Karsten Mathiasen
marts 25, 2024

At first I thought I was the great forgiver, but in the end I was the one, who had to ask for forgiveness. This story was written for The Forgiveness Project on request of  Marina Cantacuzino, who founded the project in 2004. https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/stories-library/karsten-mathiasen/

It happened some years ago now. (2001) The catastrophe.

I will always remember the time. I had been travelling to Jutland, on the other side of Denmark, to bring my young Icelandic pony for training with a famous horse trainer. I had some great days, but on the last evening, before I was going to return home, the trainer and I watched the Twin Towers falling on TV. Little did I know that my own life was also facing catastrophe.
When I got home, my wife told me she had fallen in love with another man, and that she was going to see him once a week. Having grown up in the hippy era, I didn´t know how to prevent the love of my life from fading. How could I forbid it?

I cried a lot, but tried not to disturb the security of my kids, a boy aged 5 and girl aged 7. But of course they wondered why their mother wasn´t at home at night, now and then.
I still hoped that this love affair would end.

One day, my wife said: “Do you want to hear the truth?”

“No!” I answered, because I knew I couldn´t stand to hear the truth.

Things went the wrong way, and at Christmas time we had to tell the kids that their mother was going to leave. I have never heard children cry in such a heartbreaking way. We “celebrated” Christmas together, and never has a Christmas been so sad. It was made even worse by the fact that my father died at the same time. 
I remember only one moment of humor. At the funeral, my son asked: “How can they dig a hole for him in the frozen soil?” I answered that Granddad was going to be burned.

“Then I hope it will be a great fire, so we can get warmed up,” he answered, shuddering slightly.
I went and told my closest neighbors about the divorce, and they told me a little story:

“We know two couples who got divorced. The first couple separated peacefully, and became like a big family with their new partners and bonus kids. The other couple quarreled about everything, and lost a lot of money taking legal procedures against each other.”

I was in no doubt which was the more clever approach, but it was not that easy.
In the new year, my sorrow turned to anger. Not against my ex-wife, but against her new man, Torben. I had so many troubles. Of cause I was happy she had left the kids and house to me, but nearly all the household machinery happened to break down. I got more and more angry until my thoughts became quite murderous. I fantasized about killing Torben. I contacted a psychiatrist I knew and told him about my murderous fantasies, and he advised me to roll a blanket together and beat it with a stick, imagining it was Torben. I considered this ridiculous. I was so angry that I felt like fighting a whole gang. When I came to Copenhagen, I kept looking for some lads robbing an old lady, so that I would have an excuse to jump out of the car and beat them up! I am usually a very peaceful man.
My desire to kill Torben grew and grew. I knew I wouldn´t do it, but I wanted to make him suffer, and so one day I telephoned him and told him I wanted to kill him. He was very silent in the telephone. Of course, I became more and more certain that I wouldn´t harm him, only frighten him, so the following week I telephoned and told him I wouldn´t kill him.

“But I feel very much like tearing one of your arms off! I am as sore as if I had been dragged on a rope behind a lorry!” I told him, hoping he would imagine that he was the one on the rope. 
My kids had been visiting their mother and Torben, and they told me he was a nice guy. That made me think I would go down the conflict ladder a little and stop threatening him physically.

So the following week, I phoned him and told him: “I won’t harm you, but I’d love to come to your office and smash your computer with an axe.”

I envisioned this with great pleasure. It would be a good story to tell old scaffolding-worker friends. And I was willing to pay the cost of the computer!

To make sure he would think I might really come, I added: “Maybe you can put an old computer on your desk, so I can smash that instead.”

Still he didn´t say much on the phone. The smart-ass!
A month later, my anger had disappeared and I wrote him a letter promising I wouldn´t bother him any more.

This was a ceasefire, but not peace. And I found out how fragile it was when Thanksgiving arrived. We used to celebrate Thanksgiving with some friends, but I didn´t want to take part, since I didn´t want to see the couple of lovebirds together.

That made my daughter worried! She knew how much I loved these parties, and her concern made me phone Torben and invite him for a cup of coffee before the party.

He chose a café in Copenhagen and I was first to arrive. When I saw this man come through the door, I found him handsome and friendly. He had a gypsy-like appearance, which I liked. I knew that we would become friends, and sure enough, we had several cups of coffee together, and we sat together and had a good conversation at the party. 
In fact, I forgot all about my wish to fight a gang, so I didn´t cancel it. Unfortunately. I was working in Copenhagen one night, taking down a tent, when I noticed a couple of guys trying to set fire to my van. I started a fight and got into real trouble when I discovered there were four of them. I was close to grabbing an iron bar to beat them with, when a story came to my mind: a story about a scaffolding-worker colleague, who had committed involuntary manslaughter during a fight.

The thought that “There is no death penalty for trying to burn an old car,” flew through my mind. I retreated. The police soon arrived and the would-be arsonists fled.
Next, I invited Torben to come to a garden party for my daughter´s birthday. Not only did he come, but he even brought his mother. That was a good way to start a bigger family!

My old neighbor got totally soppy, saying: “Karsten, he who conquers himself is greater than he who conquers a town.” 
Torben and I developed a fine friendship. We spent hours drinking beer and talking together. And he volunteered as webmaster for my website about forgiveness (www.tilgivelse.dk) and my other websites.
This story has several endings. Some years later, my daughter and I were walking in the woods when I noticed that she was angry. I asked why, and she replied:

“I asked Mum how she could fell in love with another man, and she said that it was because, when I was only one year old, you had an affair with another woman, and she promised herself not to hold herself back if she later had the chance of a love affair. How could you betray me, a little child, one year old?”

This came like a hammer blow. I suddenly realized how much of a skeleton in the cupboard this old love affair of mine had been, even if my wife seemed to have forgiven me. How could I explain to a seventeen-year-old girl, who had never kissed anybody, what lunacy can possess a man?

We kept walking in silence for a while.

Then I asked: “Can you forgive me?”

“Yes,” she replied, and we walked home hand in hand. At first, I thought I was the great forgiver, but in the end I was the one to ask for forgiveness!
We lived in peace with our extended family until Torben developed cancer. It was so hard to see this good and wise man shrink and fade away.

At his deathbed, I sat and told him a story about forgiveness between a father and his son after the death of the father. I knew Torben had had a troubled relationship with his father. After the story, he squeezed my hand.

That was the last time I saw him. When he went out of my world, I cried the way I did when he came into it.

Tilgivelse.dk redigeres af Karsten Mathiasen

Jeg er født i 1952 og er livet igennem blevet rørt af historier om tilgivelse. Derfor var det naturligt at tage emnet op i historiefortællingens univers. Ellers fortæller jeg også gerne gavtyvehistorier og alt muligt. Mit hovederhverv er, at jeg er teltudlejer og klovn og direktør i Cirkus Bella Donna

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