There is a story from WWI where a German soldier marries a wealthy Australian woman after the war. They try to start a new life, build a family, and leave the war behind but are harassed and threatened by the locals who fought in the war to the point of fearing for their lives. The Light Between The Oceans is a film about their story.
Without revealing the story, Frank, the German soldier, is asked by his wife if he feels resentment towards their harassers and he replies by saying: "You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day, all the time. You have to keep remembering the bad things. It's too much work."
Life is hard enough to live through once when bad things happen, but to burden ourselves with resentment is a layer of suffering that we can do without.
The other consideration is just how much bandwidth do we have? If we use our mental and spiritual energy to feed our resentments -- what is left for love, gratitude, and joy?
Now, that brings us to forgiveness. What does it mean to forgive? Mary Queen of Scots said about Queen Elizabeth "I will forgive, but I won't forget." This is not forgiveness, but forgiveness lite. The kind of forgiveness that keeps a little piece of resentment for later just in case the opportunity arises to resurrect the past.
I like to call this the "Library of Congress Approach To Forgiveness." That is, if an upset comes up between two people who've had an upset in the past one (or both) of them reserves the right to bring the whole library of the past "offenses" into the present.
That is a recipe for not only destroying your own mind, but also the relationships around you.
To forgive is to let go of the past. Release it. And by letting it go you acknowledge that it no longer has a hold on you. You not only let the past go, but you free yourself from the pernicious influence the past has on your life.
Queries I am considering today are:
Memorial Minute for M. Elisabeth Grace
4/28/1934 – 2/7/2018
Memorial Meeting under the care of Old Chatham Meeting 4/14/18
It is a challenge to choose words in giving tribute to one whose legacy includes many examples of an incomparable writing skill. We in Old Chatham Meeting can only offer gratitude for the many years in which Elisabeth Grace was present among us, sharing her wit and her words in a manner that entertained, educated, challenged us as she quietly modeled an exemplary life.
A Friend since 1958, Elisabeth contributed to the life of Old Chatham Meeting in many ways after settling in Columbia County in 1975. Serving on a number of committees over the years as well as acting as clerk of the Meeting, she contributed to the spiritual life of the meeting through vocal ministry and participation in worship sharing. As a member of Ministry and Counsel, Elisabeth utilized her professional listening skills in supporting others on their spiritual journeys. We learned about the disruption and displacement of war when she spoke of her growing-up years in England during the 1940’s. On work days here at the meetinghouse, Elisabeth tried to convince us that the only real difference between a flower and a weed is location! In her service on the Bob Bacon Memorial Fund, Elisabeth brought her concern for families and especially for LGBTQ folk who were experiencing discrimination and turmoil. And, as president of the board of Friends Burial Ground at Rayville, she was first to arrive for work days, lending her energy and insight to our many restoration and improvement efforts.
It is hard to recall Elisabeth’s life in Columbia County without also remembering that of Kate Dunham, her life partner of 33 years until Kate’s death in 2006. For many years, they co-authored “The Birders’ Corner,” a weekly column in the Chatham Courier. They worked together in the Columbia County Land Conservancy and in the Alan Devoe Bird Club, where they built and maintained trails, led bird walks, and contributed to the newsletter.
Many Old Chatham Friends and neighbors were present for Elisabeth’s 65th birthday celebration at Powell House, and will always remember her delighted amazement when a Scottish bagpiper began playing outside the ballroom windows – a surprise arranged by Kate and a telling example of their devotion to each other. Their compassion for and commitment to protecting and feeding wildlife is legendary, as exemplified by the many bird feeders around their home and also in “Ode to Badger,” a tender tribute to a woodchuck who dined each day in the garden.
In recent years, Elisabeth generously shared her time and her trained therapy dog, Cole, in visits to schools, hospitals, and nursing homes. A member of writing groups, she sometimes read her work on public radio, and she was committed to helping other elders to continue living independently.
Elisabeth’s last gift to Old Chatham Meeting was the opportunity to be present with her in her final weeks as she journeyed through the agony of pancreatic cancer. Those among us who offered a ministry of presence to Elisabeth are blessed by that experience, and will join with others for the interment of ashes at Rayville one spring day when the bluebirds have returned to their box and the flowering shadblow tree which Elisabeth planted is in full bloom over the bench inscribed ‘Kate Dunham and Elisabeth Grace.’
Composed by Lyle Jenks, Approved by OCMM at our May Meeting for Business
My partner Phoenix, a Reiki Master, attended to a person dying in Albany Memorial Hospital recently to ease her transition. The next morning she awoke to a really bad headache.
I cradled her head in my hands and as I brought healing to the situation I asked her if she had shielded herself as the portal of death opened. She said no. The call was so sudden and the time frame was so narrow she just began the work there was to do.
That experience got me to thinking about portals as I sat meditating on a message in meeting. There are so many portals we pass through in life between the portal of birth into life and the portal of death as we make our final exit. I'd considered how many times I'd stood on the threshold of change wondering whether I'd pass through that gate into a new experience or just stay put.
I began to consider how many times I'd knocked on doors wanting to get through and found those doors locked or just inoperable. Times I found myself waiting in a holding pattern for something to shift like the tumblers in a lock. Sometimes that door would swing open as soon as I approached the threshold and sometimes it would take years to pass through that opening.
We Quakers are fond of saying: "proceed as the way opens" but we must also be prepared for "holdings" and "closings." That in-between waiting period when it seems like nothing is happening can be massively frustrating, but what if that time is preparation? What if that time is getting ready for the next opening?
As Phoenix's headache subsided after energy healing to restore balance, I realized that all of us are on the precipice of some threshold so it is important to be gentle. I had a window into Phoenix's experience, but I won't have that luxury with most people.
The queries I am contemplating today are:
1. What portal am I on the threshold of passing through now?
2. Do I want to pass through that portal? If not, what is stopping me?
3. What doors open freely for me? Which ones are stuck?
4. What preparation am I engaged in RIGHT NOW waiting for that next portal?
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