I have 4 siblings. But that day after Christmas in 2010, I only had 3.
It had been the second time that year that my sister, 21, ran away from home. She started making a habit out of it in 2009. I can still remember every single detail of that first night she ran away like it happened only yesterday. In a single night, our lives changed drastically. I remember the creases on my dad’s forehead that made him look 10 years older. I remember my mom’s heavy sobs, as it was the first time in the 23 years of my existence that I heard them. I remember riding our van without a destination and plan but to look for my sister at 2 in the morning. I remember finally finding her after what seemed like forever, feeling relieved but more broken-hearted than ever. Because moments after that, my mom knew. “Is your cellphone the only thing he took away from you?” and my vision became blurry as I looked at my sister. She shook her head.
She ran away from home a few more times after that, which made me resentful. I was a prisoner of my own hatred, hurt and bitterness towards my sister. I did not understand how she could break our hearts over and over, and how she managed to leave us as though we don’t matter. I always wonder what could be out there that is more important than her family – the family who stands up for her every time she falls. But I hated her most for hurting mom. For me, it was unforgivable.
I went to confession and said, “Father, forgive me for I have sinned. I cannot forgive my sister and terribly hate her for doing this to our family. I think she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness because she isn’t repentant anyway.” But the priest replied, “Here you are, asking for forgiveness from God, and yet you cannot forgive your own sister?” That woke me up. I kneeled before God, undeserving of His forgiveness, but He forgave me anyway. Who am I not to forgive those who have hurt me the most?
Two days after that Christmas in 2010 was the feast day of the Holy Family. After attending the evening mass, my sister came back home. That night, I experienced total freedom as I welcomed her in my loving embrace. I knew then, as I know now, that she might run away and hurt my family and me again, but it did not matter at that time. Because in that moment, I knew: I learned and embraced the pain of forgiving others 70 times 7 times.