I remember Margery swinging gently on the porch swing of the old lodge at Camp Unistar, the Unitarian family summer camp on Cass Lake in northern Minnesota where, when my wife and I were in our mid-thirties, we would bring our two young daughters for a week of good spirited lake fun and fellowship while someone else cooked.
Margery, unmarried in her late forties, taught third graders and, even at the camp, seemed to dress schoolteacher crisply in a blouse, slacks and sandals. Pinned to her blouse was a little red apple brooch and she wore her dark hair in an apt pageboy. She had an ability to look anyone in the face with the same accepting, reassuring and expectant smile, and knowing eyes. When she was with children, she would automatically kneel down next to them to listen and speak.
It was late afternoon on the porch, the old wood damp and smelling of years of fun, warm wind moving the trees, with sounds of laughter coming from the lake. There were intermittent quick pads on the steps, with the screen door yawning open and shut, young ones traipsing through on their way toward the beckoning kitchen smells, and Margery following their movement, ready with her smile when they looked her way.
Then she turned back to our conversation. I don’t remember what we were talking about. Probably, I was being confessional. Like many others, because of who she was, I wanted to tell her everything. I don’t remember what the issue of the moment was, but I’ll never forget her question in response, “Can you forgive?”
The seeking and granting of forgiveness is part of the Prepare/Enrich curriculum we use in our coaching sessions, obviously necessary for the maintenance of a good relationship. Psychotherapist Terrence Real says relationships are always going through three cycles; harmony, disharmony and repair. Forgiveness is useful in that repair cycle. Minneapolis author and spiritual teacher Mary Hayes Grieco has good material on forgiveness. In her book, Unconditional Forgiveness, she details what she calls her Eight Steps to Freedom. I met her at a party once, introduced myself, and explained that sometimes I found forgiving difficult and that often I would much prefer staying a victim. She smiled and agreed, saying victimhood is tantalizing, but it’s not where the action is.
I would see Margery at church, where I would always seek and get her smile. Sometimes we would chat at coffee after the service. Then, one September after returning from summer, I noticed she was gone. I asked a friend of hers, another church lady, and was told that Margery had met a man and fallen in love, had quit teaching and was traveling with him around the world.
There were maybe two years when we would go to church on Sundays – intermittently as we did, I would feel Margery’s absence and imagine her on her world adventure with her love. Then came an announcement in the church bulletin. Margery had died and there would be a memorial service for her.
The auditorium was packed. We tried to dress well. It is so interesting how we all looked into each other’s faces, looking for Margery, and seemed to find her in each other.
I don’t have it now and don’t know exactly what she wrote, but as I remember – printed at the bottom of the program, in italics, was this short message from Margery:
Dear Everyone, Thank you for being in my life. I hope you remember how important it is to forgive. Thank you for your love. I love you all.
©2015 Cristopher Anderson, All Rights Reserved
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