Seconds before, we engaged in a favorite pursuit of scaling, up and down, with our palms and heels, the open doorway in our kitchen. I don’t remember exactly what we needed to make up about. Most likely, we acted selfish and pushy and loud over doorway rights. (It’s amazing the avenues of adventure that TV restrictions produced in our early lives.) I do recall looking askance at my sister’s blonde-framed face and slightly challenging glare.
Mom’s unexpected intervention did not seem to suit either of us. However, our child wills vs. Mom’s left small doubt as to whose would prevail. Eyeing each other, we gingerly stepped forward. Stiff little arms thrust out, limbs askew, reaching for each other, distance lessening and gone. We mumbled contrite words, mostly to the linoleum floor. And, closer, closer drawn into that tight embrace and two tiny hearts thudding with the effort. I recall her soft cheeks, her hair brushing against my younger face and her, “Sorry Heidi”. My, “sorry,” also whispered loud enough for Mom to hear, but certainly strained with emotion. Then, settling back, slowly letting go, and our faces had relaxed, muscles no longer tense…we could begin again.
It was hard to say “it”…to say, “Sorry”! It wasn’t perfectly said or perfectly felt, but the effects changed our day and hardening hearts. Today, years after, praying before the Eucharist, I ponder this mystery of forgiveness. Was it in this young, life lesson that I really began to experience and understand forgiveness? It doesn’t always feel automatic or cozy or easy. What about now, that I am “grown up” and in some ways, less flexible and free in reaching for another?
How do I forgive now or ask forgiveness? Could it be that through the tangle of arms and stiffness, if I reach, I’ll discover another heart thudding next to mine? A heart resembling my own, brimming with personal battles, triumphs, joys and sorrows. Maybe a heart not sure it is REALLY loved, until it feels my heartbeats too. The heartbeats of a sister! Because, after all, isn’t it true that deep down we are all each other’s sisters and brothers? Am I not my sister’s and brother’s keeper?
So, those little things of my “little” life, like a hug to make amends, bring me into the heart of the mystery of forgiving and life. And now, with anyone I’ve hurt who I need to hug, even in a seeming impenetrable distance, through the power of the Eucharist, I can reach for them. Really, she and everyone is only an arm’s length away. Jesus, please give me arms that reach, inside of arms frozen at my side!