The old woman is lying in a hospital bed in her living room. The hospice nurse sits in the corner keeping an eye on her. Today is a big day.
“Is he here yet?” asks the patient.
“He’s coming,” says the nurse. “Your daughter said he texted, his plane just landed.”
“How much longer?”
“You know how traffic is.”
These are the final stages of her life. She was an English teacher once. She taught high-schoolers to read Hemingway, Clemens, and Steinbeck. And how to love them.
Local students said her class was the best thing about their one-point-five-horse town. Especially when she used to get students to reenact “Huckleberry Finn.” The English teacher always played the part of Huck while wearing cutoff overalls, straw hat, and painted freckles.
The old woman says, “What time is it now?”
“Same time as when you asked thirty seconds ago. Relax, Miss Adeline. He’s coming.”
She is hazy from medication. “What if he changed his mind?”
Forty-three years ago the English teacher’s husband was unfaithful. He had been having a relationship with her best friend for years. It ruined her. Their marriage shattered like plate glass and their family split in two. The Leave it to Beaver image died. And June Cleaver traded in her pearls.
“Miss Adeline. How’s your pain level? You comfortable?”
The old woman tries to swallow. “I’m thirsty.”
“I’ll get you some water.”
The nurse leaves. And the old woman is left with memories. Some good. Some not. She never remarried. She never spoke to her ex-husband again, either. Not once.
She never used his name, never acknowledged him. She moved to a different part of the state. He moved across the country. They have been strangers for four decades. But that was a long time ago. And pancreatic cancer has changed her perspective.
Then a doorbell rings.
“That’s him,” says the old woman. “Maybe this was a bad idea.”
The nurse turns to the chaplain who says, “Miss Adeline. You’ve been preparing for this.”
In a few minutes she has company. The man who enters is elderly. Tall and lean, dressed in a button down. They are given privacy.
“Hello, Adeline,” he says.
The old woman gestures to a chair. “Randall, please, sit.”
They run through the typical forced pleasantries. “How was your flight?” “How’re the kids?” “How’s your life?” “Wow, you look different.” “I don’t look old, you look old.” Together they ogle photos of grandbabies on mobile phones. Never mind the forty-three years of bitterment between them, they are making chitchat now.
Finally, the mood becomes serious and they get down to cutting bait.
“Adeline,” he begins. “God. I don’t know why you’d wanna see me.”
The old woman is undaunted, she has been rehearsing this scene for weeks with her chaplain. She will never be more ready than right now.
“Randall, listen. I wanna say this, and I don’t want you to interrupt. And it’s important I say this to you.”
He remains silent.
“I’m sorry I hated you, I’m sorry we were hateful to each other, I’m sorry I was angry for so long, and… I’m just sorry. I should have apologized years ago. I don’t want to die without you knowing how sorry I am.”
Randall is now a blithering mess. He removes his glasses. “God, Addy.”
She holds his hand.
“God,” he says through tears. “I’m the one who’s sorry. I wish it was me lying in that bed.”
She smiles. “You know something? Me too.”
He looks at her. He’s not sure how to react. Then they both erupt into laughter. Real laughter. Together they laugh until their vision goes blurry.
“I’m gonna miss you.”
“I have missed you.”
“We had some good times.”
He wipes his face with a sleeve. “God, when I took you to prom I thought I was ten foot tall. Everyone in the whole school was jealous.”
She laughs. He always was a great embellisher.
The old woman asks permission to touch his face. He grants it. It’s been a while since she’s done this. And here comes the next part she’s been rehearsing. “I love you, Randall.”
The pair of one-time sweethearts spends another hour rehashing ancient memories. All smiles. No pain. And sometime around 3:09 P.M., as soon as they finished, everyone within the household would claim something happened. Something filled the home. Something sweet, like the smell of drugstore perfume, like a cake baking. A deep peace.
The old woman’s daughter says she could almost sense this peace drifting through the hallways, the living room, the bedrooms, out into the yard, and upward into an eternal place.
A place where wrongs are not remembered, where mistakes are not recalled. Where, I am told, trespasses are forgiven. And where we forgive those who trespass against us.
Rest, Miss Adeline. Rest in peace.
