Friday, April 19, 2013

The Power of "I'm Sorry"

Flood waters engulfed our park and baseball diamonds and cancelled Little League's opening night ceremony.

A week ago, my sister landed in the hospital.  Low platelet counts secured her a room.  At first, we thought her stay would be brief.  We imagined the first treatment would kick her out in no time.  But treatment number one failed and so did treatment number two, and then subsequent treatments.  With each setback, we've grown more concerned and her hospital stay has lengthened.

Last night, I visited her in the hospital.  She sat in a darkened room with an old Friends episode running on the TV.  An adjacent desk was littered with a gift basket, magazines, and a book.  She was curled up on her side, clad in sweats, without a stitch of makeup. 

I tiptoed into the room and plopped down on a neighboring chair.  I asked the obvious, "How are you doing?"

Deadpanned she replied, "Not good."

I continued to prod, asking questions about her medical care and hospital stay.  Her responses were heavy, filled with medical jargon and disappointments.  I listened with sympathy.

She unloaded all her fears and sadness over the situation.  I pulled out my mental pompoms and encouraged her to fight the fight against fear and despair.  She nodded, seemingly encouraged.

The conversation went cold and finally I said, "I'm sorry."  As the words fell out of my lips, I started to cry.  Sure, I was sorry about her health and the hospital stay, but mostly I was sorry about us.  As sisters, our relationship has been tumultuous over the years.  We've both done and said things we regret.  I was expressing sorrow for my actions and my part in the divisiveness in the relationship.

She didn't need an explanation.  She knew what I meant.  Her eyes teared up too.  She clutched my hand and whispered the same words.

I'm sorry.  It's the phrase I most often require my children to say.  A conflict isn't resolved until those words are exchanged.  Sometimes, through clenched teeth one boy utters those words to an injured brother.  Even if the delivery isn't ideal, there's something about hearing that phrase that repairs a relationship and softens a heart.  

For years, I've clenched my teeth, refusing to let those words slip past my lips.  But once they did, I realized how easily they slide out and how quickly the heart fills with peace. 

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