The Might of Mercy

If we merge mercy with might and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

—Amanda Gorman, poet laureate, “The Hill We Climb”

In that miraculous way that only the universe can seem to create, I receive this mysterious mail with handwritten ink on the front-a small, note-sized envelope with the name I used during my second marriage. I open it to discover that a woman is attempting to locate my first husband. She’s attempting to unite him with some lost or unclaimed funds. There’s a number on the bottom of the one sheet of paper. I choose to dial this number and I will hang up if it feels like a scam. A woman answers.

“Hello, this is Laura Staley-my name is now Staley. You sent me a letter about my first husband, that you’re attempting to locate him.”

“Yes. Let me get to my desk. Wait just a moment. (Pause) Here it is, yes. This is good news for him. He has funds owed to him.”

“He attended my father’s celebration of life in October 2019. My sister let me know because I had already left the event and missed interacting with him. I have his contact info and we’re connected on Facebook. I’m happy to send you his phone number and I will reach out to him through Facebook.”

“That would be so helpful. Thank you. Kindly leave him my number and name. Assure him that this is good news, that I’m legit.”

“I will. Have a good day!”

I receive a text that the two of them talked, that his mom had recently died. I loved his mom. I loved him. I still have love for both of them. I took a deep breath and tapped his number on my cell phone. We had not talked in years.


“Hello. This is Laura. I am so sorry to hear about the death of your mom. My heart is with you in your grieflove.”

Thus began a sweeping share of his many recent health challenges, that his doctor has told him to get his affairs in order, stories of his mother, ways he lovingly remembered me, and several moments for me to appreciate him, to let him know he was/is a really good man, that all those years ago I had only begun the deep work I needed so desperately to engage to heal, to transform.

I listened to this familiar voice from the depths of a quiet mind that I have cultivated over the years. With reverence and open-heartedness, a willingness I did not know I had, I heard him in a way that I never could have all those years ago. He shared that one of the best days of his life happened on the boat ride we took in Washington, D.C. I remembered the blue and white dress I wore, how I rushed to the bathroom immediately after he proposed and cried with mixed emotions. Some part of me screamed, “Oh, God, NO!” while other parts of me aching to be loved said, “Say, YES!” I knew he waited at the table for my return, for my answer. He had not gotten down on one knee. His proposal did not look like the movie script in my head. Plus, so much expectation roared at us from my parents, mostly my mother. I do not remember this day as one of the best of my life.

Hearing his voice through the phone, though his health is failing, his spirit remains strong, full of energy, expression, and humor. We laugh several times during this conversation. When we share stories about his mother, we both laugh and share how much we loved her, still do.

Oh, this darn death, all the deaths I keep hearing about-coming at us in ocean waves that don’t ever calm-washing away the people we have loved, once loved, still love, will always love.

In the wake of the ending of this hour and a half-time suspended like a long-held breath, still quietly breathing- interaction, tears keep streaming down my face. I feel forgiven, cherished. After I told him how his mother regularly told me how beautiful I was, even as I struggled to hear her, to let that kindness into my heart, he said, “Please include me in the company of people who think you are beautiful.” Can I let his kind words seep through the last remnants of the protective wall I built around my unworthy of love young woman self-who got formed by too many unworthy younger selves? Will these parts of me ever cease to show up, to cry out for this kind of love, sweet love?

May on this day I breathe in this love, mercy, kind compassion for a man I screamed, “Fuck You!” at all those years ago in a rage storm moment before squealing the tires of my vehicle as I drove away in pain and poisonous righteousness. Have you not forgiven this young woman-this earlier version of yourself? That woman who felt so abandoned by love and too terrified to soften, yield, and receive. She looked to him to meet the vast desert of thirsty, starving unmet needs, the love deprivation she had endured for far too long. No one man could ever fill that bottomless well of need, of desire. Forgive that 25- year-old wounded warrior in a battle for her heart, soul, mind, and freedom. Yes, you forgive you. He already has; maybe he did years ago.

The might of mercy shows up once again to create a deeper healing. A second living person appears from the past who knew, saw, understood more than I realized at the time. I found the letter he wrote on my behalf to my mother, to her troubled soul, asking that she find a way to love me, that he knew she could love me, that I deserved a mother’s love. Fortunately, I got to tearfully thank him on this phone call for writing that letter so many years ago. He becomes another person who bore witness to the difficult reality I lived and the seeming abyss of clawing, snapping, hissing hurt this created, a cornered animal I was- terrified of love, thoroughly convinced of an impending loveless life. Yet, here in the hearing, the seeing, the valuing now expressed for each other during this miraculous reconnection, our brave and open hearts, our liberated souls can simply, boundlessly love till death do us part.