Holly - May 22, 2021 9:19 am
Oh. Wow. So much this whole (often ugly) world could learn from this. Forgiveness. Peace. Love. The secret is not waiting until it’s too late.
I vow to do my part. To forgive, find peace for myself and give peace to others. To love. THIS IS WHAT WE ARE HERE FOR. Thank you Sean. God Bless You. Let’s all do our part to change our lives, to put the past aside, to forgive. For ourselves. Forgiveness is for us. Refusing to forgive hurts us, not those who have hurt us in the past. This does not mean you must forget. This is hard. But forgiving will bring you peace. Let’s all vow to do our part. ❤️
Lander - May 22, 2021 9:28 am
Forgiveness. A woman’s forgiveness. A man’s wish to have been the one to apologize. It changes the world. Thank you, Sean.
Heidi - May 22, 2021 9:34 am
A beautiful story with an everlasting message. Thank you.
aleathia nicholson - May 22, 2021 9:37 am
Never die angry.
Barry Surratt - May 22, 2021 9:37 am
As usual I can’t read your columns without tearing up and struggle to read them out loud to my wife… thank you and don’t stop!
Dee Jordan - May 22, 2021 9:44 am
Excellent and made me tear up.
Sandi. - May 22, 2021 9:47 am
What a tearjerker of a story, but with a good lesson in it.
Newell - May 22, 2021 10:00 am
Sharon Brock - May 22, 2021 12:44 pm
Miss Adeline was a better person than me. I can forgive and have. But there is no way I am capable of what Miss Adeline did. Good for you my dear.
Brenda - May 22, 2021 10:19 am
Beautiful story, well written!
Ann - May 22, 2021 10:38 am
Through watery eyes…this message is sooooooo beautiful.Whew!❤️❤️
Ravans - May 22, 2021 10:39 am
Well that gave me something to think about.
Leslie in NC - May 22, 2021 11:07 am
Everything Holly said. Divorced for years, my mother did the same the same thing with my father on her deathbed. She told him “I love you.” I believe she went in peace.
Holly - May 23, 2021 8:26 am
Glenn Ellison - May 22, 2021 11:09 am
Marines don’t cry, but I did.
Virginia Russell - May 22, 2021 11:13 am
Oh boy, this was a tough one.
Al Cato - May 22, 2021 11:15 am
Many days reading your blogs is like a Bible study. 5 of us old guys participate over our cell phones in a Bible study each Wednesday. One is in Kentucky, one is in Wisconsin, 2 of us are in Georgia and one, who is a pastor and also drives a truck for Whole Foods and connects with us from North Carolina. We are studying Genesis and have arrived at the story of Joseph. The Bible tells us the story of Joseph and his mistreatment by his brothers. But the greater part of Joseph’s story is his faith, obedience in following God and his forgiveness of his brothers. Miss Adeline lived a modern day version of Joseph’s story. Thx for today’s Bible study Sean. RIP Miss Adeline.
Bernadette Wyckoff - May 22, 2021 11:19 am
Never too late for forgiveness….it does smell sweeter than anything I’ve ever known. Happy tears for both them and myself now.
Carolyn Sue Rhodus - May 22, 2021 11:28 am
I feel we all have experienced that one “hurt” that renders us bitter. Anger lingers and forgiveness seems far away. But with God’s timing, we make it right. Rest well, dear lady.
Travis - May 22, 2021 11:34 am
Good story. 😊
Dr. Jimmy - May 22, 2021 11:36 am
A pastor friend had the same experience with his parents a couple of Sundays ago. Same outcome after 41 years. Thanks for memorializing the essence of the moment. Some of the finest words you’ve written . . . “she could almost sense this peace drifting through the hallways, the living room, the bedrooms, out into the yard, and upward into an eternal place. A place where wrongs are not remembered, where mistakes are not recalled. Where, I am told, trespasses are forgiven. And where we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Thank you Sean. Thank you for using your gift to bless all who take the time to “listen”!
Travis pearson - May 22, 2021 11:37 am
I enjoy your daily stories and your humor that reminds me of growing up in rural Shelby county Alabama!
