Forgiveness: Barbara’s Legacy

When my lifelong friend Lana called to ask if I would officiate her mother’s memorial service, I said yes immediately. I am always honored when someone ask me for this kind of favor: what a privilege it is to tell the story of someone’s life in view of the hope we have in Christ! Still, Barbara Hood was not just a casual acquaintance.

Lana’s parents, Barbara and her husband, were in seminary back in the 1960s with my parents. Their friendship grew fast and strong. Later, both couples had kids: my sister, then me, then Lana, then my brother, then Lana’s brother and finally her sister. The two families enjoyed joint day trips and shared vacations. To us, Barbara and family were more than family friends. They were friends who became family.

Then–it’s been 20 years ago now–my parents learned that their beloved friends were getting a divorce. It turns out Barbara’s husband had been living a separate life that had included multiple affairs over their 40 year marriage. Lana says that when she heard, she felt like the dad she had always adored had been abducted by aliens. That’s how shocking the news was to their whole family. . . and to us and everyone else who knew the couple.

They separated, he moved out of the country, and eventually their divorce was finalized. Meanwhile, Barbara got on with living and loving her life. She doted on her young grandchildren, delighted in her adult children, and remained committed to and involved in her church. Still, her ex did not make it easy for her. The story is complicated and twisted and more than a little infuriating; it’s an example of duplicity and infidelity that boggles the mind.

Anyway, the week of the service, I set up a Zoom call to speak with Lana and her siblings; while I have always (literally) known their mother, I did not know Barbara Hood as her kids had. Plus, I always talk to the grieving family to hear the stories they have about their beloved. It helps them process their grief, and it helps me write the eulogy. During our conversation, their dad’s name was mentioned. Their grief over losing their very much alive father has dulled from the piercing shock in the beginning to an ache that changes in form–sometimes it presents as anger, others as loss, and others as flat out bewilderment.

“Mom forgave him though,” one said. The others nodded, then shook their heads, acknowledging both the truth and the wonder of it.

“Wait. What?” I’d not heard this little detail. I wasn’t sure I had forgiven the guy, so to think the one most affected by the deceit had . . .

“Yeah. She did. it was about six months before she passed away. He ask her for forgiveness and she gave it to him.” They explained further. “Mom understood the value of forgiveness. She knew that holding onto her bitterness only hurt her. So she forgave him.”

As I thought about this phenomena, I realized that though she may have vocalized her forgiveness just six months before her passing, she had to have forgiven him years ago. Otherwise, she would not have been able to experience the contentment so characteristic of her last two decades of life. Clearly, Barbara knew that forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. That is, you forgive others so that you don’t have to carry their baggage.

It seems to me that we all lug around a lot of stuff that we could forgive and let go. We don’t have to keep reliving the pain and revisiting the path that led to the broken heart or shattered relationship . . . or even a bad mood, for that matter. We can forgive. We really can.

But here’s the thing: Barbara, human as she was, did not have it in her to forgive on her own. Since she didn’t, she dipped into her abiding faith in God and in God’s infinite love. And she released the grudge she had every right to hold; she had to. She could not have wrapped her body and soul around hate and grasp what she most wanted: to embrace God’s promise of peace–ya know, that kind that surpasses understanding. So, she let it go.

Forgiveness. It looks a lot like freedom.



By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.