Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

It had been 24 hours since the nasty fight.  The cold silence was getting to me.  Heavy sigh. Now was the time. This marriage is falling apart.  This is the right thing to do. “I’m sorry for what I said,” I blurted out, trying to sound convincing.  “I forgive you.”  He replied.  “Your turn.”  I thought.  Wait for it…  What?  “Ok. Just wait for it….”  I reassured myself.   What?  No apology from YOU?!  Breathe. Give it a few more seconds.  Surely he’ll apologize too.  Crickets.  How can that possibly be?!  You were clearly in the wrong.  What I said was only a reaction to what YOU said!  But YOU! You started the whole thing!  Why am I always the one to be the first to apologize?

My head raced and I fumed in the silence.

He was supposed to apologize after I apologized. He was supposed to know the drill:  The BOGO apology. Someone pays the price for the first apology, then the second one is free to a friend. Buy one, get one free. But that night, and so many others that followed, he wasn’t playing by the rules. The apology never came.

Sound familiar?

It seemed at times that God was only working on me.  And always working on me.  I knew a BOGO apology wasn’t what God really wanted me to give.  He wanted a No-Strings-Attached Apology. The kind of apology I give when my heart has changed.  I know I was in the wrong.  And it doesn’t matter what he was doing or not doing.  Whether he deserved an apology or not.  Whether he was sorry or not.  No strings attached.  I was wrong.  I’m sorry.  Forgive me.

No-Strings-Attached apologies are really hard.
No-Strings-Attached apologies are costly.
BOGO apologies, relatively speaking, are easy.
BOGO apologies are manipulative.  Really, it’s about what I want: An apology from you.
I serve it up.  You volley it over.

It would not be fair or accurate to say that over our 20 years of marriage, he never apologized. Or that I apologized for every single thing I ever did. But it seemed, he didn’t apologized for the big stuff.  I tried not to keep track, (“…[love] keeps no record of wrong things.”)  But it was hard.

Elton John, 1976:

What’ve I gotta do to make you love me?
What’ve I gotta do to make you care?
What do I do when lightning strikes me?
And awake to find that you’re not there?

What’ve I gotta do to make you want me?
What’ve I gotta do to be heard?
What do I say when it’s all over?
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

I’d actually fantasize about The Great Apology.  I’d lie in bed at night, my heart banged up from things he did and said that day.  Him, sleeping soundly and completely at peace with his day. I’d think, “Someday, you’ll feel badly for the way you’ve treated me.”  And then I’d play out the scene as if it were a movie.

It’s a hospital room.  We’re old and grey.  A 70 year marriage behind us.  I’m sitting next to the bed in a chair, holding his hand.  We’ve been reliving memories these past few days.  And we’ve had conversations about our two sons, their wives and our grandchildren.  Then there’s a pause in our conversation.  We’re alone.  No one in the room to hear these words I so wanted to hear.  He turns to me and says, “I’m sorry.  For all the things I’ve ever done that have hurt you.  You didn’t deserve any of that.  And I’m so very sorry.  Forgive me.”

I know.  It’s a little bit Hollywood, but it felt so good to live that.  To dream about that “someday.”  I loved him.  But it was getting harder and harder to hang on.  I loved our story.  I loved our little family.  I wanted to be with him for 70 years.  I wanted to send these two boys out into the world with their roots about them.  Sometimes this little “movie clip” got me to fall asleep at night.  The “someday” soothed my aching heart and offered me hope.

It’s sad. So sad.
It’s a sad, sad situation.
And it’s getting more and more absurd.

It’s sad. So sad.
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me,
That sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Things deteriorated, the attorneys, arbitrators, judges all came and went (and all the fees that came along with it.)  The Parenting Plan was in place.  Weekends, holidays and furniture divided.

The 20 year marriage was over.
No apology. (No surprise.)
He had moved on.
He was engaged before the divorce was final.

But she’d had enough too.  Not even 2 years into the marriage.
If he apologized to her, it was too late.
Divorced papers had been filed.

Then…I got my apology.
But he wasn’t old and grey. He was only 44.
But it was from his deathbed.
A tiny little line amidst a 25 page suicide note.

I read a photocopy of yellow legal paper (the police had the original for evidence).
The handwriting so familiar.  I’d known this handwriting since we were in high school.
My head was spinning – my eyes scanning.
I was afraid of what I might see.  What I might not see.

Do I really want to read this?  I don’t know what I’m going to find here.  And it’s so permanent. It’ll be burned into my memory forever.  I can’t change anything.  I can’t ask for clarification.  He can’t un-do what he says here.

And there it was.

“Please give the following people my love…” he wrote. Then he listed the children, his best friend, his brothers and sister, work mentors and other friends…and there it was:

Lorinda, I’m sorry.

On this list of about 15 people, my name was the only one with a little note written next to it.
My very own apology.

My mind scurried with questions:  What does he mean? Sorry for killing himself?  Or sorry for all the things he did while we were married? Sorry for the mess he’s leaving me with?  Or sorry for not trying harder to keep our marriage together?  Sorry for what he’s done to the two sons we share?

Of course, there were no answers to my questions.  Only silence.
In the end, it didn’t matter that I got specifics.  I got an apology.
Not even a BOGO apology.  A true, golden, No-Strings-Attached-Apology, no less.
At first, it felt really lame.  It didn’t feel as great as I thought it would.
It didn’t match the height I had built it up to be (thanks Hollywood).

But now, the little apology means a lot to me…written there during his last hours on earth.
I think about it sometimes.  I treasure it, actually.

What do I say when it’s all over?
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.

God has taught me a lot about apologies. I don’t always get it right.  Sometimes I blurt out a BOGO apology.  Just because I want peace.  But I know what God really wants from my heart: A-No-Strings-Attached Apology.  Those kind of apologies mean a lot to people I love and respect.

I know that some people never get an apology.  Not even a BOGO. Mothers and daughters who haven’t spoken in years.  Fathers and sons who let the door slam and the last angry words hang forever. Brothers and sisters who let the alcohol get in the way of an apology.  Ex-husbands and ex-wives who never say “I’m sorry I wrecked our marriage.”  People walk around with aches in their hearts for years.

Some go to their graves without getting one.
Some go to their graves without giving one.

So, I’ll choose to treasure mine.

What’ve I gotta do?
What’ve I gotta do?
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.


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