I didn’t usually have anything to do with the holier-than-thou, chastity-flaunting, die-hard Catholic unless specifically instructed to, but I made an exception that day.
The day her closest friend (though they weren’t really that close) committed suicide. Elizabeth was the one who found Maia, dangling from the chandelier by a rope, a chair on its side beneath her feet. Her blood-curdling scream was audible through the whole house.
Maia had left a note, detailing how she was fed up with her fighting parents, ridiculing teachers, and Elizabeth. Apparently Elizabeth had specifically contributed to her choice because she’d told Maia she was going to hell (which wasn’t really anything special; she told me I was going to hell at least twice a week).
Hours after she’d found Maia, I sat next to the Bible-thumper on the front porch. Tears streamed down her face, and it occurred to me that, though she almost never seemed it, she was human, just like everyone else. And this would hurt her. A lot.
I hadn’t been trying to start a conversation. I was just trying to be supportive, just sit there silently next to the girl I despised most to show I was sorry. But then she said in a hate-filled tone, “God says suicide is a really bad sin. He’s right; it’s sickening. I can’t forgive Maia for doing this to me.” She went quiet for a minute. Then she swallowed, as if a lump had appeared in her throat. “But if… If I’m part of the reason Maia sinned like that, doesn’t that mean I’m going to hell too?” She sobbed for a while, and then added, “I’m so confused.”
I took a deep breath, drawing all the patience I could. “Elizabeth, stop looking at the worst parts of the Bible. Yeah, God says suicide is a terrible sin, but he also says homosexuality sends you to hell–”
“It does!” she protested. “It’s disgusting and it makes me–” I glared until she stopped. “Sorry,” she squeaked.
“And that slavery and rape and pillaging and stoning someone to death for working on Sunday are all ay-okay in the Old Testament. When you look at Jesus’ message, he says that love and forgiveness are above all. He says if you’re really sorry, God will forgive you. If you’re sorry about your part in what Maia did, he’ll forgive you. Do you believe that?” Elizabeth nodded. “Okay, so, maybe Maia couldn’t take it in this life anymore…” I hesitated as Elizabeth’s tears fell with renewed strength. “But if she’s sorry for what she did, God will forgive her too.” Elizabeth looked skeptical, but I could see the logic was clear to her.
Spitefully, she spat, “Well, I still won’t forgive her.”
I bit my cheek, trying to stay calm. I held back the fists that wanted to fly at her, but my harsh, retaliating words slipped out before I could stop them. “If God can forgive Maia, then you’d better sure as hell be able to. You think your forgiveness should be harder to receive than God’s?”
Elizabeth looked up, her shocked green eyes filled with unshed tears. Then they started to fall again, and she threw her arms around my shoulders and cried into my shirt. She cried for a long time, intermittently saying things like, “I’ve been an awful person,” and “You’re right. I forgive her,” and “I’m so sorry, Maia.”
Eventually, she quit sobbing and sat up. She rubbed her face with her sleeve. Then she locked eyes with me and murmured quietly, “Thanks, sis.”