Friday, May 15, 2009

Spirits, Ghosts, Forgiveness

When walking through the gates shown above physical chills ran up and down my entire body. It was if the ghosts and spirits of those who had come before were welcoming me. Lately I've been thinking about forgiveness a lot and I literally had to sit as I was overcome with the tears and emotions that spilled onto the ground. It was if my entire being was taken over by the letting loose of hurt and pain. I'd not noticed the young lad on the right when this image was created and perhaps he wasn't truly there - perhaps his image is one that speaks to the child in all of us - the child that our hearts need to remember as it peeks out looking for the love we all need to sustain us. Perhaps he is that pure, innocent child we all were and need to carry within our hearts.

In any event, this image takes me to the end of Jimmy Santiago Baca's memoir: A Place to Stand. Baca's memoir is gut wretching, especially if one reads it with a heart. Writer/poet Sandra Cisnerous said,“I put it down on paper and the ghost did not ache so much…”. And the following passage of the book absolutely encapsulates what this image seems to be saying - it's as if Baca's words give voice to the lad's message so that his (and our) ghosts don't ache so much. Enjoy said passage and image taken together:

"… I found myself one evening in Santa Fe, standing before Saint Francis cathedral. It was where I was baptized. I went in to see what it looked like. I didn’t know what the event was, but a lot of people were in the pews. On one side were the Indios, on the other side parishioners. A young priest was shaking the hands of the Indios. The Archbishop and scores of other priests milled around, talking to the people. Everyone seemed in good spirits. I asked this lady next to me what the special event was and she said the pope had proclaimed that this evening every Catholic church was formally to ask for forgiveness from the indigenous people, the Indios, for the atrocities perpetrated on them in the name of God by Catholics. In essence, the church was apologizing for its acts of genocide.

I was okay with that and decided to stay for the whole service. Then I saw this young couple approach the altar and stand in the center. He looked just like my father and she looked just like my mother when they were both young, in their late teens. They were holding a brown baby that looked just like me in the photographs my sister had shown me. They were my parents and I was the baby they were preparing to baptize. I saw them exactly as I must have been here once with my parents, innocent, my whole life ahead of me, they with their dreams still intact.

And suddenly I began to forgive them for what they had done or had not done. I forgave myself for all my mistakes and for all I had done to hurt others. I forgave the world for how it had treated us. As the priest stepped up to the fountain to begin the baptism, I had so much emotion welling up in me, with such violent force, that I knew I was going to cry and cry and cry. As the ceremonies began, I left the pew, genuflected, and walked out.

Outside, tourists were laughing in candlelit restaurants, others were drinking and carousing loudly in open-door bars, and the streets were wet from a light rain. I walked down a deserted street, wrapped in my coat, my head down, feeling an overwhelming relief from giving and accepting forgiveness. I felt it was a new beginning. That little baby was me, before my mother left and was murdered by Richard, before I was taken to the orphanage and the D-Home and then jail and then prison, before Theresa overdosed, before my brother was murdered. I was innocent and pure. I was that child, free to begin life over and to make my life one they would all bless and be proud of. I was truly free at last. And as I thought this, it began to rain harder and the cathedral bells started ringing."