What happens if you didn’t have the chance to say you’re sorry to someone who has died?
This happened to my friend, Lily. She never got along with her mother-in-law, Vivian. Vivian was—well, Vivian. A bit of a know-it-all, someone who always knew better than everyone around her about everything from architecture to zoology. Lily wasn’t sorry when Vivian died. But years later, upon quiet introspection, Lily realized she could have been nicer, warmer, and more accepting. Vivian was her teacher, really, because Lily began to see a little bit of Vivian in herself. Didn’t she judge other people, too? Didn’t she stray into criticism when she could be more accepting? Didn’t she offer advice when nobody had asked for it?
You know that expression: if you point your forefinger at someone else, three fingers are pointed back at you.
Lily wanted to make amends to Vivian for not treating her as respectfully as she could have. But Vivian was long gone. So here’s the question: How do you apologize to someone who is no longer around?
She asked the universe to help her find a way to make amends. Lily decided to put it out there and to be ready. She wanted to be extra nice to every Vivian she met. Not long after, Lily met a woman who lived down the street who turned out to be named…Vivian. (Don’t you love the way the cosmos arranges things?) Lily asked if Vivian needed help around the house and ended up shoveling her walkway and buying her groceries now and then.
This Vivian is not that Vivian, but Lily felt she still righted part of a wrongAnd Lily also said that from now on, she will make an effort to be less judgmental and more accepting of people who remind her of her mother-in-law. And she realized it hadn’t helped her marriage to complain to her husband about his mother. Who wants to hear it?
“I also learned not to wait to say I’m sorry or to make amends with people,” Lily told me the other day. “Because I don’t want to have to say again that I figured things out when it was too late.”
Tool For Tuesday: Unfinished business? It’s never too late to find some way to right wrongs. And don’t put off saying you’re sorry until tomorrow, because tomorrow might never come.
The spark for this post came from Marylin Warner‘s thought-provoking blog, “Things I Want to Tell My Mother,” here: