This is a cross post from another blog, Financial Eldercare Abuse Observed.
This Sunday was my monthly visit to my husband's church and the sermon topic was taken from Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 12: 9-21; Colossians 3:13, forgiveness. Sonya, my sister in law, did something horrible. She stole and she lied. She inadvertently placed a burden on her brother, because conservatorships are a huge expensive PITA, that constantly set him up for failure. Eldercare abuse takes years off of the victims and in my eyes her actions killed her mother. I also know that I will forgive her. This was the sermon I needed to hear.
First the pastor defined what forgiveness was not. It is not forgetting. As long as we can remember this episode we will remember. However, my husband is taking on my aunt's (and mother's) habit of 'selective memory' as a coping mechanism. I remember too much. It is not denying pain. And there is pain. Some of the pain is part of the lies told by Sonya regarding other things, such as her children's custody. I can attest to the financial pain. We used funds from our emergency fund to pay for the lawyers for the conservatorship. Money set aside to cover our mortgage was taken to pay for my mother in law's medications. My mother in law, like my husband, can get some things very close to the vest, but there were hints that she was hurt by her daughter Sonya, and probably felt betrayed. Forgiveness is not denying there are consequences. Pardon is optional. It seems my husband has given Sonya pardon by not pursuing pressing charges against her as the conservator of his mother and her estate. I highly doubt he will before the statute of limitations runs out. His mother is dead. The credit bureaus, Social Security, Kaiser Mid-Atlantic, the bank, CalSTRs, and everyone who needed to know, have been informed she is dead. Her death was a consequence of what her daughter did. The money Sonya spent on trips to Wal-Mart and Ubers for her son, was not there to fix her mother's teeth, That would have been $8,000. The money used to support Sonya and her lifestyle was not there to allow her brother to place their mother back at the Atria, and thus she had to rot in the cheapest accommodation in San Jose, where there was nothing left to do but wait for death and watch TV. Forgiveness does not mean you have to trust the person. Loss of trust was another consequence of this whole episode and it unfortunately globed on to other people. Most of the time my husband is a very trusting guy, maybe too trusting. He does not trust his sister, There are some other family members who were bit players, and innocents who are seen with a bit of distrust as well. He's not sure if they are in league with or under the influence of Sonya. And there are those we know weren't siding with Sonya and were also hurt by her, that my husband is not too sure of either. I don't like this side of him, it makes him seem paranoid. We don't trust Sonya, she has lied too much. Forgiveness does not mean you have to like the person. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. Love meaning wanting the best for them. We want Sonya to get the professional mental health services she needs, and we want her to stick with a good program. We want her to keep a job and serve her clients by being dependable. We want her to marry someone who can help provide stability for her remaining minor child, or at least learn to love herself and not feel that she needs a man around. Lastly, forgiveness does not mean you throw out justice. An injustice was done. A woman who trusted her daughter to care for her, gave that daughter access to her nest egg and made herself vulnerable. That daughter took advantage and has not been made to answer for the crime of financial elder abuse. That sense of injustice is why I wrote the blog, Financial Eldercare Abuse Observed.
But then what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is letting go of the anger and bitterness. This is slowly happening. It happens with my husband because of that 'selective memory'. By going over the financials, I think it is getting out of my system. Sonya is more than likely homeless, due to her mental illness and inability to support herself, I can't really punish her more than what life has already done. Forgiveness is not bringing it up again. We are commanded to stop treating the person like they still owe the debt. She couldn't pay the debt even if she got her life together and if by some crazy miracle she got a million dollars, who would she pay the debt to? The victim is dead. We can't un-cremate my mother in law and bring her back to life with all the money in the world. Forgiveness is giving G-d the ultimate vengeance. We are all sinners. I believe Sonya will have to answer to the Father, even if she doesn't believe in him. There is another point but it doesn't fit neatly so I'm leaving it off.
Jesus has forgiven us for the heap of sin we placed on him and that he washed away with his blood. Like the servant in Matthew 18, we owe a huge debt that we could never repay* and it has been forgiven. We can stand to forgive others who, comparatively owe us a smaller debt. I will forgive Sonya as we continue to clean up the mess she made and the damage done.
*Debt is one way of seeing it, trespass is another, but let's go with debt since we're hanging with the Presbyterians.