159. Struggling to Forgive: A Tale of Three Women

I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Accuse me, let us go to trial; set forth your case, so that you may be proved right. [Isaiah 43:25-26, NRSV]

Three elderly women chatting. Photo by Stan Wayman.

Three women, three real-life stories. Each one has to do with a “no-good” husband who deserves to die and “go to hell”.

Read their stories and see what you think.

1. A Filipino woman and her no-good husband

A Catholic priest on his regular tour of duty in the interior of Sarawak celebrated the Eucharist as usual in the evening at a longhouse. The farmers are back from the field and the families, dinner over, have settled down for the evening. For the homily, the priest told a story.

Flordeliza is a 75 year-old Filipino lady who looks not a day older than 40. She helps out as a volunteer sacristan at her parish church. She is an amazing lady – a picture of peace and gentleness, loved by everyone who meets her. Her life story, the priest tells the longhouse congregation, is even more amazing.

When she was much younger, Flordeliza’s husband left her for another woman. From then on, she single-handedly raised their three children. Years later, her husband fell terribly ill with terminal cancer and the “other” woman was not willing to care for him on the last leg of his journey on earth. He would be in a horribly terrible state fending for himself, sick and utterly alone.

He sent words to Flordeliza that he wanted to come back to her. She received him back and gently cared for him until he died.

The “other” woman came to the funeral. On seeing her, Flordeliza immediately went over to greet and embrace her, and to thank her for taking care of her husband for the past so many years.

The priest asked the people one question, whether they could do what Flordeliza did.

They all shook their heads and said vehemently, “No way.”

2. A Malaysian-Chinese woman and her no-good husband

Rajang, the longest river in Sarawak.

Maggie, a Chinese lady who resides in a town in the Rajang River basin, Sarawak, had the misfortune of being married to a no-good husband. The man has been sleeping over at his mistress’s place every night and returning home in the morning only to bathe and change, leaving his dirty laundry to the wife.

Maggie was understandably bitter for the last twenty over years.

One day, the mistress phoned one of Maggie’s sons to say that her husband had died and asked the family to collect the body for burial. The body was brought home, but Maggie refused to have anything to do with the funeral arrangements, leaving everything to her grown up sons to handle.

On the day of the funeral, friends and relatives were amazed to see her sitting there, seeping her tea, evidently very pleased with herself and, as we Chinese would say, “shaking her legs”.

When people asked why she was beaming with joy instead of being mournful on a day like this, she said brightly, “You have no idea how relieved I am, now that he’s dead. In the past, I used to be tortured by sleepless nights, sitting up wondering what he was doing with that woman. Now, I am free. I can sleep in peace every night!”

3. A Korean woman with her no-good husband

Naju: Overnight prayer meeting on June 30, 2004 to mark 19th anniversary of Our Lady’s First Tears.

Angela lives in Naju, Korea. She divorced her husband eighteen years earlier and had single-handedly been raising their two children ever since. We do not know how long they were married or even why they were divorced. But no one could fail to see the bitterness in her life ever since the divorce. This is what she wrote in her testimony:

  • No one will understand how many times I have cried or how much pain I had endured. Tears of blood have been flowing inside me. I was so resentful and decided to take revenge by earning as much money as possible and raising the children in the best possible way. I worked like an ox, even when I was sick. My mind was always sizzling with resentment and anger, unable to forgive. I was angry with the world and sometimes, even with God.

In her own words, divorced for eighteen years and she was “still sizzling” with resentment and anger, unable to forgive. She had certainly suffered untold pain over the years. Yet, truly, she was a prisoner of her own misery, until one day in 1987 when she had a chance to visit a new chapel built in honour of our Blessed Lady in Naju. There, she heard Julia Kim who said she was only relaying the message of our Blessed Mother. Listen to that message:

  • Do not criticize or judge others, but convert your heart to God. Families are sick. Sanctify your family by loving one another. Never blame others, but always blame yourself only. Those who accept my message of love will experience a renewal of their souls.

On hearing this message, Angela was so completely shaken up that she burst out crying loudly and uncontrollably. Until that day, she was full of anger and always blaming everyone else. On hearing that message, she felt so ashamed before the Lord and the Blessed Mother. But she was making so much noise crying, that other people in the chapel had to tell her to control herself and keep the noise down.

With her conversion, Angela decided to do two things.

First, because people asked her to control the noise, she crawled out of the chapel and decided to clean the floor and every corner of the toilet.

The second thing she did was to forgive her husband for all the wrongs he had done her and to accept him back. She then went in search of him.

When she finally found him, he was lying in bed in a rented room, alone, and very sick. Not only was he bed-ridden, he was debt-ridden as well. As she approached her husband, Angela was momentarily overcome by anger – anger for eighteen years of suffering. But this anger was quickly overtaken by pity for that old fool, now desperately alone in his sick bed. She went over and touched him and said, “It’s time to go home.”

Imagine that – eighteen years of estrangement; eighteen years of suffering. After eighteen long years, Angela got her husband back. Her family was finally re-united, but not a day earlier than when she had decided from the bottom of her heart to forgive him.

What do you think about these three women and their real-life struggles in marriage and family life?

Copyright © Dr. Jeffrey & Angie Goh, September 2016. All rights reserved.

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