Forgiveness | Maya's Gifts


“Say you’re sorry!”  These words echo inside of me as if it were yesterday.  They were words that my dad would yell at us, when my sisters and I would fight.  I trust that he had good intentions.  This is the best that he could do with teaching us about conflict resolution.  If I knew what was good for me, I knew that I would have to utter those words.  So, out they came.  “Msorry.”  There.  I got it out.  As quickly as I could, though it really held no meaning for me.  My relationship with being sorry and forgiveness has been a challenging one.  One might think that after all of these decades, I would have it worked out.  I continue to work on it.

At a gathering of members of Kol Hai, a community of Jewish Renewal, our leader, Shir Yaakov spoke of this special time of year.  In preparing for the High Holy Days, there is a time to pause, and reflect.  It occurs the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah.  Selichot is the name of the service.  Forgiveness is the theme.  Beautiful melodies and sincere words of gratitude were shared at this late night get together.  Then Shir spoke of forgiveness.  “Do we need to ask for someone’s forgiveness?  Have we done something hurtful this past year?  Whom do we need to forgive?  What about ourselves?  This is the time.” 

As Shir spoke, I did an inventory of the year.  Like a rolodex, my mind was scanning the people close to me and not so close.  Did I hurt anyone?  Who has hurt me?  As best as I can remember, I had offered apologies to people I may have hurt during the year.  My apologies have come a long way since those I whispered to my sisters. 

Shir was gently strumming his guitar and humming beautiful tunes.  It was around that time that I welled up.  Tears started rolling.  Maya.  She is the one that I have not yet forgiven.  This has been quite troubling to me.  What does it mean to forgive?  Forgiveness, forgiving someone, forgiving Maya, is an offering of acceptance.  My inner voice is tangling two phrases together. “I forgive you,” is another way to say, “I accept you for your action.”  Forgiving Maya for making a fatal choice would be accepting this choice. 

This is tricky.  On a certain level, I am accepting life without Maya.  After all, I am still here.  I am living in my day to day (which at times, I honestly think is remarkable).  However, I have not accepted Maya’s mistake.  I have not forgiven her.  I fear that forgiveness, acceptance of this nature, may mean being at peace with this.  I do not have it in me now to hold that peace.

I am spinning with this one.  I am searching.  I welcome your thoughts and feelings.  What does forgiving someone mean to you?  If sharing a comment in this public post is uncomfortable for you, I understand.  If you would like to contact me another way with your thoughts, I would love to hear from you. 

Wishing you a sweet and healthy New Year.  Shana Tova.

Harvesting apples at Jenkins-Luekin Orchard, Fall 2010


  • For me, I think forgiveness can be like an horizon I want to reach, but can only stare at from a distance because no matter how hard I try to reach it, it is constant in its distance. I can look at it every day, yearn to be there, even see it from a different perspective. And maybe that is just how it is? I have heard people say that as I age, it will be easier to reach. For some things..just a precious few…I don’t know that | will ever get there.

  • Elise, Sometimes practicing saying it out loud offers us some deep insights and the opportunity to be with the complexity of how we are “wrestling” with it. I’ve done it myself and it has moved my process along without forcing me to be anywhere I am not.
    Warmth and love,

    • Thank you, Donna,
      Perhaps even giving voice to this wrestling here, is the start to saying it outloud. Practicing saying it would mean trying it on, and seeing how it sits. It could be a next step in the process. My sense is, this is a good time of year to take these practice steps.
      Love and thanks again,

  • Forgiveness does not imply acceptance of an action for me. It implies acceptance of the person who is behind the action. I can forgive a person for a transgression but that does not mean I accept the transgression. I forgive the person for the mistake. I do not accept the mistake. But I accept the person as one who makes mistakes.

    For example: My father was not perfect. He likely was having an affair before my mother died… because the day after her death I saw another woman’s makeup in the bathroom. Was I angry? Yes. Disappointed? Yes. Hurt? Yes. Did I forgive? Yes. Do I accept what he did? No.

    My forgiveness is not related to accepting the action. It is related to accepting the imperfect human that is my dad.

    • Dear Ruth,
      Yes, and thank you for your example. That must have been a challenging time.
      Im this moment, I do have both Maya’s action and Maya enmeshed. On an intellectual level, untangling the two makes sense. This would mean to forgive Maya, but not forgiving or accepting that she took her life. On an emotional level, I am not there.
      Thank you for holding my hand along the way.

  • Dearest Elise, This is indeed a fascinating contemplation. Non forgiveness contains an emotional charge, as it represents an “unbaked”, unresolved component of a situation. Just as it takes a certain number of minutes to bake a cake in order to enjoy eating it, there is no way to appreciate and experience the act of forgiving until the emotional charge has had time to be worked through. Now, add onto that, the incomprehensible choice that was made by your beloved, and mostly understood Maya, and you can see how difficult it is to just turn to the act of forgiving her fatal action. However noble forgiveness would be for this yearly act of Faith, and Selfless Love, the fact that you’ll never hold the answer as to “why?”, gives you the permission to take as long as you need to forgive her, even if that means waiting until the day of your reunion in the sweet forever, when you can hear her answer to that question for you from Maya herself. Does this make sense Elise? Always with you🙏🏼❤️

  • love you. thank you and to the other great comments above.

