My son’s anniversary is coming up. There were many years when his father and I could only talk through attorneys, but eventually we each settled into our messy lives and moved forward.

Nicholas married a girl from Wisconsin and so all of the Hawaii family arrived in the dead of winter for the wedding. January 2 in Wisconsin is typically cold and that year it was zero degrees but at least there wasn’t much snow as I remember. Yes, I wore open-toed sandals.

A few months before the big event we had a dinner at our home. It was an interesting guest list including my current husband, Gary, my two sons, their father, their father’s former girlfriend and the mother of his daughter who was also there, and their father’s current girlfriend. But despite the unorthodox gathering by most people’s standards it worked and we laughed and talked and shared stories.

The talk turned to the winter wedding and Christina, the current girlfriend, asked me if I had a coat which of course I didn’t. We talked about dresses and gifts and all sorts of things and eventually the conversation moved on to other subjects.

Several weeks later, she and my ex dropped by the house with a beautiful alpaca cape I could wear when I was in Wisconsin if I wanted. It’s the softest wool, not at all scratchy, with a scarf and four buttons. I tried it on and fell in love.

I am not one for winter fashions but this was spectacular and I could just see myself exiting the car and throwing the scarf over my shoulder as I greeted the Wisconsinites.

Christina took one look and decided it was better on me and said there was no reason to return it. I looked smashing at the wedding but I’ve also worn this garment in Pennsylvania and New York and other states on recruiting trips, to Chicago sightseeing, and now that I live in Wisconsin it’s getting lots of use because I can wear a heavy sweater under it and still look nice when I make a grand entrance into a room. I like grand entrances.

When I pull this cape out each year when the temperature drops I think of all that happened to bring it into my life. To me, this cape is the symbol of forgiveness. When a marriage or a friendship ends it’s usually not because of one specific incident and both parties likely share some of the responsibility. I know that’s how it was for us.

Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” I love this quote and I’m at the point in my messy, messy life that I do this more easily.

Before I was ready for the gift of that red cape I had to forgive not just my ex but also myself. I had to let go of the life I had planned. It took ten years and it was painful and horrible but possible. Forgiveness gave me back my ex’s family that I loved and missed so desperately. Forgiving and letting go has allowed me to live the life that was waiting for me. It’s certainly not the life I had planned or expected. But it’s the life I have for now.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” That is what we need as we move into 2023. We must be constant in our attitude of forgiveness.

This year my word is forgiveness. There will always be hurt and betrayal and disappointments in life. But there can and should always be forgiveness.