Janie F. - May 22, 2021 11:58 am
Ken P - May 22, 2021 12:25 pm
Best one yet Sean!!! Life is way too short for foolishness of grudges and hatred.
MermaidGrammy - May 22, 2021 12:46 pm
I’m the one who’s left after so many have gone without my forgiveness. Im not so happy.
Great, magnificent story. Forgive somebody today. Before it’s too late
Sharon Brock - May 22, 2021 12:47 pm
Miss Adeline is a better person than I am. I have forgiven wrongs but there is no way I could act as she did. Good job Miss Adeline and rest in peace.
Trilby - May 22, 2021 12:50 pm
Bobbie - May 22, 2021 1:13 pm
Another beautifully written story that paints a picture. Can see it all clearly. I can see why her students loved her… just a beautiful person. This should touch everyone’s heart…forgiveness does bring peace. I did this once, by text. It does somewhat relieve the burden bitterness and anger causes us to carry.
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
God bless you❤️
Dianne - May 22, 2021 1:14 pm
Thank you, Sean. Life is all about forgiveness and love. Thankful God set the example for us all.
Jan - May 22, 2021 1:24 pm
I have no words to add … perfect story! Love and forgiveness triumph just as God planned. Thank you, Miss Addy and Sean, for showing us the way.
Rhoda Fountain - May 22, 2021 1:26 pm
Linda McGehee - May 22, 2021 1:31 pm
Beautiful story! I read you everyday. Your words are my daily devotional. Thank you for “seeing” what others may easily miss. I turn 80 this June. Time, oh how it flies. I’m a widow of 10 years after 53 years of marriage. But my life is full. There is joy and beauty if you open your eyes and freely give your heart.
judemiller1 - May 22, 2021 1:34 pm
Thank Goodness I had the courage and opportunity to do this while I was still alive. Funny how forgiveness works. It brings such peace. It takes away the nightmares. It takes away the hate. I rarely even think about him or the bad memories any more.
AlaRedClayGirl - May 22, 2021 1:46 pm
Just Beautiful! I read that “resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
Shelton A. - May 22, 2021 1:53 pm
Forgiveness and reconciliation are great healers, even when you are dying. Thanks for this.
Edwin G Staples - May 22, 2021 1:53 pm
You made my day again!! For a guy that doesn’t profess to be a writer, you sure have me fooled.
Debra A Gamble - May 22, 2021 2:09 pm
One of THE most touching stories I have ever read. Sean, you are such an amazing writer.
Patty hesaidwhatks - May 22, 2021 2:18 pm
I have a strong marriage and good family relationships, thank God. But there are some other people in my life… This spoke to me. Thank you, Sean.
Carol Watson - May 22, 2021 2:52 pm
God Sean this post messed me up bad! This post is ME! I am not on my death but I’m 72 & divorced from a man I was married to for 40 yrs because he cheated but I did also but never confessed that, O my! Now we have remained friends, both of us happily remarried to other people but I have asked God for forgiveness but I am now convicted that I need to have a talk with the ex & let him know that the end of our marriage was not all his fault. Just don’t want to wait till I’m dying to do it! God help me!
Bill - May 22, 2021 2:56 pm
Very touching story. A very nice story, Sean. Many thanks for telling it.
Debbie D., AL - May 22, 2021 3:03 pm
Sandra Wolfe - May 22, 2021 3:36 pm
Oh my goodness. So sad but a beautiful and sweet story. A story for some of us to learn from.(maybe)
Steve McCaleb - May 22, 2021 3:42 pm
Beautiful story. Wonderfully told. Thank you Sean.
Wendy - May 22, 2021 4:20 pm
I love your stories about old people. I hope I get to be old one day, displaying for all to see the mercy and love of God.
