61 Days Remaining
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I had a different life than I have now. I was married. I had three young children and was an exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed stay-at-home mother. I had a completely different set of friends and did completely different things and enjoyed completely different things. I certainly would never have imagined that I, the girl who was terrified of hospitals and couldn't handle driving past graveyards, would end up working with the elderly and dying, and washing deceased bodies to prepare them for their families to view. Nor would it have occurred to me, as a completely right-brained artistic and dramatic person, that I would ever end up getting a 95% in Math (when I finally managed to finish it, as an adult learner) or attempting to earn a Bachelor's degree in Science.
Yes, my life was filled with many things that are completely different from what I now fill my days with. One of those things was my best friend, Lori.
Lori and I were the closest of best friends. I felt as though I knew her inside and out. We loved to talk and laugh and play with the kids; she didn`t yet have any of her own and adored mine, even babysitting for them on occasion so that my husband and I could enjoy some time alone. We both loved to act and talked about our dreams to one day star in a film that would change modern cinema and have huge impact on its viewers. Occasionally, we had the chance to do background work for a movie when a film crew would come into town, and it felt as though our dreams would eventually be realized. She was a true friend to me, supporting me through all the difficult days as a young mother, and listening whenever marital problems reared their ugly heads. Her Christianity was an inspiration to me; although I considered myself to be a Christian, Lori had been raised in the church, with a large and happy family, and whose parents were still together. I longed for the stability and love that Lori had in her life, especially as my marriage was getting to feel as though it was on rockier and rockier ground. I could see that Lori had a real relationship with God, and although I had followed my husband and accepted his faith and brought it into my own life, I couldn't make that connection with Him in the personal way that Lori so obviously had. Her trust and faith and genuineness shone out from her. I loved her with all that was in me. At least, I thought I did.
For as I asked myself many, many times over the next several years, how could I love someone so very much, and still betray her?
It's so hard to look back on that time, so many years ago, and be able to accurately describe what happened and what led up to that point. I feel as though I can't outright say what happened between us, for more than one reason: for one, it doesn`t do anyone any good to rehash it; for another, it feels so far removed from me that I literally have a difficult time believing that I was capable of causing anyone - especially someone whom I loved so deeply - such pain. However, the past cannot be changed, and the fact remains: I did hurt Lori. I hurt her in a way that wounded her so deeply, I thought she could never forgive me. And our friendship was instantly, irretrievably, cut off. Through the selfishness and thoughtless actions that were almost par for the course to me in those days, I lost one of the people who meant the most to me in the entire world.
After Lori discovered my betrayal of our friendship, she immediately stopped speaking to me. As much pain as that caused me, I knew that she was in a tremendous amount of pain herself, and I longed to reach out to her. For the first while, I stopped myself, knowing that I needed to give her space, but as the days turned into weeks and then the weeks into months, I found myself creating several fantasies of how we would find each other again. She would forgive me, I knew it. She would understand that there was something crazy going on in my head (for although I was still several years away from my Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, I had felt for a long time as though I was in the control of something other than just myself) and she would open her arms and welcome me back into her life. She missed me just as much as I missed her. There was nothing that could not be forgiven. On and on I went in my mind, certain that somehow, I could make this better. At times, completely illogically, I found that I was feeling angry with her for not being able to understand how much pain I, myself, was in...and the reasons why I had it in me to do what I had done. She was my best friend - shouldn`t she understand? Shouldn't she "get" me, and forgive me as a matter of course?
But what I knew most of all was that even if I never got forgiveness from Lori, I needed to forgive myself, and I needed forgiveness from God for what I had done and how I had placed myself above everyone who was dear to me. I prayed and I stretched my spirit out, longing to feel that connection, longing to believe that God was there and that He would absolve me of all my sins. I read my Bible and tried to understand what it was within in me that had brought me to this place of misery, and how I could possibly turn my life around and never be that kind of person again. I finally put pen to paper and wrote Lori a letter of apology, praying as I wrote it that God would keep my heart sincere and that I was not just writing it in order to make things right between myself and Lori and bring them back to where they had been. I did not want to manipulate her into accepting me back into her life; I wanted to be open, honest and completely straightforward in what I said to her. I honestly wanted to recognize my responsibility for hurting her so badly, and to tell her how sorry I was for the devastation it had caused her. I poured out my heart, confessed my sins and apologized as well as I could for her pain, and asked her for her forgiveness. I told her that I was trying so hard to see God in my life and that I had asked Him to forgive me, and that I knew that despite everything in me that was still wrong, I knew that I was forgiven. I wrote, I prayed, I mailed it, and I tried to move on, and began the long, slow, difficult process of making changes in myself and in my life.
