I felt like I was doing the right thing. I thought I was doing it the right way. And I thought that I could simply move on. I was wrong.I don’t remember exactly when Moses and I first became friends. We were either five or six years old. Specific dates don’t really matter. What’s important is that he’s the first person I ever considered to be a friend.
Myself and Moses started school together. We had to cross the same swamp behind his house to get there. Of course by swamp I mean a deep ditch filled with about six inches of mud and slimy water traversed by a couple of rotten planks. The swamp provided a close and useful shortcut for us both. He only lived down the road after all.
We embarked on an assortment of adventures over the next several years. We built forts in the woods and the snow, depending on what building materials the seasons had to offer. We played sports and games with other boys in the neighbourhood. We tormented our younger sisters. We tormented our older sisters. We laughed at things that probably made our parents question both our sanity and maturity. We even stayed friends when Moses moved to a different school in junior high. He only lived down the road after all.
Things changed during high school and our first years of university. What doesn’t change about a person during that time? Myself and Moses slowly began to drift apart. We were becoming different people with different interests and goals. I began disliking the kind of person he was becoming. A lot of this I now attribute to my short-lived obsession with trying to fit in. Our friendship was largely a casualty of that.
I ended our friendship abruptly. I wrote a short, blunt email declaring our friendship terminated. He wrote me an email in response. I didn’t even do him the courtesy of reading it. I sent it straight to the trash.
I don’t know that we could’ve remained friends. I firmly believe now what I suspected then. Myself and Moses were becoming different people moving toward different experiences. Our roads were diverging in the wood. I may have seen the looming fork in the road first. The problem was I did a terrible job of announcing it.
I still saw Moses every now and then. We did still live only a few houses apart. It was always awkward. The way it is when there’s an elephant in the room and someone besides the elephant has farted.
I always felt we had things we wanted to say to each other. But we never did. That always bothered me. I knew I could have done things differently and that Moses had deserved better. It was the first time I recall experiencing genuine guilt.
The last time I saw Moses was during my Nan’s funeral six years ago. His parents were family friends and they had attended the same church as my Nan. And they only lived a few houses down the road.
Myself and Moses had a nice chat following the funeral service. We talked a little about what we’d been doing with our lives since we’d stopped being friends. I remember wanting to blurt out an apology the whole time. The hatchet still lay in an open pit. Someone needed to pick up a shovel and bury it.
Moses made the first move just a few weeks ago. He sent me a friend request via Facebook that I accepted. A quick browse of his page revealed that he’s now happily married, and that he and his wife have two children, and are expecting a third. Moses works in a hospital helping sick children every day and he’s very excited about that.
We found ourselves logged in at the same time a few nights later. We started chatting about what we’d both been doing with our lives. Then I said in plain terms what I’d wanted to say to Moses for years. I apologized for what I’d done to him. He apologized too, though I felt he had nothing to apologize for.
I felt better instantly. The weight of an old burden had left my shoulders. My heart felt a little less corrupt. And my conscience was unshackled from a guilt that had gnawed at it for far too long.
I never asked Moses how he felt. I was simply too relieved at his gracious acceptance of my apology. But I suspect he felt some of the things I did.
Sometimes the hard and dark things of life can be too raw or close to the bone to deal with straight away. Sometimes they need to left in shadow until we’re ready to cast a fresh light on them. And while time may not heal all wounds, sometimes it does make the scars more bearable to look at.
Yet sometimes we refuse to deal with the dark and hard things for lesser reasons. Sometimes we refuse to let go of our anger and bitterness. Sometimes we like knowing or believing that the other person suffers. Sometimes it simply scares us. Sometimes we do these things because we feel they’re easier than confronting the dark and hard things themselves. And they are.
But holding a grudge is like refusing to let go of a large stone after jumping into a pool: it’ll only drag you down. We don’t need to drown under the weight of our guilt and past mistakes. We can let go and move on. And we should, because it truly can be a breath of fresh air.
I don’t know what part Moses will play in my life going forward. Nor can I speculate on the part I’ll play in his. After all, we don’t live on the same street anymore. And we've taken different roads through the wood. But I know a void I can’t express with words feels a little less empty.
It’s no small thing to apologize, forgive, and welcome someone back in to your life. It’s a humbling thing, and can be very hard to do. But it can also be absolutely worth it.