07/08/2014 05:20 pm ET Updated Sep 07, 2014

The Gift of Forgiveness

Dana and I broke up Labor Day weekend when I caught him in a lie. It wasn't the first, but I swore it would be the last. I asked him to leave the house we'd shared.

For months he pursued me doggedly, swearing he'd changed; I did not believe him.

Then he got sick. A chronic disease caught up with him, one he'd ignored for years. There was talk of a kidney transplant, then the discovery of advanced coronary artery disease. I took him to doctor's appointments and to hospitals for tests. In waiting rooms and in between blood draws, we talked about faith and family, illness and death.

Five months after the breakup, and in the throes of his medical issues, he asked again for one more chance. "Just give me a month," he said. "What have we got to lose? It's only time."

After months of rejection, I think we were both surprised when I said, "OK." He left my house and from my driveway posted to Facebook, "This is the best day of my life!" He downloaded the song of the same name from iTunes and told his friends and family that he'd been forgiven.

We had a lovely dinner out that night and then went our separate ways, with plans to get together on Sunday. He wanted to go to church, for the first time in years.

Sunday morning arrived, but without the usual barrage of "I love you" texts I'd come to expect upon waking. I tried to reach him by phone, but did not get a response. Our 10 a.m. meeting time came and went. I was collecting my keys to drive to his house when his brother called me.

"Dana's had a heart attack," he said. "We're on our way to Leahy Clinic."

He did not wake up. After five days, the doctors confirmed our worst fears: He never would. We prepared to let him go, but he arrested again and removed the burden of that decision from us.

At the funeral, people I'd never met told me how much Dana had loved me, how all he talked about were his children and me. They expressed amazement at the fact that we'd reunited just two days before his heart attack.

His mother told me that his worst fear was that he would die without me having forgiven him. Some said I'd given him a gift by forgiving him.

I don't know what made me say OK on that Friday. But I know the gift wasn't only for Dana. It was also for me.