    For me, I try to remember that forgiveness, like any emotional state, is temporarily. Some days, I totally forgive my father, other days, not so much. I don’t see forgiveness as an achievement or permanent state. Helps me breathe through particularly unforgiving moments.

    • Thank you, love you, KT,
      This helps. I will sit with the idea of forgiving for a moment in time. If I were to forgive Maya, it could be for a blink. I had not thought about it in those terms. And as I’m being supported by others through reading comments here (and elsewhere), it is a process and it can, or may, come in time. It may not, and that is okay too.

  • I believe in your honest inquiry. I believe in your deep abiding love. I believe that forgiving is just a small part of this enormous loss. Not pretending that you are at peace with Maya’s decision is truly brave and to me, it is a truly loving act.

  • Oh Elise, I struggled for years to find it in my heart to forgive my mother. Intellectually I accepted that she was profoundly mentally ill. However the child in me longed for a mother I rarely glimpsed.
    It was only when I learned to see her as a woman who had experienced tragedy, who was bright but poor from a time in society when there was no way up or out, that I slowly learned to see her in her fullness.
    Letting go of my resentment, anger and sense of betrayal took time and willingness on my part. I defined myself for too long as an abused child. The peace I have now regarding her is welcome though the sadness for what might have been remains

    • Thank you Jennifer,
      I am honored to hear this part of your story. I am grateful to know that over time, your perspective shifted and your relationship with your mother and yourself then shifted, too. In reading comments from this circle, including your words, one thread that continues to emerge is the strand of time. I will exhale (as best as I can) and give myself time.
      Thank you again.

  • Forgiving someone is creating inner peace. It is not changing that an event happened. It is letting your heart repair and move forward. It is not changing that you loved. It is not changing how your heart broke. It is not changing the suffering that happened. It is honoring that suffering, that grieving, that stretching, that holding on—-by the very act of letting go when it is time…

    When the closed circle of holding pain rather than peace has no longer a purpose and the work somehow of the suffering in relation to that painful act, event, loss, betrayal is transformed into some new way of being that simply allows a completion and forgiveness. It may come as a final round of catharsis, or it may come as a lift from the grasses like mist, or a spirit moving onward too. The pain is then as if held in a photo that can be remembered and the eyes can water, while the heart remains rhythmic and humbled by life and the good can seep back into memory, some joy that also once was attached to what was lost can hold what was once ashes and has turned to air and bouancy enters the vernacular again.

    And for another receiving forgiveness- your forgiveness- is an offering, -even a sacrifice of your hold…for all source wants is for you to feel freedom and love and faith and your return to that is here in this act. Something learned becomes new footprints. And in its wake may be an army of comrades.
    – [ ]
    Gratitude for asking this personal question and spurring necessary reflection for Teshuvah 💜⛰

    • Dear Lori Ruth,

      How beautiful! And, there is so much here. I think that I will be going back and rereading your comment over time


  • Dear Elise,

    As I mentioned through text, I’ve been thinking a lot about the conundrum you find yourself caught within: if you forgive Maya for her mistake, are you then also forced to accept her mistake? I think the answer to this struggle is love. And I do not in any way mean to diminish the magnitude of this struggle by suggesting the way through is simple. I mean only to say that to forgive Maya’s mistake is an act of love, and to accept that she made this mistake is also an act of love. Within this two-fold forgiveness is you, the mother, offering to Maya yet again, your unconditional love, as you did when her spirit was with you in this temporal realm, as you continue to now that her spirit has transformed into something else within the mysteries of this vast universe we find ourselves in. Maya made a devastating decision; perhaps through your forgiveness for Maya there will be peace in it for you, and so perhaps your act of love for Maya will also translate into an act of love for yourself.

    Sending you love and my enduring respect for your grace within this experience that I would wish away for you if I could.

    Joanna xoxo

    • Dear Joanna,

      Oh, how beautiful. Thank you for your loving insights. I embrace what you have offered, and of course, I am still spinning. With all of these generous responses, I am feeling closer and more at peace (for this moment, anyway!).

      Deep thanks,
      xo Elise ox

  • I think forgiving someone is meeting them totally in your heart. In the nakedness of your shame and your anger and your grief. And understanding that that person is, on the very deepest level, one with you. And understanding and allowing their suffering, the suffering which caused them to act in the ways they did. So much love to you Elise and gratitude and to your beautiful daughter, Maya

    • Dear Olivia,

      Deep appreciation for this heartfelt response. I read it and re-read it. I am letting it soak in.

      Thank you and love,

  • Dear Elise, there have been so many profound and thoughtful comments on forgiveness that I almost am reluctant to post my thoughts. I don’t know what it means to forgive. Does it mean, “let it go” so it no longer hurts or you will no longer be angry at what she did? That seems impossible to me. The fact that you have so beautifully gone on with your beautiful life is a wonder to you and to me!!! And I believe it will hurt less as time goes by. But does forgiveness really change anything? You will always love her and even if you never forgave her, for whatever that means, you will still always love her. And that seems good enough to me. Be kind to yourself. Love.

    • Dear Karen,
      I am so very glad that you shared your thoughts and feelings. They are sincerely helpful for me to read and hold.
      “You will always love her even if you never forgave her, for whatever that means, you will still always love her.” That rings so true and so deep.
      Thank you and love to you.

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