It's been a while since I've written about Grampie, whose dementia has been progressing at a fairly swift clip. We notice it, of course. It was surprisingly clear how far he'd diminished in the month our Finns were with us when he went from being able to identify each person's name when they arrived to barely recognizing them by the time they left. It's possible that the stress and pace of the visit contributed to his decline but I walked the same road with my mother whose life was much quieter than the last month has been for Grampie...er, all of us.
However, the change in Grampie hit a place we've been dreading yesterday. We've been waiting for it and dreading it all at once. We got a very tearful phone call from Thyrza who had just talked to Grampie. He's been telling us from the last couple of weeks that he wants to ask Thyrza if he can marry this new 'girlfriend' of his. And each time we've changed the subject, distracted him. You can imagine the drill. But apparently when we weren't there to distract him, he had someone help him call Thyrza and he actually did ask her. And because she suffers from her own form of dementia and, therefore, believes everything he tells her, thought he didn't love her anymore. Was terribly hurt. You can imagine.
It took both of us, a whole lot of re-inforcing what her daughter has already been telling her, to help her calm down. She doesn't know this man, she told me. "Exactly," I said. "You don't know this man. The man who sits in that wheelchair and says such things to you, is NOT the same man you married." It's a hard thing, but she has to come to terms with this man who bears only a passing resemblance to that tall, honorable giant she shared 18 years with.
After I got off the phone I got to thinking about how he's hurt her. That wasn't his intention, of course. He has no malevolent motive here at all. He knows that Thyrza is important in his life, important enough that he wants her permission. But despite his not meaning to, she was/is hurt by his words and his actions (of having this 'girlfriend').
When we think about forgiving others, we tend to think in terms of them asking for our forgiveness. And about the motives of those we struggle to forgive. We usually assume wrong intent toward us. I do, anyway. But what if (and perhaps this is more often the case) we are hurt accidentally or because the other person is thinking about themselves rather than us. What if we just plain aren't the center of the other person's world so their neglect of us is what hurts us most? Then I think of the words of the prayer Jesus taught His disciples: "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us."
So what's Jesus saying? Well, for one thing, there's not a word about motive. Jesus didn't hang on the cross only for those who knew they'd sinned. He hung on the cross for all who'd sinned. Our recognizing our sinfulness was not a prerequisite for His dying. Maybe it's a prerequisite for our salvation but even at that, it's already been accomplished. My point is, He doesn't care about why we sin, He only knows we do and did/does something about it. Secondly, we are asked to forgive as HE forgives not as others forgive us. Our call to forgive is not in comparison to other humans but to God Incarnate. And He forgives lavishly. Without conditions. AND, for good. For always. Not bringing it up again, because, after all, that's not really forgiveness at all. Is it?
I didn't tell Thyrza any of this. Beve and I told her to let the words, even in that familiar voice, slide off. And we told her to remember the essential Grampie, the real one, the one who loved her, who brought her flowers and called her, "my Bride," and who'd surely be sorry...if he only knew.
But for me, learning to forgive AS I've been forgiven--that's a good lesson for this, or any, day.