Standing here looking at the lights, she felt a presence and turned her head to see the old chaplain standing next to her.
“Have you forgiven her yet?”
He said it as though their conversation begun with his comment in her hospital room had continued through the years. Here beside the Christmas lights the question seemed as natural as the evergreens in front of them.
“Does it matter? It’s been so many years.”
She could hardly believe it, but his standing next to her didn’t bother her as it had that very first time. It didn’t frighten her as it had in her dream, nor surprise her as it had at the grocery store. It seemed, in fact, somehow good – like he was a very old friend.
“Forgiveness always matters.”
She stood, breathing white puffs into the night while the tree lights sparkled, the darkness exposing their beauty and color.
She thought about the neighbor, the woman whose jealousy of her happy life had inflamed the hostile act. That day’s destruction was not limited to dwelling, but extended to thought and emotion, trust and memory. She breathed another vapor of white into the air. She was tired of it all. She knew now that she really did want to let it go; let all of it go. She wanted to release the debt. She nodded her head. Yes. She forgave the neighbor. She knew she could, and she really did.
Gazing anew at the Christmas lights, she breathed in their beauty and goodness. It seemed suddenly that their friendly, sparkling light shot into her soul baptizing it with warmth and brightness. She looked into the old chaplain’s compassionate eyes and saw in them her reflection.
She blinked and peered more closely. Slowly she brought her hand up to her face, the skin between her thumb and forefinger no longer webbed. As she ran her fingers over her now smooth skin, she closed her eyes against the tears pooling there. Was it true? Had the stranger’s comment long ago in the agony of her hospital room really taken place? Surely not. But she had forgiven – she knew that much – and when she had determined to let the transgression go, she really had felt a very strange pulse run through her body.
“What happened?” she asked as she opened her eyes.
But the old chaplain wasn’t there, and the Christmas lights glowed brighter into the cold, dark night.