Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: All Is Forgiven

It is amazing how many people live with unsettled issues with parents and/or other family members. This does not usually surface until the death of a parent, the reading of the will, or some other critical point in the life of the family. Then like a volcano or earthquake, all the pent-up feeling explodes. Outsiders, and sometimes even family members, are often taken by surprise.

There is a fictional story by Ernest Hemingway in which the absence of, and the longing for, reconciliation is featured. There is more truth than fiction in this vignette. It is the kind of drama that is usually played out behind closed doors until some precipitating factor blows the cover.

A Spanish father at an important juncture in his life decides to seek reconciliation with his son who in rebellion has run away to Madrid. He is remorseful about the things he now recognizes he did to cause the son's rebellion to take such a radical turn. He takes out an ad in the newspaper, El Liberal: "Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana at noon Tuesday. All is forgiven. Papa". "Paco" is a very common name in Spain, much like the name "John" in English. When the father arrives at the Hotel Montana on Tuesday noon, there are 800 young men named "Paco" waiting to reconcile with their fathers.

Paco is legion! Paco is sometimes a boy, sometimes a girl; sometimes young; some- times old. Paco walks the back streets of cities and towns everywhere, often leading a twisted life - looking for forgiveness everywhere, but finding none that matters anywhere until that primary person from the past comes looking for him or her.

How did it all begin? There are a thousand possible ways. In many cases no one remembers how it all started, but everybody wants it to be over. It hangs like a cloud over individual and family life. Who will begin the process of forgiveness?

When I reflected on the Hemingway story I remembered a quote I have been unable to source. It goes something like this: "In all fiction there is some biography; and in all biography there is some fiction". While this may be an exaggeration, there is a modicum of truth in this axiom. This is especially true in the case of Hemingway.

Hemingway was rejected by his parents. They were Evangelical Christians who deplored his life style. His mother refused to allow him in her presence. One year for his birthday she sent him a cake along with the gun his father used to kill himself. Hemingway never got over his mother's rejection or the religion she used as a battering ram in her efforts to emotionally destroy him. Eventually he took the implied suggestion of his mother and killed himself. I have always wondered if he used the gun his father used.

In all fiction there is some biography!!

Are there unsettled relationships rumbling under the smooth surface of your family life? Are there deep hurts to resolve before someone dies? Who will be first to get out the word: "All is forgiven"?