Forgiving, Forgetting and Remembering

If you're trying to run for speed, Krista Tippett's On Being podcast is not for you. (See also: The Diane Rehm Show.) But if you're doing a nice slow run as a spiritual and physical discipline, On Being is just the right show.

Today's run featured Contemplating Mortality, with Dr. Ira Byock talking about "dying well." I am fascinated by this topic, and it's come to me several times recently in different forms, so perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something.

This topic is also hard for me to listen to, because the most profound death I've experienced in my life was a sudden death, not a slow, impending one.

A death that comes with a collapse to the floor, an ambulance screaming down the street, a tearful phone call late at night... I don't know. There's no doing that well or badly. I'm not even sure the person is the subject of the sentence; more like the object. Death happens to them.

So I get a little angry when I listen to shows like this. A prolonged death is no picnic, and I'm glad that Dad did not suffer. Still... there was no deathbed for my siblings and me to flock to, no heartwarming StoryCorps Legacy interview.

Then after getting angry, I decide that the only thing to do, if dying well isn't always an option, is to live well.

Part of living well and dying well is about forgiveness. There are so many cliches around forgiveness, the most famous being to "forgive and forget." You know I hate that, right? So pat. So simplistic. So inadequate.

I told you the phrase that came to me after Festival of Faith and Writing, yes? "Fighting back with nuance in a sloganeering world."

The simpler something is, the less I trust it.

Anyway, they talked on the show about what forgiveness is all about, and Krista quoted Paul Tillich:

Forgiving presupposes remembering, and it creates a forgetting, not in the natural way we forget yesterday's weather, but in the way of the great 'in spite of' that says: I forget although I remember. 

The whole show was great, despite my own residual anger and grief over Dad's death. But it's "the great 'in spite of'" that will stay with me.

Fighting back with nuance.