In my last post, of April 9, 2011, I told a story of how the Holy Spirit had moved within my heart to foster my apologizing to a person on a journalist’s blog who had insulted me. I had insulted him in return. I followed what I knew was the Lord’s spirit, working within my soul, and did as I felt He was leading me to do.
I told readers that in my next posting, I would tell the stories of two additional times in my life in which the Lord’s spirit strongly moved me to apologize to people who, shortly thereafter, would have either died or progressed into dementia, in my assessment.
As I have aged, I have listened more closely to the intuitive part in my being, rather than simply the logical part. Having acknowleded the reality of that intuitive dimension has served me well, especially spiritually. Here are the stories.
I loved my mother-in-law and I know she loved me. However, we had become somewhat estranged emotionally in the last months of her life. She had become a widow the year before, and although she was in her early eighties, she appeared physically strong and durable. Other than experiencing some anxiety about being alone, she seemed physically formidable enough to last another five to ten years. Because of my immediate family’s needs, and because I needed to work fulltime, I did not think that I had the stamina to have her live within our home. Her youngest son, and his kind wife, took her, and my father-in-law, into their home before they both died. My mother-in-law had become emotionally needy in the months after her husband’s death, but I knew that I did not have the resources to keep my mother-in-law in my home.
I did not have as much contact with her as I wish I had had, but I did not want to encourage her to think that we could keep her in our home, so my calls to her had become less frequent.
Then, in October of 1999, when I had gone briefly to the teacher’s lounge for the class period I had for planning, I felt an urgent need to call my mother-in-law from the phone set up there for teachers to call parents. (I did not have a cell phone at that time.) I had not talked with my mother-in-law for awhile and I knew that there was some estrangement between us, but I listened to that voice in my heart (the Holy Spirit) that kept urging me to call her. There were probably six other teachers already in the lounge when I called my mother-in-law and they could hear every word I was saying to her. I was not embarrassed to let the call move, publicly, in the direction of my mother-in-law’s emotional needs because, as the call progressed, I realized that she needed my gift of dialogue and care to her, more than I needed to be concerned about protocol.
We talked the entire 50 minutes of my planning period. When I had to say goodbye to her to go to my next class, the other teachers, who had been respectful and quiet during my call, told me that I had absolutely done the right thing in talking so long and intimately with her. From my words, alone, those teachers had been perceptive enough to know that my mother-in-law was in a minor crisis and that she needed my support through my words. My sister-in-law had gone to be with her daughter, who was ill at college, in another city. She was coming back home later that evening, but at the time I called my mother-in-law, she was all alone and was experiencing emotional pain. My call helped to calm her through knowing that she was not alone. I told her that I cared about what happened to her in her future and that I loved her. I told her that I would call her again within the next week to check on her and to check on my niece. However, I delayed calling again because I was exhausted and, also, because did not want to encourage my mother-in-law to think that I could take care of her on a full time basis. Within the month, my mother-in-law had died in her sleep, unexpectantly. Everyone was stunned by her death.
I am so very grateful that my mother-in-law and I ended our relationship with love between us simply because I listened to the Lord’s spirit moving within my heart and acted upon it. My sister-in-law told me that, three days before my mother-in-law died, she had received a loving letter from her granddaughter, our daughter, from college. My mother-in-law had shared our daughter’s words, over and over again with my sister-in-law, because our daughter’s kind and loving words to her had made her so happy. The Lord’s grace made manifest, once again, for all to see, who will only notice, especially in the timing of the events that had unfolded.
In 1975, I was chosen to be the reading specialist in a new, model school which would have the county’s former Associate Superintendent for Instruction as its principal. He and I had a symbiotic, professional relationship. I fully perceived where he wanted to take his school instructionally and I was instrumental in helping his goals become reality. In 1978, he promoted me to the role of Instructional Lead Teacher, as soon as that position opened countywide. I had functioned in that role, within his school, without the title, for three years. However, after I was actually promoted, several factors occurred, simultaneously, which caused our relationship, that had been based on mutual care and respect, to begin to erode. His school was one of continuous progress for students within an open classroom setting. It had five large, open-walled classroom pods which contained multiage groupings of students and housed approximately 150 students with five teachers working together, in each pod, to serve those students.
