Forgiving and Being Forgiven

by Carmelita Cochingco Ballesteros.
March 20, 2011
I didn’t get her name. For sure, she was somebody’s mother. During a meditative walk together, her daughter told me the story of her life which had been deeply influenced by her mother’s lifelong addiction – gambling. Let’s call the daughter Emma.

As Emma grew up, so did her hatred for her mother. Unlike other children’s mother who stayed at home, cooked, and doted on their children, Emma’s mother gambled – and lost – most of the time.

The husband, foolishly in love with his wife, put up with the wife’s addiction for the sake of the children. Emma said she wallowed in hatred and self-pity. She kept asking God why other children had decent mothers while she had a rotten one.

Once, Emma told her father and siblings that they should go away and leave the mother she hated alone with her addiction. But her father wouldn’t.

Emma was able to go to high school as a beneficiary of a nongovernment organization. Her siblings were not as lucky as she was.

At 15, Emma met a man 15 years older than her. She eloped with him. Let’s call him Elmer. He married Emma with her father’s blessings and her mother’s curses. But Emma was deaf to her mother’s low opinion of her. Emma thought of her mother as more rotten than the most rotten cheese or tofu or balut.

Emma and Elmer lived on their own, far from the mother she hated. Elmer was God’s gift of salvation to Emma. Elmer was an engineer and had a good job in a multinational company. He sent Emma to school till she finished a secretarial course.

Blessed with a wonderful husband and two children, Emma’s new life as a wife and mother was heaven on earth. But Elmer was not just a good husband and father. He was also a good Christian. He brought up his wife, so to speak, to become a living witness of Christ.

And so dealing with her hatred for her mother became inevitable for Emma. She said she understands the concept of forgiving and being forgiven. She understands the Lord’s Prayer which says, “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” But she could not forgive her mother.

Elmer was patient and loving and nurturing. He told Emma to persevere. Emma said she did persevere in her spiritual journey if only in appreciation of her husband’s goodness and in gratitude to God for blessing her with such lovely children and loving husband.

And so Emma re-established her ties with her mother. But her mother simply took advantage of her husband’s generosity. Her mother incurred debts left and right using Elmer’s good name and gambled in style. Emma’s hatred of her mother became deeper. The rift between them became irretrievable.

Emma said she felt guilty that Elmer could forgive her mother, and yet she, the daughter, could not. In fact, Elmer never hated Emma’s mother because Elmer was operating in the spiritual realm, way above the human level where all of us are hostage to human weaknesses.

Emma read books on sociology, psychology and spirituality. She attended recollections and retreats, read the Bible religiously, and kept a journal of conversations with God. She and Elmer heard the Holy Mass daily, and they said the rosary together. They served in church-related activities actively.

One morning when Emma woke up, she felt enveloped by the grace of forgiveness. She knew that her prayer had been heard. She fell on her knees and thanked God profoundly.
The next day, she heard the news that her mother had passed away.

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