Sunday, October 19, 2014


"Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace, it shouldn't be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice." Corazon Aquino

It’s happened to me twice in the past year. Two times in one year when all the years before have included oh so many breaking relationships, a family strewn apart over words and hate, scattered across states and out of each other’s lives. My experience coming from a troubled family is that things broke apart more often than they came back together.

But this year, in just the past months, two times I’ve experienced the reconciliation of a broken relationship.
This is new to me. And it felt very outside of me. Both began by an internal preparation. In one case, the person was on my mind for days, and I felt such a great sense of missing her, despite not living near each other for years. Then out of nowhere, days later, her name appeared in my Facebook inbox requesting to be friends with me. Friends! Healing followed.  
And the other one was much closer to home – a broken relationship with my sister that had lasted for over a decade. But the reconciliation began with the same prompting. I couldn’t get her out of my mind, couldn’t stop feeling sad – for her and that our lives may continue on with this distance until one of us passed away. No goodbye, no forgiveness expressed, no reconciliation.
So without telling a soul, I decided to write a very simple letter saying that I have always loved her. I had no specific expectations for a return response, and I didn’t want to send the note until I knew it was traveling through the mail without any conditions attached.
My sister is seven years younger than me and basically grew up in a different home. I had a two-parent family where we had dinner together each night, however chaotic those family times turned out to be. My sister grew up with divorced or separated parents with siblings who had flown the nest. In my case, I rarely showed my face around there once I had moved out of state.
After a pretty strong disagreement over my choice to keep my unhealthy mother at a distance, my sister and I were estranged. I believe today there are legitimate reasons for relationships to break, and the break with my family was legitimate, but the estrangement did not come without great grief and a sense of loss. I have now spent over a decade learning how to allow hurt and suffering to be something that transforms us for the good rather than destroying us, learning how to not let betrayal eat at your soul. This is possible. So is forgiveness  - but sometimes from a distance. We do not have the ability to force people to love us or be faithful to us, but we do have control over how we treat them in response.
My sons spent those years with no extended family from my side. My older son married with no one from my family in attendance. He was offered the choice to invite them but declined. Occasionally a son would ask, “Do you think they ever think of me?” I don’t remember my answer at the time, but my sister has recently said, “Yes, I thought of them all the time.”

Not everyone will experience reconciliation in their broken relationships. Parents die without removing a curse of mean-spirited words. Divorces become final – and remain final. Friendships end over small and large disagreements.
And there are some relationships in our lives that should remain broken. If there isn’t going to be mutual trust, respect, and love, along with a lack of abuse, the relationship may be toxic to our health. There are certain words and behaviors which cannot be tolerated, and we can force no one to change.
But it never hurts to reach out, for what might be a final word, with an expression of love.
My childhood friend experienced the trauma of telling her father she hated him (which she did not) after the family found out about his affair. He committed suicide in their garage shortly after, and those became her last words to him. When I’ve gone to her about writing a note or expressing love to someone in a risky situation, she replied once, “Telling someone you love them is never wrong.”  
So I’ll celebrate – for hearing that still small voice that prepared me for healing – and for the willingness for all parties involved to step in and offer an olive branch of reconciliation. May we all express more love with no conditions attached. Peace to each and every one of you.

Every act of love is an act of peace, no matter how small. - Mother Teresa