Forgiveness—Pass It On

By Debbonnaire Kovacs

Susannah May Farmer felt like an astronaut in a spacesuit. She had on warm clothes, a thick snowsuit, a scarf, and a hat. Now she was trying to bend over far enough to get her boots on, and it wasn’t easy. She finally shoved her foot into the second boot, then stood up and took a deep breath. “Whew! I need an oxygen tank!”

“What?” Her brother Matthew was just crossing the hall, and stared at her in confusion.

Susannah giggled. “Nothing. It’s just that I feel like an astronaut when I dress up like this,” she explained, pulling on her gloves and picking up the milk pail and a flashlight.

She opened the door and went out into the dark, her breath puffing in front of her like smoke from a space shuttle. “It’s just about as cold as outer space too,” she told the collie who galloped up to meet her. Moose danced in circles around her and barked eagerly, not at all sorry to be up and out before the lazy sun even peeked over the horizon.

Together, they crunched through the snow to the barn. “Stay outside, Moose. You know Daisy and Sabrina don’t like you.”

Susannah hauled open the big barn door and stopped in shock. Oh, no! She turned and ran back to the house. “Mom! Mom!”

Mom ran out the back door. ”What’s the matter?”

Susannah was trying not to cry. “The gate . . . it wasn’t . . . I must have . . . the horses have been in the feed!”

“Oh, Susannah!” Mom cried. “You must not have latched it tightly. You know Daisy can open it!”

“I know! I’m sorry!” Susannah wailed.

Mom pulled her coat and boots on, shut Moose in the house, and ran with Susannah back to the barn. It was a mess. Hay was strewn over the floor, and two feed bins lay on their sides. Mom tried to tell how much feed was gone. “I hope they only ate hay,” she said, going to Duke, who was standing with his head down and looking miserable. She felt along his belly, and pressed her fingers against his cheek to feel his pulse.

“Please, God,” Susannah whispered, rubbing at her tears with her glove. She knew horses could actually die if they ate too much. She also knew Mom could not afford a vet bill. The goats bellowed, wondering why they were not being milked, but Susannah ignored them.

Mom moved from Duke to Dolly, who whinnied and twisted her head as if she was trying to see her belly. “It’s OK, girl,” Mom said softly. Susannah sniffed, and Mom turned and saw her. “Oh, honey,” she said, and put her arms out.

Susannah ran to her mother and began to cry in earnest. “I’m so sorry, Mommy! Are they going to die?”

“No, they won’t die. And even if they did, you know I would forgive you, don’t you?” Mom kissed Susannah’s forehead. “I don’t think it’s as bad as it could have been. I’ll go and dress, and Matt and I will walk them while you milk. As soon as you’re finished, you can take Matt’s place. We might not have to call Dr. Miller.”

“If we do, I’ll give you my twenty dollars.” Susannah collected special toy horses with real manes and tails. Well, she wanted to collect them. She only had one so far because they were expensive. She had been saving for a long time to buy another one.

“We’ll wait and see,” Mom said. “If we walk them a while they might be all right. I don’t think they ate that much. We need to check the goats.”

Mom checked the goats and told Susannah not to give them grain while milking them. Susannah milked as fast as she could and took the milk inside to pour it through a filter and put it in the refrigerator. Then she hurried back outside. It was getting light by the time she took Dolly’s halter rope from Matt. “I think I hear Johnny waking up,” she told him, and Matt hurried back inside. Johnny was only two, but he could climb out of his crib and trash the whole house if you didn’t watch him.

Susannah and Mom walked the horses for a long time. The horses seemed to feel better.  “Even if you would forgive me, I’d never forgive myself if the horses had died,” Susannah told Mom.

“It can be really hard to forgive ourselves for our mistakes sometimes,” Mom said. “I know. I’ve done some awful things.”

“You have? Like what?” Susannah looked at her mom.

“Do you remember the time I really lost my temper and shouted at you?” Mom’s voice sounded funny, and when Susannah looked closely, she was surprised to see tears in her mother’s eyes. Susannah reached out with her free hand and took Mom’s. “But I forgave you, Mommy. I don’t even think of it anymore.”

“I try not to,” Mom said, “but I still feel so bad whenever I remember.”

Susannah thought about how she felt knowing the horses were sick because of her carelessness. “I guess that’s why God invented forgiveness. Just think how Adam and Eve must have felt when they had to leave the Garden of Eden forever. Things died because of their choices too.”

“But God still loved them. And He still loves us. And I still love you, and you still love me.” Mom was beginning to grin.

“And Duke and Dolly still love us too,” Susannah added.

“How are those horses?” Matt called from the house. “Can we eat yet?”

“I think so,” Mom called back. “We’ll put them out in the pasture to get some exercise, and I’ll check on them in a bit.”

She and Susannah took the halters off the horses and let them go. They seemed to walk normally. Duke even tossed his head and snorted.

Susannah and Mom went back to the house. “Oh, no!” Susannah yelled.

“What now?” Mom asked, startled.

“Look what Johnny has!” Susannah cried, running to rescue her special toy horse. “How did he get this? Oh Mom, look!

He ripped its mane off!” Tears came to her eyes again.

Johnny’s little face crumpled up. “I sowwy, sissy,” he said sadly.

Susannah bit her lip. Then she put her arms around her little brother, and he hugged her back with sticky hands. “I forgive you, Johnny,” she said. “I forgive you.”

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