Over the last few months I have been receiving texts and emails with old photos in them. Some of them are from my childhood – a tiny me smiling back at the camera, wrapped up in my dad’s arms. Some from my family before I was born, like a black and white photo of my grandmother as a teenager. Some are embarrassing, like my dad, sister and I all at our most awkward caught on film.
Each and every one of these smiling faces or silly moments is piecing back together a story that I have not listened to in a long time. It is a story that I need to know and remind myself of and I am thankful for the glimpses back into their pages. They are healing severed family relationships and somewhere deep inside I think they are releasing some confidence and belief in myself that was dammed up.
When I was in my late teens a few events hijacked my childhood memories. These events hurt deeply and screamed more loudly than 16 years of mostly warm, loving moments. And, to be honest, for 10 years I only re-read the short, dark, shadowy story they told. I memorized the words, the faces, the actions of a few months at the expense of every other letter in my book.
Damaging events like the ones I am talking about change the trajectory of our lives and define relationships. They paint our past in angry colors. They are the stories we turn to when we start to look back, even if we don’t want to. I think of the little cardstock insert in a magazine that forces the pages to open at a particular point or a photo insert in a long book on thick, glossy paper. The reader of magazine or book always stops at these thick pages.
When I read the story of my life, my 16th and 17th year stand out on thick paper, eclipsing many things before and after them and, after so many years of reading and reading the same few pages I have been invited to turn to a new section and rebuild the important ties that were cut in that chapter.
There is an agreement I had to make with the Universe that allowed this healing process to start.
Forgiveness that extended well beyond what I thought I could manage and deep into a soul I had locked up. Forgiveness that has felt like baby steps in a marathon. Forgiveness that has had to be received as well as dealt out. Forgiveness that had to overcome selfishness and fights with convenience.
To forgive and keep forgiving is more accurate.
The characters in this story and I agreed to not re-hash the painful details of so many years ago, but to move forward in a life building and hope building trajectory, and that is what we have been attempting for the past few years. With grace we have found common ground to love – like the birth of my nephew, who at least always gives us something to talk about. With grace we have been able to communicate with each other. With grace we have been able to move forward. With grace we have found ourselves steadily being knit back into each other’s lives.
I am thankful for pictures and stories that can rebuild a life.