Sometimes it’s easier to feel angry.
It’s easier to feel angry than it is to admit how much you miss her.
It’s easier to feel angry than it is to stare at that urn with its Chinese markings and to know that your British grandmother died from a razor and a broken heart.
Nanny lived next door to Mum and Dad. She’d moved from England to Canada in 1996 so my Mum could take care of her.
But in 1999, Dad was told he was being transferred.
Nanny didn’t want to move. She told my parents as much. My parents told her they had no choice, but they would make sure to take care of her and find her a good place to live near them.
Then they left to scout out the place they would be moving to.
A few days after their return, Nanny told them not to come and visit until late in the afternoon.
That’s when my mum found her, dead in the bathtub. No note.
I was away at Bible School but I flew home for the Memorial Service at Richard’s Landing United Church, in June, and I could barely look at the urn for how angry I was at Nanny for hurting Mum. For how Mum could never remember Nanny telling her she loved her, or that she was beautiful.
And now, even after Mum had faithfully visited and cared for Nanny, daily, because Mum was a believer now and hoped that through her actions Nanny would fall in love with Jesus too–she’d been hurt, again.
Three years after finding her mother in the bathtub, a cancerous tumor appeared on my mum’s brain.
And three years after the tumor was found, I moved home from Korea, where my husband and I were teaching English, to take care of my mum who, when she was awake, sometimes didn’t even remember how to dress herself or go to the bathroom.
After returning home, I read an article that said cancerous tumors can form as a result of suppressed mental stress. I don’t know that the stress from Nanny’s suicide caused Mum’s tumor. It most likely didn’t. But reading that article didn’t help my relationship with my deceased grandmother.
And one particular day I was running. I was crying because Mum hadn’t woken up for three days and I was sick of being angry but it was all I had.
Why??? I asked God. Why did this have to happen? When will you heal Mum? And will I ever be able to forgive Nanny?
I know Nanny, while never diagnosed, probably battled depression. I also know that her father was cruel and abusive, and that she spent most of her childhood in a hospital because of a bone infection that left scars across her body. So she never believed she was beautiful. And I ached for that little girl because I understood her. I understood how it felt to not think you were lovable. But my empathy for Nanny wasn’t enough to overcome the pain she’d inflicted on my own mother.
I know, as Christians, we’re supposed to forgive. But forgiveness can seem so unjust. I just didn’t have it humanly in me.
And then, as I was running, I saw my Nanny, for the first time since before she’d died. I saw her with the eyes of my soul, and she was dancing in heaven, and Mum was dancing with her, and they were laughing.
I curled up on the running path and just held myself for awhile.
Because grace takes your breath away like that.
I couldn’t forgive my nanny.
But God could.
And so I asked him to give me the gift of forgiveness for my grandmother.
And I unwrapped that gift slowly on the path that day, considering that Nanny might be in heaven, that maybe God had met her in those final minutes in the bathtub just like he’d met the man who was dying on the cross and said Today, you will be with me in Paradise.
And all of that anger just kind of drained out of me, and I ran the narrow path home that day.
Anger is a crossroads. When we come to it, we have a choice. We can take the wider path to bitterness and revenge, the path that makes sure we never get hurt again. Or we can let Jesus take us on the narrow path, the one that leads to forgiveness and joy.
Let’s, by the pure grace of God, choose joy.
(Please know, I have been there. I have been tempted to end my life because I’ve felt it’s the most generous offering I can give . I’m on anti-depressants, and I know how much they’ve helped. So please know, I am not judging–just sharing a personal journey. Yours is most likely different, and I would love to hear your side of things, too. And–after eight years of battling brain cancer, doctors have said my mum’s tumor is gone. She will never be the same, but she is daily recovering and we’re all celebrating the miracle that is her life.)
Have you found forgiveness difficult? How did you deal with the pain of loss?
[Photo: VinothChandar, Creative Commons]