After my promotion, several teachers experienced jealousy toward me because I had received a “promotion from within” their ranks. They felt that I was only one of them, and that they, or someone else, should have had the promotion instead of me. In addition, within a month of my promotion, just after the school year had begun, the five teachers within one of the pods were not able to pull together a sound instructional environment for their students. Parents were beginning to voice complaints of the lack of order within the pod. The principal asked me to go into the pod and work toward making it more orderly and more instructionally cohesive. Unfortunately, some of the teachers who were jealous of my promotion were also members of that pod. The chemistry between us was not good. The pod improved to the parents’ satisfaction, but the teachers complained about my “style” to county officials. The principal supported me and I came back the next school year to that school as the Lead Teacher because of his courageous support of me. I have always very much appreciated his support at that critical time in my career.
However, to sooth feelings in the next year, he gave equal support to his teachers in that pod as he did to me. My authority began to erode because the teachers could sense his ambivalence. One of the leaders of that pod had her eye on securing my position and she was making inroads into the principal’s trust in her. The year before the principal retired was a very stressful one for me, and probably for my principal. I had negative feelings toward the principal’s choices and I showed it in my body language and in my silence toward him. I developed such a coldness of heart toward him that when the paperwork came for the street in front of our school to be named for him, I – as the next in charge after the principal – refused to sign the paperwork myself. I directed that a particular teacher sign it, not me. After the principal retired, I spent one more year in that elementary/middle school and then I left to work again in a high school setting where I spent the last 16 years of my career as a Reading Department Chair. The teacher who had had her eye on my position, as the Instructional Lead Teacher, was promoted to that position after I had left the school. Later, she became that school’s principal. I never saw my principal again. It took me twenty-five years to enter that school again. I did so after I retired. All of the walls between classrooms had been rebuilt. Sadly, I learned that the school’s outstanding instructional model, which had been developed by my former principal, had been discontinued four or five years after he (and I) had left.
Then, three years ago, when I was sixty-five, I kept hearing the Lord’s voice within my heart telling me to try to make amends for the arrogance and coldness I had shown my former principal in his last year at that school. For months, I kept hearing in my heart these words from the New Testament as they applied to my final relationship with my former principal: “That which is not loosed on Earth is not loosed in Heaven.” Then one spring day in 2008, I simply said to myself, call him today and apologize. Just call him today. I did. I researched on the internet where he was living, and I called information to get his phone number in the small mountain town where he and his wife then lived. When I called that number, his wife picked up. She did not remember me but she thought her husband might. He answered and he did remember me and he spoke well of me. I apologized. He said that he did not remember any negatives about me during those years, but that, with age, he only remembered the good things. I told him I was recently widowed. He asked if I had children. (I had started our conversation in speaking of how my daughter had grown up.) It occurred to me that he was probably losing memory. I knew what I had to do whether he remembered all or not. I told him, briefly, about the negatives of our experience together in that school and, then, I apologized again to him for my coldness to him that last year and for not signing the paperwork for the street to be named for him. I told him that he deserved for that street to be named for him and that I was glad that it had been. I told him that the line from the Bible, “That which is not loosed on Earth is not loosed in Heaven,” compelled me to call him now, while we both lived. He was 79 years old. He said he knew that verse well and that he believed in it, too. I told him that the Lord’s spirit was leading me to him to apologize to him, even after 25 years. I know he understood what I was saying to him, on some very basic level. When I closed our conversation, I told him that I wished him well, and he made a point to emphasize that he wished me well, too. I have neither seen nor spoken to him since that day, but I have felt so much better about our eroded relationship – and its healing – through my listening to the Lord’s spirit to me THAT day, telling me that I must call that principal on THAT day and that I did – just in time. Our relationship was again “loosed” from resentment and anger to be freed, once again, through God’s grace, to experience love, not only on Earth, but in Heaven to come for us both. Thanks be to God.
Post Script: My former principal passed from this Earth during the fall of 2015. He was 87 years old. I met a couple who knew him who had, also, worked with him. I had not seen this couple for probably 25 years when I met them in a library, by coincidence. I told them this story, above, and they told me of his death approximately six months prior to our running into one another in that library. I was 73 years old at that time. God truly works in mysterious ways. Thanks be to God.