Have you thought about where you learned forgiveness?
I was very blessed to grow up and have my best friend live next door to me – and her mom Jo. The first 18 years of my life, Jo was my neighbor, and Deann born a year and a half later became my best friend from early on. Jo passed away this week. It wasn’t until the moment I read Jo’s obituary that I realized the lesson I learned from Jo was forgiveness.
When we were in high school, we didn’t exactly follow the rules. And these plans ended up in our notes – the kind of notes that we passed in the hallways on lined notebook paper, as we passed from class to class, the ones perfected the origami skills of making a pocket to secure their contents or the triangle you could flick the note to another person during class.
Since we had open campus, we went home for lunch and on this Spring day, we went to Deann’s house. Our parents worked nights at the local factory, so we were always quiet, not to wake them up. But this day, Jo was not asleep. She was waiting for us at the kitchen table. She found ‘the notes’ where we planned our not-following-the-rules antics.
Did we ever get a LECTURE! And then she grounded us from each other. Yes, I got grounded by my neighbor mom. I was devastated. It was my senior year, Deann’s junior year, and I didn’t know life without Deann.
Deann had been the person at all my big celebrations. Deann was the one who went to the hospital and sat with me all night when my grandpa broke his neck, and we waited for the rest of the family returned from my sister’s wedding in Colorado. After a horrible choice for a prom date, she saved the day on my senior prom and we did prom together (Prom picture – 1989). Deann was my person, and now the only time I got to see or talk to her was passing in the school’s hallways. As a senior closing out my school career, I became even more lost without my best friend to talk through all this with (no cell pones in those days).
Then came graduation day, and my reception was at my Grandma’s house. In the door walked Jo! I’m sure my eyes popped out of my head. I scanned the room for my parents as I didn’t think they knew Jo had grounded me. She did not put her gift on the table, she walked straight towards me. Jo handed me the gift, and asked me to open it. The gift was a photo album. Jo told me to go fill it with memories, memories with Deann. Then, she told me Deann still had school on Monday so have her home by 11. I only remember 3 gifts that day, and the photo album is one of them, but Jo’s gift was much more than the album, it was forgiveness.
I have no idea what party I was going to go to that night or what trouble I was going to get into, but it didn’t happen. Deann and I spent my graduation evening playing tennis. It was so awesome just to be with her again, and it was such a feeling of ‘awe’ to be forgiven by Jo.
A year later when Deann graduated from high school, Deann’s parents gave her a present – a plane ticket to come see me in New York, where I was a nanny.
I am so blessed to have a neighbor mom who forgave me, then continued to support me – at my wedding, at my baby shower, and even taking an interest in me as a young mother and wife encouraging me. We always made sure to take Katie trick-or-treating to Jo’s house.
Thank you Jo for it all, but most of all for forgiveness. Thank you Lord for all the days you authored my days with Jo in my life’s story. Until, we meet again Jo…may God hold you in the palm of His Hand.