Encountering Those Who Have Wounded You

This from an elegant piece entitled “Looking for Release” in the Image Journal, a compendium of faith-driven writing and reflection.  How do you handle encounters in adulthood with people who hurt you in your childhood?  Allison Backous considers the question.

Here’s a powerful selection:

Dayne eventually left my mother. She wept for weeks, and never heard from him again. But my sister and I saw him years later, when I was home from college, filling up my gas tank at the local BP. He walked through the gas station doors and stared straight into my car, skin still red, hair grayed and white. He was not yet fifty years old.

“That’s him,” my sister breathed, settling into her coat. “That’s Dayne.”

He stared at us, quiet and intent; then lifted a gloved hand. He looked remorseful, or lonely, and after he raised his arm he walked into the neighborhood and slipped beneath a fence. It was as if the landscape pressed him into itself, as if he had been some movable part, tossed by a whim into our lives, our afternoon.

What loss held his life, I could not tell. And to say “I forgive you” feels too quick, too simple, for the patterns he forces my family to hold still.

But I cannot shake the image of him waving, the stretch of his arm, more gentle than I had ever seen it, a palm gesturing upward, a sign of something I could not throw aside easily. He slipped into the neighborhood and was gone. Vanished into trees, history, the graying snow.

I remember how terrible he was. And I look for the hold of a new pattern, one that releases and sets free.

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