Shortly before my father died I began sending out a handful of texts and emails to people who I owed apologies.
It was an odd feeling to watch the replies trickle in, as well as the silences.
Some forgave quickly. One imposed impossible conditions. One called to talk. One forgave then, incredibly, asked forgiveness himself.
It’s trite but the apology and the plea for forgiveness are not for the offended but for the offender. Whether given or refused, it’s not being forgiven that cleanses, it’s the act of getting on your knees and begging.
Those who forgive want to uplift you and to validate in themselves that they are good people, that they believe in redemption. Those who prefer to rub your nose in your own shit, or let you twist in the wind, have their reasons: the hurt was too big, the apology was too small, the protection of anger is more important than the vulnerability of forgiveness, or simply that they don’t believe in it.
But when you’ve begged, you can’t then judge or condem the victim whatever his response. Beggars can’t, in truth, be choosers.
And for my part, the act of asking was enough.
One person to whom I apologized, Rich Hirschinger, suggested that I could do it publicly. That stung but he was right. If you are willing to say “I’m truly sorry” in a whisper, you should be willing to say it in a shout.
Death isn’t an endpoint, it’s a reorganization. The person who was, is gone, and others seamlessly fill in the space he once occupied, be it a desk, a room, or the communications crackle of a phone line.
With that reorganization come new feelings and realizations, primarily sadness and regret. As one friend wrote, you become an orphan. In my case, there weren’t a lot of unsaid things between me and dad. But in the reorganization, I realized there were things unsaid to others.
As Lincoln famously said to Edwin Stanton, “The things I have said, I do not now unsay.” Because once said, it’s forever.
On the other hand, I can say to Rich and a handful of others, accepted or not, believed or not, understood or not, “I am truly sorry.”
To which he shot back these ancient Jewish words of condolence: “May your father’s memory be a blessing.”