The man and his wife were married while they were still in school and had a little boy before they graduated. The second child was born several years later. They had a very good life with in-laws taking the two-hour drive to visit the grandchildren from time to time.
But like most good lives a curve ball was thrown their way. The man and most of his co-workers lost their jobs in a big company shake-up. He took the opportunity to start life anew by forming a small business with his brother-in-law. But this meant relocating to another state more than 700 miles away.
There was another tragedy several years removed from the present story, which shook his mother-in-law and made her relationship with her grandchildren all the more central to her existence. She was indeed upset when he moved and took the grandkids away. And that was really the beginning of the end of the man’s relationship with her.
A few years went by with no visits from his mother-in-law. Soon, his wife would start to take the children on trips to see their grandparents and the man would just stay at home. Eventually, their conversations would exclude him altogether. She would call his house to speak to her daughter or grandchildren and simply hang up the phone if he happened to answer.
Time has a way of slipping by when there is something we are trying to avoid. So even when his children graduated from college their grandmother wasn’t there. They would both be married in the coming years but she would not be there on those occasions either. The anger that was an effect of separation between a grandmother and her grandchildren had now become its cause.
Later on, after 14 years of separation, the man was preparing for the holiday season. It would be his grandson’s second Christmas but the first one he would really enjoy as a boy who could now walk and talk. Maybe it was more than the approaching holiday season that caused him to pick up the pen and write the letter.
The letter started by saying that he could not remember exactly what it was they were fighting about. But, regardless, he was willing to take all the blame to set things right between them. The simple letter was mailed on a Monday and arrived on a Wednesday. His mother-in-law and father-in-law read it together the afternoon they received it.
Sometime during the middle of the night the man’s father-in-law suffered a stroke and a massive heart attack. And his mother-in-law was all alone in the hospital while her husband of 62 years was fighting for his life. Her only daughter caught the next plane to be there with her.
After his father-in-law barely pulled it out, the man decided to get in his truck and make that long drive out to see him for the first time in fourteen years. But his father-in-law suffered another massive heart attack before he got there. Thankfully, this was after he was told that his son-in-law was on the way. The man would be there by his bedside consoling his wife and mother-in-law when his father-in-law passed away after several hours on life support.
But before his passing his mother-in-law would pull him aside in the hospital to speak to him. She thanked him for his letter though she insisted that its contents were incorrect. “You were wrong” she said. “It was all my fault, son. It was my entire fault, not yours.”
A few weeks later, the man was sitting in his living room with his wife, his son, his daughter, his son-in-law, his daughter-in-law, his mother-in-law, and his grandson. The little boy walked around the room saying “row, row, … row, row” and placing everyone in a circle holding hands that Christmas Eve.
Together the eight of them held hands and sang “Row, row, row your boat” as they danced in a circle around the laughing little boy. The man thought to himself, “If this doesn’t prove that there is a God above then nothing does.” I was there, too, thinking to myself that this is what heaven must be like – a place of joyous homecomings.
Maybe you’ve never experienced the kind of joy that forgiveness and reconciliation can bring to hearts that have been hardened by foolish pride. Maybe that letter is already written in your heart, although you planned on sending it tomorrow.