allies if not friends. It may not sound like much, but it's a place to start.

And I'm so deeply, unbelievably, tragically, desperately sorry. I know you are too. If we could stack the sorry up on top of itself, we could build a ladder to heaven and bring her back. We could cast whole mountain ranges out of our sorry and still have enough left over to make a bridge to the sun. We could pave a highway across the universe in our sorry.

Too bad sorry doesn't count for anything.

People act like forgiveness is a choice. Like it's a decision you make and with a snap of your Mary Poppins fingers, all is well again. I've never found forgiveness to work like that. Forgiveness is a journey. The first step is being willing to say you're open to try. That's it. It sounds easy, but the rest of the road is full of crooked stones and scraped knees, tender feet and briar hedges, roadblocks and dead ends, hungry wolves and hiding bandits. If you're lucky, one day you look up and realize you passed that destination three turns back, and your pack has been lighter ever since.

While I can't say I forgive you, I can say I'm willing to try. I'm taking that first step. It's gonna suck, the rest of this road. I hope you know that. But I'll walk it anyway. Because we know all about the suck, don't we? I don't know if we have enough years left to make our destination. And frankly, I don't care. The walking should count for something, even if the sorry doesn't.

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