“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Many years ago a woman came to me for a psychic consultation. She was probably about the age I am now, and she had travelled a great distance to see me in person.
She wasn’t my usual kind of client. She was an angry woman. Angry at the world. Angry at me. So angry, and so rude and dismissive of my abilities, so defensive and antagonistic that I wondered why she had come at all.
Of course she didn’t tell me. When I explained what I normally do in a consultation she stayed silent and grim mouthed. I could feel resentment ripple off her in waves. I also knew she was deeply tormented.
Towards the end of our session I asked if she had specific questions or photos of anyone she wanted to ask about. Until that moment she had not acknowledged her torment. She had blocked me at every turn. The woman took out an envelope and removed a picture which she passed across to me. It was a photo of three young children. Her children, taken when they were much younger. Two girls and one boy.
‘That’s me,’ a voice said in my mind. Not my voice, a male’s voice. ‘That’s me’. And I then felt rather than heard the name ‘Andrew’. I glanced briefly at the girls, both bright and intelligent. The older one was cowed now, although you couldn’t see that from the picture. I just knew. She was cowed and broken-hearted and downtrodden by life. How do you tell that to a mother?
The second daughter was now gone. Not dead. I mean gone as in emotionally absent, and by the feel of things, a long way away. I knew she had cut herself off from her family in order to survive better in the world.
The smiling young boy, Andrew, was the one I got the clearest connection from. I couldn’t feel him in the same way that I felt his sisters. But Andrew had a heart full of love, and I could feel how close he still was to home, emotionally and physically. He was clever too, and had loved to dance when he was little. Shy with strangers. I also knew he was gay.
What do you want to know, I asked.
The boy… She stopped herself from saying ‘my son’. He’s twenty. He left home. We haven’t had any contact with him for over a year.
It filled the space between us. So, it came across as anger, what this woman exuded, but as soon as she said ‘the boy…’ her heart opened up and I felt into her river of shame and guilt and love and hurt and loss. Her anger was the repressed expression of unbearable pain.
Are you asking if he’s okay, I said, swallowing, because I knew that he wasn’t.
No, she spat out. I want to know if he is queer. A homosexual, she added. It’s not normal. He can’t come home if he is queer. We won’t allow it.
But you already know the answer to that, I said. He is also your son, he loves you very much, and this is not a choice. He did not choose this. This is how he was born. This is how God made him.
She held my gaze, her face mottled red. No! That is a sin against God. That is not how we brought him up. How can we fix this? What do I have to do to fix this illness so that he can come home again? He’s our only son. He’s disgracing our family name. His father will never forgive him unless he renounces that sinful lifestyle. I need to know where he is so I can get him help and bring him home.
Andrew, I said softly. His name is Andrew. I was shaken by her anger, her rage at her son. Her hate.
How do you know that? she yelled.
Because he’s telling me, I wanted to say. But I didn’t. And anyway, I knew, and I think she did too. He was dead.
Before I could answer she stood up so suddenly her chair fell over behind her. It was a mistake to come, she shouted. You too are an abomination before the eyes of God. I won’t pay. I won’t listen to your rubbish.
She left my office, slamming the door behind her. I was so shaken that I cancelled my next appointments and went home.
About a year later Andrew appeared to me while I was meditating. He was worried about his mother. He showed me that he had taken his own life because he knew that he was gay, and he couldn’t stop being gay. His mother had taken him to a psychologist, the church had made him do a program, but still this thing in him was there, needing to be expressed. He didn’t want to lose his family. So how could he live, when they hated everything that was this thing deep inside him?
He’d barely finished school when he decided what he must do. He packed up a few of his things so it would look like he’d run away. When he next left the house he took those things and put them in an industrial bin at the local shopping mall. Then he went home and into the woods near his family home, where he took his own life. It gave him comfort as he was dying, to have his home so close.
His father was sure he’d run away, and from that moment Andrew had ceased to exist for that man. But his mother had been frantic. Deep inside she’d known, even though there was no proof. Even though his parents had never even reported him missing. After all, Andrew was an adult now. He’d finished school. These were his choices.
Andrew wanted me to tell his mother where he was, and what had happened so that she would stop looking for him. He showed me the national park near his home. He asked me to tell his mother he was sorry. Not for being gay, but for having put the family through trauma. He was sorry too for not having the strength to live. He loved them all so much. And he wasn’t lonely. He was with Boo.
