One of the practices hospice recommends is to ask your loved one’s forgiveness–and to offer yours.

I’ve been thinking about this all day. The importance, or power of forgiveness and how it might keep us here on earth, lingering. Everything hospice does is to make passing easy, comfortable, and to give a sense of closure to everyone.

And here’s this forgiveness “issue” needing to be addressed, perhaps for the first time in many family member’s lives–and for others, it’s a reassurance, a final healing of many healings we all must go through in life.

Isn’t it amazing that a lack of forgiveness can hold you to this world when your spirit is ready to leave?

It doesn’t even matter if your loved one is in a coma, or if they have cancer and are on morphine, or if they have Alzheimer’s or some other neurological disorder that may make you feel that they are beyond understanding. They’re not. You’re not. I believe that forgiveness, and the ability to give and receive forgiveness is at a cellular level. What we think, dwell on, harbor, hold on to, refuse to let go of–it has to go somewhere. It enters our muscles, or bones, or organs, and permeates all that we are.

I’m not implying that those who linger on and on, for whatever reason have “unforgiveness.” I’m not saying that at all.

Sometimes the hurts we harbor are from blantant acts of cruelty while others bubbled from years of silent sorrows. Either are weights to our souls.

What’s it mean to forgive–and be forgiven?

I was brought up in a Christian-based household, and unfortuately, some interpretations of the Bible have us tangled in sin and shame. We create a trap we can’t seem to find our way out of. Not all faiths do this, not all families or churches do this, but I know that it took me some time to realize God doesn’t need to do the forgiving, we do.

God’s forgiveness of humanity, of each individual’s life is limitless, and easy. He’s not into grudges, resentments, and guilt. We are. Unfortunately. We’re the ones that have to “work at” forgiveness.

“Forgiveness means being able to finally say, ‘thank you for giving me the insights I’ve gained from this experience.’”

I heard this from one of the founders of the book, The Secret, and no matter how you feel about that subject, this quote turned things upside down for me–in a good way.

That hit me in my gut. I thought of rape victims, family members of murder victims, family members of people who have overdosed or committed suicide, of all the lives taken by war and disease…and yet all of us, all of us must eventually come to our own end, to a place of giving and receiving forgiveness.

No matter what has been done to us.

No matter what we have done.

We will all be there, in our final days and minutes of passing–and forgiveness stands guard of the gate.


I can only speak of my own life here. My own hurts. I’ve had some. And it took a long, long time to come to this place. I’m not necessarily grateful for the experience, but I am grateful for what I’ve learned. My deepest hurts and shames, both of my own doing and that done to me, what I’ve learned has been a greater tenderness for life, a few stones of wisdom to carry in my pocket, and the ability (occasionally) to discern what’s really important.

This is what I’ve learned. What I’ve gleaned from a few very dark nights.


I can’t begin to postulate as to how to do this, or when, and I’m not going to lecture anyone here. If you’re reading this post, maybe it’s for a reason. You’ll know when you need to look at something again. You’ll know–life has a way of revealing what it is we’re supposed to deal with, examine.

It’s okay if it isn’t right now. If the wound is fresh, then most likely, no. You’ll have time. This isn’t something to fix or check off a list. Forgiveness is rarely instantaneous, and it can’t be forced.

Again, for me, I get lots of “passes at” forgiveness. I’m usually a last minute packer, but this is one area, I hope not to leave to last minute.

It’s like circling a mountain. Each time I find myself at the same location, looking at the same old issue, but sometimes, my elevation is a bit higher. I do a little heart work, see it from a different perspective, and then I keep walking–knowing that I’ll circle the mountain again, and I’ll have a new opportunity. Until then, I need to just live.


If you or your loved one is at this last juncture, and this question is one that needs to be addressed, know that this isn’t your last time. Heart work, healing work continues. Two bodies don’t have to be on earth to continue learning and forgiving.

But take this moment, say the words, “I forgive you. Will you forgive me?”

Whether it comes out just like that–or in some other form, words or no words, allow the power of forgiveness to change you.

~Carol D. O’Dell

Author of Mothering Mother: A Daughter’s Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir

available on Amazon and in most bookstores

Forgiveness quotes:

Forgiveness is the giving, and the receiving, of life.  George MacDonald

Forgiveness is the frangrance the violet gives when the heel has crushed it.  Mark Twain

Forgiveness is the final form of love. Reinhold Niebuhr

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Carol O'Dell

Carol D. O'Dell's gripping memoir MOTHERING MOTHER, (April 1, 2007 by Kunati Publishing) is for the "sandwich" generation and overflows with humor, grace and much needed honesty. Written with wit and sensitivity, Mothering Mother offers insight on how to not only survive but thrive the challenges of caring for others while keeping your life, heart, and dreams intact. Carol is an inspirational speaker and instructor focusing on caregiving, spirituality and adoption issues. She has been featured on numerous television, radio and magazine and podcast programs including WEDU/PBS, Artist First Radio, "Coping with Caregiving" national radio, Women's Digest and Mature Matters Publications. Her fiction and nonfiction work has appeared in numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Southern Revival, MARGIN, and AIM, America's Intercultural Magazine Carol appeared on the radio show "Healing the Grieving Heart" with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss "Mothering Mother: A Daughter's Humorous and Heartbreaking Memoir." To hear Carol being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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