“May I sit here?” I heard a familiar voice asking. I turned, and sure enough, it was my old breakfast buddy, Charlie.
*Charlie is a sweet elderly gentleman I have been sharing breakfast with at the local diner for the past several years. He is an 86-year old retired carpenter-missionary who has spent much of his life serving others around the country. His wife, *Marilyn, passed away a few years back after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.
Most of our time together is spent with him sharing bits of wisdom tied in with stories from his past, much of which are about his experiences with his late wife. This day was no different.
“We talked about forgiveness in Sunday School yesterday. You know where Jesus says we should forgive seventy times seven times in Matthew 18:22? Well, my wife taught me the meaning of forgiveness several years back through her life’s example.” Charlie went on to share Marilyn’s incredible story…
Little Marilyn was abused and neglected by her birth mom and dad for the first few years of her life.
Tragically, young Marilyn and her brother were abandoned and left to fend for themselves. Eventually, they were adopted by a family up around Enid, Oklahoma.
This wasn’t a good situation either, and they were practically treated as servants. Their new parents obviously favored their biological children. They never celebrated Marilyn’s or her brother Richard’s birthdays, and she basically spent her young years picking up after and caring for her siblings. Each year it got worse, becoming unbearable by her teen years.
At about fifteen years of age, she finally had her fill, and moved in with a family 100 miles south of Enid. It was in this new community that she met Charlie, and they dated a short time. This was a much better home situation for her, but short-lived.
After some time, Marilyn’s brother Richard got word to her that he and their adoptive father were in an altercation. Richard didn’t think he could bear it any longer. Concerned for her little brother, Marilyn packed her few belongings, hitched a ride to Enid, and the siblings ran away together to Texas.
That was the last Charlie heard from her for a while. Well, they did meet up on her way back through to Texas and “kissed a little, because that was what we did back then,” Charlie said. (This brought a snicker from me.)
Once in Texas, Marilyn found a job working as a waitress. It was in that cafe where she met a young man, and they hit it off pretty well. He asked her out one day, so Marilyn went to the movies with him. After the movie on their walk home, he kissed her, but attempted more. When Marilyn resisted, he raped her.
After Marilyn told her brother about the rape, they both went to talk to the judge to press charges. The judge said he could only help her if she would help him. He then made sexual advances toward her, so she immediately left with her brother. Marilyn reports that Richard made many attempt to locate the fellow who raped his sister, to no avail.
A few weeks later, Marilyn was distraught to discover that she was pregnant.
She had no one to turn to but her adoptive family. She stayed with them for a short while, until they sent her off to a home where she was to have the baby– and give it up for adoption. She reluctantly agreed to place her baby for adoption, realizing that she couldn’t care for the child as she should.
She eventually discovered, though, that her parents were actually selling her baby through this facility she was staying in. She could be no part of that, so she again ran away to Texas.
In Texas, this frightened young girl somehow discovered a doctor who said he would deliver her baby, and had a home for it. Young Marilyn agreed. Once again, it had been a while since she and Charlie had seen each other. She was scared, though, so she gave him a call. Charlie made his way down to Texas to meet with Marilyn. He sat in the car with her as she waited to go into the doctor’s office.
Charlie recounts that one pleasant memory during that difficult time was when Marilyn allowed him to put his hand on her stomach and feel the baby move. Charlie and Marilyn both assumed that the doctor probably adopted the child, but couldn’t be sure. They continued to pray for God’s blessing on the child over the years.
Of course, they did eventually marry and had four children of their own. They had a very long and happy life together. They served in the ministry together, him building and repairing churches and such, and her teaching and raising their children.
Charlie concluded his story…
“One day, as my sweet Marilyn lay in the nursing home, fighting for her last bits of sanity before totally succumbing to that horrid Alzheimer’s, she muttered to me,
‘I have forgiven them, you know.’
“I was pretty sure what she was talking about,” Charlie recounted, “but I asked anyway, ‘Forgiven who, Sweetheart?'”
She responded simply, “All of them.”
“Those were not her last words,” He said. “She lived many more months following that. Her mind had been fading long before, though, and these were the last words of reason I recall her sharing.”
What words of reason they were, too. She had lived a life of peace and blessing, not because she had not experienced pain and disappointment, but because she had forgiven those who brought it upon her.
I wiped the tears from my eyes as Charlie and I sat in silence and finished our breakfast. I now had a new understanding of forgiveness. ###
We would LOVE to hear your comments on this astounding true story! Thank you to John Hewett for agreeing to share it on Inspiring Hope Blog.
*This is a true account, but names changed to protect privacy.
John Hewett is minister of 35 years, family counselor, and freelance author. He and his wife have been married for thirty-two years and have six children ranging from 10-years-old to 31. He has authored one book, Marital Satisfaction Guaranteed, published by FWB Publishing.
Originally published as “A Testament of Forgiveness” on Mr. Hewett’s site https://www.facebook.com/hope.counseling.services/ Edited and photos added by Becky Wright. Used by permission.