I found the woman’s details in my file. It took two days to muster the courage, but I called her and I passed on the information, including that Andrew was with Boo, whoever Boo might be. The woman listened to what I said and then hurled abuse at me and told me never to contact her again.
So, nearly ten years later, Andrew came to visit me again. He kept me awake most of the night. He told me that he wanted me to let his mum know that he loves his family and watches over them, that he hears their prayers, and that he forgives them. That his mum can still find happiness in this life. Also, that his oldest sister is pregnant, although she does not know it yet, and that the baby will be a girl. Comfort my mother, he tells me. Make her understand it’s all okay.
I am at my farm and my client files are in my office in Brisbane. It will be days before I am back there. Anyway, I cannot remember his mother’s name and I had promised to never contact her again. What can I do? I get no sleep for the worry of it. For wanting to do the right thing and for being sick to the stomach at needing to contact this woman again. Because, of course, I will.
The next morning I am in the car, thready with lack of sleep, my husband driving me home from breakfast at a favourite cafe, when my mobile phone rings. A woman asks if I am Nicole Cody. When I say yes, she tells me she has flown a long way to see me. She is standing outside my old address but the people there told her I moved years ago.
It is Andrew’s mother.
Can she get a cab to where I live now, she asks.
No, I tell her. I’m interstate. I live on a farm now. I felt bad that she had impulsively travelled so far, that I cannot tell her what I need to face to face.
Before I can say anything Andrew’s mother apologises to me for her behaviour. She tells me that she is no longer with her husband, who is a minister of a particular church. Her oldest daughter is still involved with the church, but married to someone outside the church. Her daughter is conflicted because she has been unable to conceive and finally she and her husband have resorted to IVF which is outside the teachings of that faith and considered a sin. Her other daughter went to Europe over ten years ago, and only came home last month. But she is going back. The daughter will not stay. She has a new life now.
She is talking and talking, Andrew’s mother, but I know these are not the things she wants to tell me. It is not why she travelled so far to try and see me.
Still she talks. I know you were telling the truth, that day you rang me, all those years ago, she said. Boo was my grandmother, who died before Andrew was born. I had never told the children her name. To them she was always known as Granny Parsons. But Boo was what I called her, my special name for her from when I was a little girl.
Here it comes, I think to myself. Here it comes. My arms are covered in gooseflesh.
Two years ago, she says, a hiker found human remains in the park that shares a boundary with our house. I thought of what you’d said and I went to the police. I told them Andrew had been missing all this time. I told them the whole truth. They used DNA to match the bones to my son. I hear the catch in her voice as she says the word bones, and feel my heart breaking for her.
You were right, she continues. He was there all along, and his body has lain in direct line of sight with my kitchen window all that time. Every morning, every night, I was looking out over him, and I never knew. I am so sorry that I was rude to you. Please forgive me. We buried Andrew a month ago. I knew that he was gay from when he was a tiny child. He killed himself because we did not act with love in our hearts about accepting his truth. We put him in a terrible position.
My husband still will not say his name. He did not go to the memorial. He cannot acknowledge Andrew and now he will not acknowledge me. I am cast out of our church, and I am okay with that. A God that cannot love their own creation is not a God I can believe in. She starts crying. Sobbing over and over, I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry.
I pass on the messages from her son. She is sobbing so hard that her breath is coming in hiccups. Will you be okay, I ask as her breathing settles. Yes, she tells me. Yes, I will. I know that she is telling me the truth. In her not-being-okay, she will still be okay. She will live with this Andrew-shaped hole in her heart but she has two living children she can be there for now, and a granddaughter on the way. I feel a shift in her; a sense of relief and a clearing of heaviness. I am crying too as I hang up the phone.
Later I pray that Andrew’s mother can find peace.
Love, acceptance, forgiveness, compassion. In the end it is these things that matter. It is these things that endure.
I am grateful that I was able to help. But I am shaken, and fragile and exhausted. I keep my family close all day. I spend the evening in the company of my husband and dear friends. There is a deep need in me to affirm my life and what matters.
Sometimes what I do is hard, and it takes everything I have.
But it is worth it.