You can shower people with love and kindness. If they haven’t broken all the seashells of barrier reefs around their hearts and ground this into soft, porous sand, the love may not seep into the crevices, nooks, and niches of hurt, pain, ache, and frozen ice balls of their terror. The work must take place inside each person’s soul as they uncoil, gain a sense of safety inside their own skin, to face and melt the hot, frozen balls of fearshame and traumas.  And over time, for some, in the space of many gentle showers of love, of kindness, the soft underbelly of people may eventually appear, teary-eyed, receptive.

May you hear, express, and receive heartfelt realizations that might take years to see with open eyes and awakened whole hearts. May these expressions fill you to overflowing with compassion, tenderness, and wet tears seeping into the soft sand footprints of lives transformed by grace.

Shower the people you love with love. Tell them the way you feel. Things are gonna be alright if you only will. Do as I say. Shower the people you love with love (including yourself!).

—James Taylor


Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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    • Thank you so much, John. Yes. A bothAnd for certain. Raw and transformative. I wept for quite some time after this phone conversation-for all kinds of reasons…And inside of that emotional dam bursting-love rose up strong. Love is all there is. I know this now. I may forget in a moment and then be reminded once, again. I’m certain of that. I appreciate you and your kind feedback, John.

  1. What a beautiful and raw piece, Laura. I am glad that you seem to have come to a better place where wise Laura can hold young Laura and her pain.

    Your story resonated with me in its difference to mine: one of my dearest friends is my husbands ex – a friendship we have formed because when there are children involved, their needs must come first and we all understood that as a given. Of all the investments I have made in my life, this has probably been the one with highest return.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful reflections. Yes, it seems that I had one part of me still in the past and most of me in the present moment-that could then see that part of me that had not yet forgiven myself. (my angry behaviors and icky words spoken) I’m always grateful to hear that this human being thing is not just me-that you, too have a story of a relationships-of grace and healing-of that investment from a core commitment (value) and the “highest return” this yielded for your life. Simply beautiful. I appreciate all you’ve shared here. I appreciate you, Charlotte.

  2. Laura, oh my…. you have such a gift! Such an incredible way of articulating such wide and varied emotional spaces that we can all relate to in some respect. I love this story… all of it… but the part that I really connect with is he conveys a memory of one of his favorite days that is most certainly not one of yours. How many times have we learned much later that we were so disconnected with another person? Our misconceptions and misperceptions so often go unnoticed until much later when we are in a different time and place. How the entire trajectory of your life might have been different had you both understood then what the other was feeling?

    I think this resonates with me because I, too, reached out to someone who used to be incredibly special to me. While still special and loved, the distance between us as measured in both miles and correspondence puts things in a totally different light. Not better, not worse. Just different. Maybe more objective. Maybe more compassionate. But definitely more introspective of my own journey from where I was then to the person I’ve grown into now. Thank you for sharing the personal and incredibly moving piece. You, my dear, are a “gifter” and I am so fortunate that you share your gifts with me.

    • Melissa-thank you so much for your kind words and the depth of reflections you’ve offered from your own experiences-and yes, that gap between how one person perceives, actually experiences a situation and how vastly different this can be from another person-revealing those “inner worlds.” of the people involved-yes, yes, indeed.

      Looking back through the broader lens of many lessons learned, hopefully we see life more fully, from a certain amount of wholeness, hopefully much compassion and grace. Some of the most challenging lessons, I think, for us humans, who can attach to our righteousness -sometimes to the “death.” Don’t know why but this also makes me remember how the people who knew they were dying during 911 called people they love to simply say, “I love you.” May love always rise to the top-maybe we can live in a world where this stays “top of mind.” Like that third layer of the brain–

  3. Thank you, Frank. What I continue to untangle are the places I still hold any poisonous righteousness towards significant people from my past. When death knocks on my door, I do hope to be as clear, clean, and free as I possibly can be. Mercy continues to be a process, an attitude, a choice, and in some cases can be a compassionate deed. Please know that I have not yet had any contact with my second former spouse as his unhealed and unacknowledged narcissism seems like the boulder between us. In that situation, I can only do the inner cleansing inside my heart and soul for now-to learn and grow from all those experiences with him. I honor your journey as mercy seems to be a most courageous place to go. For me it feels like a new layer of brave, to set down my own “weapons” that only ultimately have been wounding me.