A few weeks later, a letter arrived in the mail. My hands shook as I recognized the handwriting and realized that it was from Lori. I opened the letter with my heart slamming against my sternum; the anticipation and panic almost caused me to throw the letter in a pile to open later. But I forced myself to see what she had written, and it was with a grateful heart that I saw that Lori, even in her pain, had done her best to understand where I was coming from and to tell me that yes, she believed that I was being sincere and not just trying to have the last word. The tears in my eyes became heaving sobs as I read that she had forgiven me, wholly and completely...but she would prefer not to hear from me again.
I had grown enough that I recognized that this was a gift, and that it was enough. Lori's forgiveness was all I really needed; of course my heart longed for her friendship, as well, but I knew that it could never be the same again. My heart was lighter after receiving Lori's letter, and I was able to move on. As time went by and I dealt with other things - namely, the breakup of my marriage and all the other difficulties that brought with it - I had to allow myself to let go of Lori and what could have been. I knew that the loss was my own fault, and I kept Lori and her family in my prayers. I still think of her fairly often.
There is a song on the Christian radio station that has been played on occasion over the past few years, and every time I hear it, it makes me think of Lori and our lost friendship.
I know how very much I have changed. The past seven years have brought so much growth and pain that I cannot even imagine being the person that I was all those years ago. Sometimes I wish that I could run into Lori so that she could see, she could know, that I am not who I was. That I am no longer that person who had the capability to hurt her so deeply. That no matter what, there is no way that I would ever allow anyone to ever cause her pain the way that I caused her pain. And that I am so, so very sorry.I wish you could see me now; I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was
I used to be mad at you
A little on the hurt side too
But I'm not who I was
I was thinkin' maybe I
Should let you know
That I am not the same
That I never did forget your name
I wish you could see me now
I wish I could show you how
I'm not who I was...
A couple of months ago, somehow, I ran across a video of Lori that had been made very recently. In the video, Lori, her husband, and their three young children were playing and laughing together. After the initial shock of seeing her after all this time came the longing to talk to her and to hug her. Then came the pain at seeing her beautiful children and knowing that I had deprived myself of ever getting to meet and know them. The tears came down as I watched my beautiful former friend...and I could see that she is happy. As much as I long to know her again, as much as I wish that she could see who I am now, more than that is the joy in knowing that she has a beautiful life and that she has moved on into a today that is better than any of the yesterdays that I was a part of. My tears of loss for myself melted into tears of joy for her joy. I knew then that no matter how much I have changed, there is no way that I could ever attempt to make contact with her again. She gave me forgiveness, and asked for my absence from her life. It would be completely selfish of me to infiltrate that happiness with all the reminders of what once was.
And almost as though it had been pre-ordained, a few days later I was flipping through a book I hadn't lifted off my shelf in a long time, and a folded letter fell from it. Again the tears pricked my eyes and my heart jumped as I realized this was Lori's letter to me from shortly after I wrote her. The handwritten words wavered as I re-read it through a shocked waterfall of tears, but it felt almost as though everything had finally come full circle. I didn't know at the time, and maybe Lori hadn't known either, but her words to me were prophetic. As I stood in my comfortable home, a happy woman learning more about myself every day and moving toward an amazing future with a great career, feeling so much closer to God than I ever have and longing to find ways to serve Him and get to know Him better, I read what Lori had written to me so long before:
"What you were was a sinful, wicked woman. What you are now is fully forgiven. What you will become is yet to be determined."
I can look at who I was then and know that I am no longer that woman who could betray her best friend. What I have become is so much more than I was back then. There is still so much room for me to become much more of a whole person, but I know I'm on my way. I am so grateful for everything that has happened in my life that has brought me to where I am now, and somehow I know that Lori would be pleased if she knew how hard I've tried, and how hard I continue trying. And that's enough for me.
I'm Not Who I Was (C) Brandon Heath, 2007 Provident Music Group LLC