By January 2017, I sense that Karl and I have fully forgiven each other.
In the last two years of Karl’s life on Earth, we had settled into a peaceful and loving way of being together. Then, just as our path seemed to be rising to meet us, our lives were thrown into the air. Now I am sorting through that detritus. And, because I have seen unresolved anger over the death of a partner cripple the emotional life of a close friend (Heather), I want to explore deeply anything in my relationship with Karl that still needs forgiving.
I am confident that I am not experiencing survivor guilt here: I sincerely believe I did everything in my power to save Karl in the car, to soothe his passing in the river and to send him on his way, untethered by my grief. I did it with all the skills and confidence I could muster in my shocked state.
And Karl repeatedly reassures me of the beneficial effects of my healing in the river. He repeats that message a few weeks before I move to Canada in May 2017:
The strong communication channel we forged in the river when I demised: that was so important to me. It was also important that you let me go – that you did not hold me back. That powerful gesture in the river has made much of this communication possible.
Is there STILL more?
And I ask repeatedly, “Is there still more?”
In early February 2017, a year after Karl died, I am asking both of us, “Is there still more for which I need to beg forgiveness?”
More healing is needed, including my need to address my complaints about Karl’s addictions. They have been disabling for him. At some level, I know that, though throughout our life together, I persisted with my denial about them. Nevertheless, I find myself declaring, “They were not so earth-shattering! I was prissy.”
I apologize for choosing my friend over Karl for my power of attorney, an act that genuinely offended him. I apologize for that undeserved insult. I also apologize for ignoring him when he told me of an awkward interpersonal situation with his mother when he was a teenager. I was self-obsessed and would not listen. My abuse was more important. Now I beg, “Can you forgive me now?”
As I dig deeper, I unearth more potential for apology. I handled his November 1998 suicide attempt poorly. I feel ashamed of my behavior toward him at that time. I was so angry then. It was a terrible shock, I was terrified, and I received no help myself.
Now I beg Karl, “Please forgive me for being harsh with you when you were suffering so much.”
Over our years together, I blamed Karl for being lazy, disorganized, and not living up to his potential. Now I apologize. I reframe all my relationships with him. I focus on what went right in our relationship, rather than where I feel we failed. I become more and more aware of Karl’s good qualities. As I reflect on his work, especially his work building our house, I say: “Now I overflow with gratitude. I was harsh. You are a precious soul who does not deserve to be treated harshly.”
I acted unfairly in my business dealings towards Karl, as well, humiliating him in front of my staff. That was mean. Repeatedly firing him was appalling behaviour. I ask his forgiveness again.
When we were building our house, I occasionally blamed Karl for things that were not his fault. A lost surveyor’s report? I found later he was not responsible. I say I am sorry for that. I also totally forgive everything Karl did that I felt was “bad” at the time.
At the end of this enormous purge of guilt and blame, I cry:
I thank you for your total forgiveness. What you gave me has no measure. It’s priceless. It’s love! Thank you!