"Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness."
If someone had told me, even just a few years ago, that my ex husband and I would be able to sit down together in a restaurant and share a meal, ask each other questions, have a comfortable conversation, laugh about old times, take a selfie together to send to our daughter and then hug and say goodbye with love and compassion, I would have thought they were on some kind of hallucinogen.
It would have been completely impossible to imagine.
When we went to divorce court, he sat on a bench with his attorney and I sat on a bench with mine (and at least two of my closest friends, who accompanied me to the court each time I had to go... that is a good friend). He and I barely looked at each other. We had a horrible divorce, on a scale of 1 being easy and 10 being the worst, we were definitely an 8 ½. Divorce practically did me in. I had no idea going into it that it could be so painful. I had seen how hard it was for friends of mine over the years, and seen all the movies, but I honestly (and naively) thought we would be different. Neither of us had cheated on each other, or embezzled any money. We just grew apart and we both wanted the divorce and knew that it was time for us to go our separate ways. And still, somehow in my subconscious at least (he can speak for himself), I felt abandoned. Betrayed. Alone. It was not a fun time, those first two years. I also lost my mother and a few other important things like my job. It was a mess any direction you looked in my life. But losing the person who had, for over 23 years, been my ally, my close friend, my partner in everything -- raising our daughter, negotiating life, handling crises -- and then an abrupt separation and all of that gone, it was like someone had flipped a switch and I was suddenly completely in the dark. I cried probably more than I had in my entire life and that was incredibly painful (though finally it was good because it was healing).
Then a couple of years ago, one of our two beloved dogs, Lola, got ill and I wrote to tell him that she had cancer and wasn't going to make it. Though he lives 3,000 miles away and hadn't seen her in a few years, he was devastated. He called me and said, "You gave her the best life she could have had." I could hardly believe my ears -- but grateful for the kind words.
When Lola died, he was heartbroken, just as I was. Just as our daughter was.
It was the first crack in the iceberg, the beginning of a shift.
Before we could really connect though, I had a lot of work to do. Forgiveness. I did a lot of reading and meditating about forgiveness and though it felt impossible at first, I kept remembering the saying, "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Who was I hurting with my anger? Only myself. I was poisoning my own life.
One day, almost exactly two years ago, I learned that my ex husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. Stage 4. I was stunned. I can't even remember how I learned about it -- either from my daughter or from him, but I was heartbroken and I couldn't imagine my daughter losing her father or me losing someone who had played such a major role in my life, someone I still cared about. And yet, I knew it happens every day.
We spoke and as he went through his first round of chemo, which practically killed him, I tried to keep in touch and prayed for him to survive. I'm not that big on prayer, but in this case, it felt right. I can honestly admit that during the divorce, occasionally I prayed for some not very kind things to happen to him, but now I wanted him to live. We kept in touch and he ended up surviving what his doctor told him was the worst reaction to chemo he'd ever seen -- and the best results.
Two years later, a couple of lunches together, a brunch with our daughter, many texts and phone calls -- we are friendly. I do wish him a long life. He is doing well, thanks to a regimen of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet, exercise, on and off treatment, he is having a pretty good life and so am I. Our lives will forever be entwined because of our love for our daughter. We lost our second dog, Lucy, around the same time he was diagnosed and that was also devastating, but again, we connected with love and compassion for each other.
Isn't that what life is ultimately about? You marry someone and there is love and I know that sometimes it's impossible to get past the betrayal and the very deep hurt -- but sometimes it is possible.
And what a gift to our daughter, who doesn't have to choose between us, or be in the middle -- she can just say, "these are my parents and I love them both and they love me."