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Granting forgiveness brings peace to the soul

I never dreamed of my wedding day, drooled over tulle or ogled over organza. As a matter of fact, after seeing Vanessa Redgrave as the free-spirited dancer and activist Isadora Duncan in the film "Isadora," I wanted to mimic that fiery scene -- the ceremonial burning of her parents' marriage certificate and vow to never marry.

Imagine my grown-up surprise when I took the plunge looking like a wedding cake topper in marshmallow white! I was equally surprised to be tumultuously divorced after only three years, considering all that lavender and lace.

Perhaps grandfather set the precedent, overtly married three times with children from each union without reference to step- or half-siblings, ex-wives or mistresses. We were one big, openly dysfunctional clan -- a thoroughly modern unity of blended diversity non-plussed by the stigma of multiple partnerships and zealous passions in an era of Donna Reeds and Harriet Nelsons. It was all so wildly civil.

After my divorce I wasn't as magnanimous. (Divorce attorneys can hype a most peaceful split into mad chaos!) It rendered me a virtual agoraphobic as my ex-husband quickly remarried, lost his hair and fell into a 12-step program out of a gambling addiction.

I delighted in his suffering, replacing his face with murder victims in violent movies, and wrote my way out of ire and depression until I could laugh about the irony. Such is the err of humanity.

Last month he asked me to forgive him. Webster's defines forgiveness as "to give up resentment -- to absolve." It is truly a divine gesture because when it's your turn, it's like walking across water without drowning. How can you refuse yourself such a big favor?

After 13 years we sat across a table without excuses and explanations and I was able to say, "You have my forgiveness and I wish you well." I really do.

"I can't change the past," he cried. "But I am sorry." I remembered why I loved him -- his eyes were a window to an emotive reservoir of contradictions that welled sincerity and limpid fascination. If he was lying, I didn't care. He gave me the gift of fresh sight and an open heart.

Among family and friends at the party we attended, nervous about our confidential yet public tryst, I summoned up the gypsy from our family soul and felt the euphoria of the moment. Without anger or desire for vengeance, an innate sadness followed me home. I had lost all over again.

The piece of life I nurtured was gone like an amputated appendage I fought so long to heal. Without the past to change, it was time to get up and limp away -- to let it all go.

I couldn't fashion wicker dolls like Auntie Magda, or mix sweet bottles like Grandma Gee, so I wished upon a star that night and prayed for strength and truth.

There are greater acts of forgiveness, more courageous and blind. Courtrooms full of victims who stand before their assailants and beg for mercy on their behalf. There are certainly more powerful anecdotes to illustrate the grace of a heartfelt apology and the joy of forgiving.

My story is nothing new -- so maybe it's yours as well. We all embrace some pain in our lives no matter the degree.

In the scheme of the soul and the tests of heaven, it's all relative. We are no greater than the gift. But in the spirit of life's synchronicity, I feel one hell of a presence!

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