Thank you, Cord Jefferson, for writing this wonderful story. I love the ways in which you connect the experiece of deep hardship with the realization of how vital kindness is in our world.
I have had a similar epiphany due, at least in part, to a loved one’s severe illness. It has always been difficult for me to describe precisely how the two things are connected because my realization is not rooted in the person that I mourn but instead simply in the experience of grief itself.
I wonder what happens for you when you think about the possibility that your new (I’m presuming it is new) respect for choosing forgiveness, and choosing to return kindness to a harsh world instead of bitterness, is not only out of respect for your mother, but might also be a place where we frequently find solace and strength when we experience deep grief, regardless of the reason for that grief. In other words, I believe that when we have to travel through something really difficult (whatever that is) we often find ourselves realizing how important kindness is, and how much strength it takes to be kind in this world, and how much the world gains by small, seemingly ordinary acts of kindness. Basically, I’m wondering if you have thought about the possibility that you might have come to the same realizations even if your mother was not such an example of kindness in the face of a brutal world.
My loved one who is sick is not exactly the measure of kindness. (It is my son and he never got a chance really, to grow into the man who might have been kind because he became sick in his late teens and now his brain is so damaged from the illness that we will never get to the know the man he might have been.) And yet, somehow, the experience of this level of grief has brought me to a place where every single day is really about the power of kindness, decency, and civility.
The small, seemingly invisible acts of standing up to bullies and standing up to the brutal nature of the world is a place of solace probably for your mother also. And for her, it doesn’t sound like she came to this through the example of her own mother. But rather, she came to it through, absurdly, the experience of returning love in the face of hate, and finding that that is precisely where her real power lies. Where it would seem to be risking vulnerability, being kind and gentle and decent is actually playing our strongest hand in life. And we learn this when we are given the chance to experience it first hand.