I’ll never forget the deep sadness I felt when my family had to take my younger sister, Jane who was one of my four siblings off life support. After 17 days in ICU where we tried everything possible to wake her from her coma, it wasn’t to be. To let my sister go was unthinkable. For my mother, it was devastating.

I remember my sadness turning to anger. It’s as if I needed someone to blame. I turned to my higher power and ask, why?!! Why take my sister? She was a good person. She worked hard at her job, volunteered to help nonprofits, lived a healthy lifestyle. Her recent physical showed all signs were good. In fact, she had just placed first in her age division in a marathon. When she collapsed, running along the American River Parkway and was taken to ICU, her running community showed up every day to do whatever was needed to support Jane, my mother and me. Closest in distance, I had flown to Sacramento. During my stay, I felt so much love for my sister from her friends. They told stories of her goodness and what she meant to them. I was touched yet saddened because I didn’t know these things about Jane. I realized how busy my four sisters and I had gotten in our lives. Living in different parts of the country, we often didn’t keep in touch.

It wasn’t fair! It wasn’t her time to leave this planet. My husband said it was her dharma, but that was difficult to accept especially when feeling my mother’s pain. Watching her weep as she lay her head on Jane’s heart for the last time is an image that I will never forget.

It’s been six years since Jane’s passing yet accepting her fate is still an ongoing process. Acceptance can be challenging especially when there are no answers, no certainty as to why things happen. But I have found that letting go of blame starts with opening the door to forgiveness. It’s truly one of the hardest yet transformational journeys I am on. I learned that in accepting my sister’s fate, and looking towards forgiveness, I had to look at the deep wounds that lie within me. I wasn’t always the ideal sister. Being passionate about my work, I sometimes found myself so focused on it that I often didn’t take time to call or visit Jane. It wasn’t until her death that I found some of her writings in a journal. She mentioned how much she admired the work I did to help others transform themselves and their lives. She was interested to learn more but understood my busy schedule. She also wondered if I was experiencing the joy of my life beyond work. I wept. Her words struck a chord in me that touched my heart and soul in a profound way. Her insightful wisdom helped me to realize that I was looking for others to blame because I didn’t want to face my own wounds.  Until I released my fears and forgave myself, I would be stuck in the same patterns that prevented me from experiencing the joy of my life beyond work.

As I began my journey of forgiveness, I discovered the deep wound of “not feeling good enough.” I discovered that I managed it by constantly coaching to help others, so I’d feel valued. The more clients I coached, the more valuable I’d feel. But I’ve discovered through my work, the overuse of anything can become our curse, our weakness. Overworking was the curse that prevented me from knowing Jane and sadly after her death, I finally realized that. In forgiving myself, in asking Jane forgiveness, I began to feel a sense of freedom and peace in my heart. It was a wake-up call not just for me, but I could see a shift in my sisters. We realized that life is fleeting. Nothing is ever certain no matter how good of a life you live.

Jane’s death taught me so many lessons. She reminded me what’s most important in life. The work will always be there, but it’s taking time to experience the other parts of my life, especially being with family is helping me to be a better coach and more importantly, a more fulfilled human being.

Photo by Simone Fischer on Unsplash

Today we live in an extremely divided world – externally and internally. Externally: racial injustice, gender inequality, generational differences, impact of COVID-19 with positive and negative responses to wearing masks or getting vaccinated, political strife, wealth gaps. Internally: what we do (our accomplishments) from who we are (essence of our character); our heads (intellect) from our hearts (emotional intelligence) and bodies (somatic intelligence).

We look to blame others for seeing the world differently than we do. We let our expectations (our rules for how things should be done; how others should behave) get in the way of seeing the gifts and good in each other. What will it take for us to put down our right/wrong judgments and see each other through the eyes of a compassionate heart? How can we bring more acceptance of each other and our differences and see each person as a doorway into a new world? How can we walk the path of forgiveness, so we heal the wounds we suffer?

Imagine if each of us accepted ourselves for who we are – the good, bad and ugly? And instead of looking at others to blame for our pain and suffering, we looked within ourselves. Imagine if we forgave ourselves for the hurt, harm and suffering, we have caused others and ourselves, knowingly and unknowingly? Perhaps, we could then open our hearts to the lovingkindness that is in each of us. We could see through a different filter that’s more accepting and forgiving of others who have different beliefs, ideas, ways of moving in our world and who may have caused us harm, knowingly and unknowingly.

Imagine each of us doing the work on ourselves and like beating the drum of our unique song of the heart, it compassionately resonates outward to touch the pain and suffering of others so they too can heal. Imagine the exceptional music we could create together that becomes our portal to finding a path to peace, especially one that starts in our own hearts.

I offer you these insights because it pains and saddens me to see how much we have drifted apart as a society, as a world with so much anger and hate towards each other. As a coach, as a human being who has a deep passion to help people come together to change the world for the better, I’ve learned that the path to transformation starts with transforming ourselves. We can’t control others, but we can control what’s within us. So, I offer you some resources. One is a practice, “Opening Up to Forgiveness.” The other is a book, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness and Peace by Jack Kornfield. Both are from the works of my teacher, Jack Kornfield. It’s an invitation to step onto the path of forgiveness and lovingkindness. My gift to you; a place to begin to heal ourselves, our communities, our world.  


Susan Inouye

* Sawubona: A Zulu greeting meaning “I see you.”