Welcome to the karma cafe. There is no menu. You are served what you deserve.
In my travels I've seen and heard a lot of things about karma. It's in songs, books, movies, memes and discussed in round about ways over dinner, drinks and debates. There are many ways to express it.
What goes around, comes around.What you put out into the world, comes back to you ten fold.
Any way you put it, it still shakes out the same. Sooner or later, everything you do comes back to you in the form of a lesson. But it's only a lesson if you are paying attention. If you learn the lesson, you say to yourself, point taken, so noted, got it. Thank you and move on. If you don't learn and you aren't paying attention, the lesson is repeated over and over and over, like a never ending scene from Ground Hog Day. Stuck on repeat until something different happens.
And one thing I know is, wishing bad karma on someone is wishing bad karma on yourself. It was the quote at the beginning of this entry, that...the moment I read it I was immediately reminded of an encounter with karma that deeply hit home, like a fly ball sent deep into the stands of left field.
And then there is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It can cleanse every part of you, restore and rebalance your heart and lift your soul to the heights of joy; the kind of joy expressed by children at play. And that's the best thing. It sets you free...to live your life as it is intended.
Because the thing I've learned about forgiveness is that when you forgive someone, you are not releasing them from a past hurt, you are releasing yourself from the poison of anger.
If you knew that, why would you want to hold on to feelings like resentment and bitterness?
Some people can hold a grudge, and some hang on to resentment for a lifetime. My mother was like that, and on some measure we all have that capacity in us. For some resentment is fleeting, floating in the air like a soap bubble, clear and light, before it vanishes with a pop. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. Over and done with. Never to be brought up again. Then there are those who carry resentment like a hammer, wielding it whenever and wherever they can. And if the opportunity to express a lifetime of bitterness presents itself, they take it. Regardless of the circumstances.
Such was the case of a woman from my father’s past, that I knew of but never met. Until the day my father’s long battle with cancer put him in the hospital in preparation for the end of his journey.
It was on a quiet afternoon, sitting with my father in his room, that a valuable lesson in life revealed itself to me. Up until that day I'd never met anyone who didn't like my father; well, okay there was my mother. And they didn't exactly part on amiable terms. But that story is for another day.
On this day, dad was still lucid and we were watching the television show Law & Order, a favorite of his. It was just dad and I in the room. The door was slightly ajar and muffled sounds of distant medical staff engulfed in their daily routine occasionally filtered in. Dad and I were simply enjoying each others company. What lied ahead or behind us mattered not. It was all about the present.
I sensed her presence out in the hall before I saw her. When I took my eyes off the television, she stepped into the room, taking only two slow but determined steps before stopping, never taking her eyes off dad. I didn't recognize her. She was much older than my father and in her eyes I saw a look that was far from friendly. Her steely eyes were hard and harsh. Short gray hair, perfectly coiffed and curled, she could have been anybody's grandmother. Short in height and slight in figure, with an air of dignity about her.
Behind the frames of her glasses her eyes narrowed a bit just before she spoke. "Well, Donnie," she said with an upward thrust of her chin. "I see you finally got what you deserve." She lingered for a brief second, then turned abruptly and walked out of the room.
In that moment I knew exactly who she was. And what brought her to the hospital. In another room down the hall, was her husband.
And I should have said something. How dare she speak to my father, in his present condition, like that! But her words, so abrupt and delivered with an icy smack of seething bitterness, stunned me into silence.
With the weight of her words still heavy in the air, I got up from my chair and stepped to dad's side. In that awkward moment, I looked deep into his eyes and saw the hollow remnants of his pain in them. Taking his hand, feeling the shock of her vengeful words needling my guts, I smiled tenderly at him and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t care what anybody says,” I whispered. “I love you. You don’t deserve this.”
Dad smiled and patted my knee. “Don’t worry about it honey,” he said with a wave of his hand, as if to push her words and memory out of the air. “She believes she has a right to be angry. And she’s been angry at me for a very long time.”
I shook my head, completely aware of the history between these two. “You’d think she’d be over it by now,” I observed, glancing out towards the hall, half expecting her to return to the room to start round two.
“Not her,” dad expressed with a deep sigh. “She’ll hang on to it like a dog with a bone.” His bright blue eyes shifted from the television to my eyes. “Some folks just can’t let go. They don’t know how. Or they don‘t want to…”
I felt for him. I felt of him. A simple man, paying the price for something that happened when he was a teenager.
The room was quiet again. Distant voices in the hall broke the uncomfortable silence now between us.
And I wondered. How long had she waited to say those horrible words to my father? Upon hearing my father was dying in the hospital, did she plan to walk into his room with the main goal of making that remark? Or was it a spur of the moment decision?
I'll never know, but that doesn't matter. What matters for me, as long as I live, is I’ll never forget the feeling this brief encounter with this one woman put inside my heart. And I know I don't ever want to be a bitter, hateful woman, young or old. Not like that. Not like her.
Just days after dad's funeral I attended the funeral of her husband.
Odd isn't it? How that one quote about the karma cafe always makes me think about that moment with my dad. Leaving me to wonder if karma, like justice, is blind when holding the scale of life. When it comes to sorting through facts to find the weight of truth, I know it's not blind. But people often are.
It's been said time heals all wounds. Perhaps. But I do believe forgiveness is the key that starts the process of healing.