Sarah - May 22, 2021 4:25 pm
Keep those forgiveness stories coming. We need them. Many of us have forgotten how to forgive. 2021 needs forgiveness in it
Paul Moore - May 22, 2021 4:26 pm
Thanks Sean. Believe or not there’s a lot of old fools who can relate to this in some ways
marthajanecassidey9526 - May 22, 2021 5:17 pm
Wow! This story gave me chills! I needed to hear this today.
joan moore - May 22, 2021 5:28 pm
The best yet, so far…
Linda Moon - May 22, 2021 5:59 pm
That’s the best part of being a teacher….when you know some students loved the stuff you taught. That was almost Heaven for me in my career. Miss Valera McInnis and Miss Jane Shell were two of my many teachers who taught me to love learning. It seems that God and Addy and Randall came together in peace for one last time. Rest when needed for now and then the final one, too….. for those of us who need peace, reconciliation, and some learning with love.
MAM - May 22, 2021 6:16 pm
This one sent me beyond leaky eyes. It became more of a deluge! Oh, I pray that we all can reach that forgiving peace before we die. It’s best that we do it now, while we still have life within us. God will take care of us!
Connie - May 22, 2021 6:23 pm
Wow! So touching and heartwarming. Thanks for another wonderful article.
Christina - May 22, 2021 7:26 pm
I was re reading “will the circle be unbroken” last night, the chapter where you turned around as you approached Kansas… the past can haunt us and wound us so deeply that sometimes turning around feels like the only way to breathe. It can be an overwhelming process. Bless you Miss Adeline, for the grace you extended. RIP!
Cathy Moss - May 22, 2021 7:37 pm
Miss Adeline gave herself a gift before she left this world. After all that’s what forgiveness really is, a gift to yourself. Then she she entered God’s kingdom with a clean heart and was greeted with, well done good and faithful servant. We have all been hurt but you can’t carry it around with all your life. The burden is just too heavy. This was very touching and such a great lesson for all your readers. If you ever get tired of your present occupation just start preaching. I will be on the front row. The good lord blessed you with so many gifts. Love to you and Jamie
Maggie Kruger - May 22, 2021 7:53 pm
Thank you for writing this…
Bonnie Burt - May 22, 2021 9:55 pm
Oh, what a touching story!! I love your writing! God has blessed you with an amazing talent!!
Chasity Davis Ritter - May 22, 2021 11:17 pm
Fly free sweet Miss Adeline
Nancy - May 23, 2021 12:14 am
It was a beautiful telling. Although I have always been confused by the ‘best friend’ part of stories. They were NOT a best friend. Best friends don’t behave that way.
Tammy S. - May 23, 2021 4:18 am
Asking for or giving Forgiveness is such a powerful gift! Sometimes we give others and in doing so, we give this gift of forgiveness to ourselves. Just so powerful! This one was simply beautiful!! Thanks for sharing.
Debbie g - May 23, 2021 4:33 am
Blessed again love to all
fall’n whispers, by kimberly TM(c)2003 - May 23, 2021 6:07 am
Absolute Simplistic Love
Liz Watkins - May 23, 2021 12:16 pm
The joy of forgiveness- RIP sweet Adeline!
Pray for all of us who have bitterness and hate in our heart!
Deb - May 23, 2021 4:50 pm
Well….I never expected to be crying like a baby waiting in line at Toy Story Land at the Happiest Place on Earth. 🏰 🤧
Robert L James - May 23, 2021 9:35 pm
Thank you, Sean! Sincerely.
If you come to “The Rocket City”, call me. We’ll show our gratitude in hospitality. Meatloaf? Maybe a good mountain top hike? A trip to the farm? Dinner at Ruchi’s?
And I won’t expect you to teach me to write. ;-D
johnallenberry - May 23, 2021 9:44 pm
Dang it… someone’s chopping onions in here. Got me bawling.
Connie - May 23, 2021 11:19 pm
Reading this again and reading comments from others made me wish I had done the same before my ex died several years ago. Now it’s too late so I encourage others to forgive as we still had feelings for each other although I realize that our marriage was not meant to be as we were too different. I am blessed to have three wonderful sons from this marriage.
Bob Brenner - May 24, 2021 10:48 am
Wow is all I can say! True love and forgiveness ❤️❤️
Carol - May 24, 2021 2:55 pm
Sean, Thank you for this😢🥲🥰👼
Sheri K - May 25, 2021 8:36 pm
I totally agree with what Dr Jimmy wrote above about your wonderful description of her sweeping peace as Miss Addy left this world! Thru tears, I say thank you for a wonderful message!!