Saturday, November 15, 2014

May All Grievances Be Forgiven

My Brother's Fireplace / Lutsen, MN

Because of my dear dad's 100th birthday celebration, the family gathered last weekend (vs Thanksgiving) from as far away as Tokyo, Japan, Sterling Springs, CO, Midland, Michigan, and the Twin Cities in MN.  

You always wonder when you're coming together if members will be able to forego old sibling rivalries, flare ups, or painful assessments and all that goes with family tension at the table, kitchen, or fireplace. You go determined to be above the fray. I'll draw from Jesus or Buddha you say. 

Sometimes you feel you've nearly had a clean get-away, but comments follow you out the door as if they were stuck on the doorknob like infectious cells. *

The truth is frequently we gather without all the "I'm sorry/s" you hoped to receive in years past. Some never come; and it's hard to know if they ever will. 

A Buddhist teacher, however, answered my concerns one way as we sat in a small classroom.

"It never, never, never, never, never, never, turns out the way you think," said Flying Fish Barbara Murphy at Clouds in Water Zen Center. 

Those words have stayed with me as well as Pema Chodron's "Drop the story line."

Betrayal I've come to learn, is woven into families like the afghan you were gifted years ago. It's hard to separate out all the yarn. Years pass and you pray your way forward past the hurts that make rough rocks smooth. 

Even if you've been carved out like a hand-honed canoe, you realize resentments only give you acid and make you bitter. You realize your own health is too high a price to pay. 

I loved my Aunt Bobbie's words: You become bitter or better, she used to say. 

Flying Fish Barbara, now a Teacher Assistant at Clouds, gave a talk on forgiveness several years ago. It was such a thoughtful presentation on this word that is so hard to reach we need a chair or step ladder as it rests on the highest shelf.

With candor she admitted: I've been working on forgiveness for four years. Her talk was so good you knew her words were in earnest. It ennobled the whole passage we all come to know. 

Years ago I even bought a plaque which says: FORGIVEN and put it on my book shelf. It's literally right above Jesus. 

So yes, it's early to say Happy Thanksgiving, but since I've just had mine in a sense, I want to hold out hope for you and offer a blessing. It is softer than life is. But blessings often are: that's why we need to read them and allow our hearts to transcend adjectives like sniveling or spiteful or--trying to get the last word in a passive aggressive retort.

In the end the only assessment that matters is how you feel about yourself. Or how you  feel when you talk or pray to God. If we take the high road, we are lifted and evolve. It's delicate, I know. When do you stand for yourself and when do you let it go? We all ask the Solomon in our own souls.

So, I humbly extend: 

Blessings of the Thanksgiving Season

May your mashed potatoes be smooth;

May your stuffing not turn to mush;
May you win the wishbone;
May there be no guilt to pass; 
May all grievances be forgiven
(At least until the dishes have been put away);
May your stomach be glad and
May your memories be like a broth you savor for years.

Connie Nelson Ahlberg

*A Post Script - Actually an issue raised as I sought to leave in my clean-getaway, was one I needed to hear. Though I wiped tears from my eyes in the car, I knew I was hearing the truth. As Pema Chodron says: Whatever your next lesson is--it's going to pop right up!

God Bless Your Honey Hearts as my college landlady used to say! 
And God Bless each day in Earth School for us all.


  1. Connie, could you please get in touch with me ASAP? I found your blog while doing a Google search on Phoebe Josephine Pecore Nelson. My dad, John Richard "Dick" Gravelle, is Willard's first cousin and the son of Phoebe's youngest sister Estelle. Not that long ago my dad was saying that he was sure that Bill was dead by now. Is Willard still up for a visit with my dad? Dad is 82 and is more or less in OK shape, with a bit of loss of cognizance. My mother, Greta, died a little over a year ago, very suddenly and unexpectedly. We sold their house and moved Dad into an assisted living facility. He's enough with the program to be cranky about it, but can no longer drive or cook for himself. I would be more than happy to take a day off and drive him up the shore to see his cousin one last time, or maybe one more time, if you think it would be worth it. He'd love it. Please let me know. My email is and my home phone (evenings) is 218-464-1165. Thanks, Jeanne Gravelle Horn

  2. Oh, dear I am only seeing this now. My dad just turned 100 on 11/11/2014. He is doing amazingly well. Will e-mail. God Bless You!