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!).