Re­tired fu­neral di­rec­tor Pat Thomp­son writes that grow­ing up in North­ern Ire­land her mother taught her to fore­bear, for­give, for­get and forego


The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - PAT THOMP­SON Pat Thomp­son, 77, is a re­tired fu­neral di­rec­tor who lives in Burling­ton. She was born in North­ern Ire­land and came to Canada in 1964, and has had a short story and comics pub­lished over the years.

Where have we been, and where are we go­ing in life? Are we happy? Ful­filled? Are we just stay­ing afloat? The Hamil­ton Spec­ta­tor con­tin­ues an oc­ca­sional se­ries to ex­plore what guides read­ers in their day-to-day lives: the prin­ci­ples, be­liefs and ideas that keep you go­ing. We in­vite you to sub­mit per­sonal es­says to re­late your thoughts and ex­pe­ri­ences, and we will pub­lish a se­ries of them. The se­ries con­tin­ues today with Pat Thomp­son’s “The Four F’s.”

THE BOY SCOUT’S MOTTO: Be pre­pared. My mother’s was sim­i­lar, but she called it the four F’s.

None of the four is that word, which is tossed willy-nilly into sen­tences nowa­days.

Her four F’s have been a guide in my life: Fore­bear, For­give, For­get and Forego.

When tri­als chal­lenged us as chil­dren, Mother would qui­etly say, “Sure, it’s only sent to test your met­tle” — to see if we had what an­other gen­er­a­tion called “the right stuff ” to han­dle it.

Mother pa­tiently told us: “To fore­bear was to nur­ture your in­ner strength ahead of time.” Ahead of time was the key. That way, when prob­lems arose, you would have strength to en­dure it.

This was not about liv­ing your life on the edge of doom and gloom. Mother loved to laugh, sing, re­cite po­etry and do im­promptu Ir­ish jigs. Ac­cord­ing to her, the tide of life could bring in what­ever it pleased, be­cause your bul­warks would be strong enough to face the storm.

Death, emo­tional or phys­i­cal pain, sor­row, ill­ness, fi­nan­cial worry, di­vorce: any of these sit­u­a­tions can make you wa­ver, so it makes sense to have strength in re­serve.

The sec­ond F: For­give. For­giv­ing your­self and oth­ers is nec­es­sary for peace of mind. “To err is hu­man, to for­give divine.” Not divine as in, “that’s a divine hat you’re wear­ing,” but rather heav­enly divine.

Like love, the act of for­give­ness is an ac­tion. The per­son may not ac­cept your for­give­ness; nev­er­the­less, you have done the right thing. This act frees your mind from har­bour­ing the hurt.

With the act of par­don and ac­cep­tance, both par­ties can turn their en­er­gies back to life. For­give­ness can be an act of self-preser­va­tion, al­le­vi­at­ing stress, and in turn, ward­ing off ill­ness.

Next: For­get and Forego. Mother pointed out that these two are dif­fi­cult. She would say “hu­man na­ture tends to return to hurts and rechew them.” Dwelling on the neg­a­tive is an in­di­ca­tion you have not for­got­ten. The suc­cess of for­giv­ing is the abil­ity to for­get and dis­re­gard.

But to forego means to refuse to go to that place in your mind. Forego wa­ter­ing a plant and it will at­ro­phy and die. De­cide to quit the ac­tiv­ity of re­mem­ber­ing. Ap­ply your thoughts and tal­ents to higher ideals.

These Four F’s re­quire ac­tion, and dis­ci­pline and de­ter­mi­na­tion, to over­come prior, present and fu­ture tri­als in life.

But this is not a re­hearsal for life. This is life.

As I write, my only son has con­tracted an ag­gres­sive bac­te­ria. He has been in the ICU the past six days. Surely a time to test one’s met­tle and dis­cover if “the right stuff ” is there in re­serve.

Thank you, Mother, for your guid­ing lights for cop­ing with life.

Above left: Josie and daugh­ter Pat, are pic­tured in North­ern Ire­land in the spring of 1994. Josie, 80 in this photo, died in 1998.


Above: Josie at age 80 en­joy­ing ice cream. It soothed her sore gums. Photo taken in 1994.

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