Once upon a time, there was a young man named Timmy. He got into an argument with another young man and soon they were engaged in a fight. They each drew their sword. The young man’s sword came down with a sharp blow on Timmy’s shoulder. Timmy reacted very quickly and with an upward swing of his sword his opponent’s sword flew through the air and landed with a thud. The young man looked with one glance at Timmy and then turned and ran away as he knew he could not go on fighting.
Timmy felt the sharp pain on his shoulder as his friends gathered around. Soon he could feel the warm, wet blood which soaked his clothing. He staggered, his friends reached out to help, and carried him home. His wounded shoulder was soon bandaged and the dull ache lasted for several days. Timmy was unable to do much for several weeks.
Eventually a scab formed over the cut and the pain subsided. But the pain inside of Timmy did not subside. He had time to brood. He had time to remember the words of the argument and the feel of the sword cutting into his skin. In time, Timmy could return to his chores. A scar marked his shoulder. It really was the only physical reminder of the fight.
But Timmy would not forget. Each chance he got, he remembered the fight and the pain. He would rub his finger over the scar as he recalled that day. Sometimes he would rub the scar at night and keep himself awake. In the morning when he washed he would look at the scar in the mirror and remember. He came up with a little mantra as he rubbed the scar with his finger: “Never forget. Never forgive.”
As the days and weeks passed into months and years Timmy kept reminding himself of the fight and the pain. Whenever he got together with his friends, he would ask if they remembered that day, that fight, that other young man. Yes, they told him, they remembered. But they also said that each of them had scars and that he also had other scars. When they asked him to go to a party,
Timmy would stay home and remember the fight and the pain. Soon, they stopped asking and eventually they stopped spending so much time with Timmy, and his memories. Timmy would go on journeys looking for work. He would stop in taverns to eat and drink. He would tell his story of the fight and the pain. While he talked he would rub his scar by reaching inside his shirt.
When he finished, someone else would tell his story of a fight and show a much bigger scar. That man’s friends would laugh and tease and soon that man was laughing, too. Another man would tell his story of a more recent pain. He would look sad, perhaps even cry, while he spoke. Someone would tell him he was lucky to be alive to eat and drink. That man would nod, take a drink, and fade into the crowd.
Soon Timmy would go to his rented room and lie there thinking of the fight and the pain and rubbing his scar. Sometimes he would lie there all night remembering. One day Timmy was back in his hometown and he saw an old man. He realized that man was the young man who had hit him with his sword. He showed the man his scar and told his story.
But the old man said he didn’t know of the injury because he had run off in fear for his life. He said “I’m sorry. Forgive me.” When Timmy went home he looked in the mirror. He saw an old man. He knew he had spent a lifetime remembering the fight and the pain. Now he couldn’t forgive himself.
The writer is a priest of the Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy of Pittsburgh.