"I have returned!"
"We are at peace with that!"
"Have you been... well?"
"Well enough. We have aged. We have changed. But we have accepted the things that have happened."
"Things happen. While you were away persons you loved have died. So too did some family. And jobs were lost. Choices were made. There were heart-attacks and strokes and financial setbacks, but we learned through it all, doing whatever we could, what we were able to do."
"Yes, well, I am back now, and I'm sorry to have missed all that, but I had to go."
"Yes, you had to go."
Yes, I had to make my own way, discover my own journey, become my own person."
"Yes. And are you at peace now?"
"At... At peace? Well, I am successful. Have been! Got lots to show for it. Books I've read. Things I've done. Places I've seen. People I've met. Achieved. You can be very proud of me."
"We always loved you. Your very person. But while away, did you purposefully deceive anybody, use anybody, harm anybody, rob or steal from anyone? Did you lie, cheat, or self-aggrandize? Were you selfish, and self-serving? Greedy? Did you manipulate and connive and contrive? Were you false? Did you seduce? Did you betray? Did you...?”
“Well.... Yes. But only here and there, in small measures.”
“And in doing those things, however small or big, did you learn to forgive yourself?”
“Well... Yes. But only here and there, in some measure.”
“And in those measures, have you learned to forgive others for their measures too?”
“Well.... Yes. Mostly.”
“Mostly? Well then, we forgive you the lessons you've learned. Are learning. Just as you're learning to forgive us the past that might have propelled you into those lessons, for we each take on our paths pushing off of the impetus of that which seemingly impels us. We are proud of you.”
“Perception is all. Compassion itself grows by altering perceptions. Forgive, as we live. Forgive, as we take our leave. We now can hear the bell toll. It rings too, eventually, for you too.”