When I was a Hospice Chaplain, I was trained to use this list of 5 phrases to help patients deal with end of life issues, They are: (1) “I forgive you”…(2) “Please forgive me”…. (3) “Thank you”…. (4) “I love you”…. (5) “Goodbye” The first two are the most important in my experience. Many times I have seen patients who “hang on to life” and suffer until issues involving them are worked out.
As I am approaching end of life I am paying attention to all of them and feel that I have accomplished most of them.
I’m passing them on to you for two reasons: (1) You don’t have to wait until a terminal illness to be aware of the importance of these things in your relationship with loved ones. If you or a loved one dies suddenly due to an accident you will not have a chance to express them and deal with them—-so do it now. (2) Because I feel the first two that deal with forgiveness are extremely important for everyone.
Forgiveness is the foundation of all relationships. Without love and the forgiveness that grows out of it enduring relationships with God or with our fellow human beings is impossible. If we do not feel that God forgives us we cannot forgive ourselves, and if we cannot forgive ourselves it it is impossible to forgive others.
Both Old and New Testaments from Genesis to Revelation are narratives of God’s forgiveness. Adam and Eve are guilty of eating the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God told them they would die for doing. Yet God, while driving them out of the Garden did not kill them but fashioned clothes to cover their nakedness. Even Cain, who killed his brother Abel was protected from being slain wherever he went by the “mark of Cain.” In Revelation the last and final words are that God will create a new heaven and earth and that sorrow and suffering and death shall be no more and in this new Jerusalem where God rules “they will be my people and I will be their God.” Both Jeremiah and Isaiah contain similar prophetic words. (read Jeremiah 31.)
God is a God of love who seeks relationship with God’s creation. God’s actions prove that to do so there must be forgiveness. Without God’s forgiveness for all of us who are broken and lost, there would be no relationship.
If you truly believe God forgives us for the many times when we have done the wrong thing instead of the right thing; that we have hurt rather than healed; that we have lied rather than told the truth; that we have been selfish rather than caring; that we have disregarded our neighbor rather than loved our neighbor; that we have held a grudge instead of forgiving those who hurt us. If God can forgive you with all the thing only you know about and still love you—-then you can forgive yourself and then be able to forgive others who have hurt you and restore relationships that have turned sour because of grudges held.
Read the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The son hurt his father deeply when he collected what would be his inheritance before his father died and spent it foolishly. When the son came back in rags planning to beg to be his father’s hired hand he was welcomed by his father with a new robe and with a feast and dancing after his father ran out onto the road and greeted him with open arms as he was returning home, This is a picture of what God’s forgiveness is like, Jesus told his disciples.
Part of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples was: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Forgiveness is important. Ask yourself if there is someone you need to ask for forgiveness or that you hold a grudge against and needs to hear your forgiveness. Don’t wait—tomorrow may be too late!!