Expectations will hold feet to the fire


By Betty Slade

Oh, how people rage when offended. The insult is too deep to forgive, especially when it’s a crime of passion. It’s like a forest fire, like the fury of a woman scorned.

Like the woman rejected and betrayed by love, who struck a match to a passionate love letter and started the Hayman fire in Colorado.

In 2002, the then-Gov. Bill Owens responded following an aerial tour of the fires, “It looks as if all of Colorado is burning today.” Twenty years later, Terry Barton, who set the fire at a campsite during a total burn ban, is still paying for it.

Barton pleaded guilty to two charges, setting the fire and lying to investigators. She was given a six-year sentence and another 12 years in federal prison. Appealed, re-sentenced for 15 years of probation and a thousand hours of community service, she was ordered to pay about $14.5 million in restitution. 

One love letter, one passionate act against her ex-husband, started a forest fire. Not sure if she has forgiven him for his offense, but she is still paying for hers. She claims she has never missed a monthly payment and it will take her a lifetime to pay it back.

Is it possible for someone to hold a grudge their whole life and never make it right? I read, “Forgiveness puts life back together again.” 

Joan Chittister writes in “The Gift of Years,” “Forgiveness is a sign of our own inner healing. It is a mark of our own self-knowledge. It is a measure of the divine in us.”

Without forgiveness, we live in a broken self. As we grow in our own self-knowledge, we become aware we aren’t perfect and no one is. Not expecting perfection from anyone, we are inclined not to hold their feet to the fire. It sure makes life easier for everyone.

I have learned there are some things in life that aren’t negotiable. Forgiveness is one of them. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. You will smolder and burn.

When I hear people say, “I can’t believe there are siblings who haven’t spoken in years. Nothing like that would ever happen to our family.”

I used to believe the same thing. For siblings not to talk is unbelievable. After all, family is family. Not so. My brother and I haven’t spoken for 30 years.

My Sweet Al says if you ask my brother today what happened, he probably couldn’t tell you, and he doesn’t even know why he’s still mad.

There is the offender and the offended. Somehow, I offended my brother. Not sure what I did, but I’ve apologized many times. I have written letters. I have come to understand, from one of my children, my letters were never opened. 

The embers could still be burning in him. We have missed so much of each other’s lives. I pined for years, tried to make sense of the offense. He was my favorite brother. We laughed easily, enjoyed each other. We even made plans for him to move to Pagosa. If I saw him today, I would run to him and embrace him. I lost someone very precious to me — my brother.

Over the years, my Sweet Al has consoled me. “If it wasn’t that, it would be something else. He wanted to be mad.”

Did I disappoint him? Did he expect more from me, more than I could give? Not sure. Somehow, I fell in his eyes.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Two aged men, that had been foes for life, met by a grave and wept — and in those tears they washed away the memory of their strife. Then wept again the loss of all those years.”

Final brushstroke: Weeping comes not from fading embers lying in ashes from enraged passion of long ago, but unforgiveness, and the years lost between lovers, friends and, yes, even family.

Views expressed do not necessarily represent those of The SUN.