My Aunt Amber taught me a great deal about being independent, tough, resilient and kind. And one of the best lessons she taught me came through an experience I had with her African violet.
Growing up on a farm meant not much time or money for vacations, so it was momentous when Dad declared he’d take a few days off. And a happy day it was during my 9th summer when we packed the car for a four-hour road trip to visit Aunt Amber and Uncle Clifford.
When it was time for me to go to bed on their cozy living room couch, I fell into a deep sleep. Suddenly in the middle of the night, I found myself disoriented, and sitting on a very hard ‘seat.’ As consciousness replaced confusion, I realized I was on the coffee table. Apparently I was doing some ‘sleep sitting,’ which is similar to sleepwalking only for less ambitious children.
When I awoke to morning’s light I visualized a catastrophe. Someone had demolished Aunt Amber’s prized African violet that had been showcased on the coffee table. The impact of last night’s “sleep sitting” incident sunk in, and I was unable to look away from my heinous act of destruction.
Under the circumstances, I did what any eight year old would do who has committed a crime against plants. I wrapped myself in lovingly hand-made quilts I didn’t deserve and pretended I was asleep.
Maybe no one would notice the African violet had given up its luscious leaves and pink blossoms, reduced to a single, pitiful stalk. Maybe I could deny any knowledge of what happened since I was asleep when the deed was done. Maybe I could point to the family dog as the perpetrator because it’s possible the gentle mutt could snap and release his inner Cujo.
I trembled with anxiety awaiting Aunt Amber’s reaction to the mutilation of her beautiful plant. It was then that all my alibis became obsolete as she tossed her head back and did the unimaginable.
This story became a thing of family legends, repeated through the decades. Always with laughter and most of all, forgiveness.
To show how thoroughly she forgave me, when she was in her final days she gave me all four of her African violets. I was fearful and reluctant. What if I couldn’t keep them alive? What if they didn’t bloom or rotted at the stem? What if I repeated history and beat them to death in my sleep?
But she had no such misgivings because she understood forgiveness, and not holding grudges, and how to protect a young girl’s tender heart.
How has your life been changed by the gift of forgiveness?