"At the time, Mariam did not understand. She did not know what the word harami- bastard - meant. Nor was she old enough to appreciate the injustice, to see that it is the creators of the harami who are culpable, not the harami, who's only sin is being born. Mariam did surmise, by the way Nana said the word, that it was an ugly, loathsome thing to be a harami, like an insect, like the scurrying cockroaches Nana was always cursing and sweeping out of the kolba."
(P.) As I read this passage, it elucidated the faulty mother-daughter relationship held between Nana and Mariam. While I was reading this passage, I predicted that regardless of what happens, this relationship will end up in betrayal and fear. What mother or guardian would call her child a bastard, something completely out of their control and decision? Mariam neither chose nor decided that she would be an illegitimate baby or an "accident." Nana's insecurity is evident as she tries to place the overbearing guilt and anger she has in her own daughter. Although Nana may love Mariam, her failure to communicate a caring facet of her personality will ultimately, in my opinion, cause the failure of a loving relationship.
"You're afraid, Nana, she might have said. You're afraid that I might find the happiness you never had. And you don't want me to be happy. You don't want a good life for me. You're the one with the wretched heart."
(C.) Throughout our lives, we often fuel our hatred toward our parents or guardians because of ignorance, disappointment, or failed expectations. In our adolescence, we fail to see how much parents sacrifice for us. We say things we regret out of frustration and anger. Much like Mariam, I have also doubted my parents' intentions, and how miserable they were making my life. As I matured I began to realize many things lost to my parents by making the choice to have children: freedom, commitment to jobs, time. It would seem absurd to have children, but the chance that they may give the unrivaled unconditional love found nowhere else is a worthy cause. When Mariam left Nana's side, it was not only a physical abandonment but also an emotional one. Nana may have been cold and callous, but the love and care she offered Mariam were unrivaled.
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"'You go on and cry, Mariam jo. Go on. There is no shame in it. But remember, my girl, what the Koran says, 'Blessed is He in Whose hand is the kingdom, and He Who has power over all things, Who created death and life that He may try you.' The Koran speaks the truth, my girl. Behind every trial and every sorrow that He makes us shoulder, God has a reason.' But Mariam could not hear comfort in God's words. Not that day. Not then. All she could hear was Nana saying, I'll die if you go. I'll just die. All she could do was cry and cry and let her tears fall on the spotted, paper-thin skin of MullaFaiuzullah's hands."
(E.) Mariam undergoes an extreme change in this passage. This initial conflict acts as a foundation for a series of complications that ensue, progressively destroying the little security Mariam has after this tragic experience. Through each emotional trauma Mariam encounters, she grows stronger. Her persona depicts a strong, independent individual, evident from the beginning of the novel where she often questions authority and dreams of a bright future with war, poverty, and death hovering in silence in the area around her. Mariam had so openly walked into Jalil's empty gifts with high hopes, leaving behind the only love she would ever receive in this world. Consequently, as reality set in, Mariam's hope is crushed: she is unwanted, alone, and guilt-ridden.Hosseini seems to reflect upon the endless cycle of hope and crushed dreams, similar to that of real Afghan women oppressed by sexist regulations.
"Mariam thought of Jalil, of the empathetic, jovial way in which he'd pushed his jewelry at her, the overpowering cheerfulness that left room for no response but meek gratitude. Nana had been right about Jalil's gifts. They had been halfhearted tokens of penance; insincere, corrupt gestures meant more for his own appeasement than hers. This shawl, Mariam saw, was a true gift."
(Q.) Gifts are always meaningful to me whether it is for self-appeasement or gratitude. I do not comprehend why Mariam would think any less of Jalil's gift than Rasheed's. While Jalil was bounded by guilt, Rasheed too was bounded by marriage and "love." Both gifts through Mariam's perspective would be insincere. Every gift has a reason, why would Jalil's be an exception. The same way Jalil tried to buy Mariam's forgiveness through these gifts, Rasheed was trying to buy her love. Although Rasheed's deed seems nobler, in my perspective they are relatively the same. Mariam seems to be in denial about Jalil's character and role as a "father." As portrayed in the passage, she tries to exact her reasons to hate him by finding fault in his gifts and other things.
"Mariam lay on the couch, hands tucked between her knees, watched the whirlpool of snow twisting and spinning outside the window. She remembered Nana saying once that each snowflake was a sigh heaved by an aggrieved woman somewhere in the world. That all the sighs drifted up the sky, gathered into clouds, then broke into tiny pieces that fell silently on the people below. As a reminder of how women life us suffer, she'd say. How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.
(P.) Throughout the book, Nana's stringent words seem emphatic as the novel's universal theme. Mariam's life begins to be the perfect definition of endurance, and the reader eventually sees how she grows to be the spitting image of Nana. In the passage, Mariam immediately recollects experiences with Nana following her death. The way Hosseini chose to particularly note female struggles and prejudice foreshadows the imminent future of abuse Mariam soon ensues. Another clue of foreshadowing is seen in the repercussions of Nana's words, especially endurance, which impacts Mariam greatly as she often associates Nana with it.
"It was God's fault, for taunting her as He had. For not granting her what He had granted so many other women. For dangling before her, tantalizingly, what He knew would have her thegreatest happiness, then pulling it away."
(E.) Mariam, in her state of weakness, seems to need some reassurance that there is reason or fault behind her miscarriage. She feels the unbarring need to justify why her happiness had so easily been stripped away. Accusations were haranguing in her head, until eventually she reached the conclusion that Allah had been responsible. The way Hosseini makes Mariam question her own religion truly illustrates the extent of the scenario, where she would go as far as to question her own faith. This passage also portrays the desperate nature of Mariam. She believes that salvation can be found in the baby that had slipped away; Rasheed would be satisfied and she would be granted the privilege of being a mother. Her tower of security crumbles with this as her security and confidence idles away along with the baby.
"I know you're still young, but I want you to understand and learn this now, he said. Marriage can wait, education cannot. You're a very, very bright girl. Truly, you are. You can be anything you want, Laila. I know this about you. And I also know that when this war is over, Afghanistan is going to need you as much as its men, maybe even more. Because a society has no chance of success if its women are uneducated, Laila. No chance."
(R.) Hosseini provides excellent insight of a postmodern Afghan family with this passage. Although Laila is an adolescent at the time, her father's beliefs prove to influence the many decisions throughout her life. As the plot progresses we see Laila mature into a strong, persevered woman with the bulwark of her father's aspirations. Hosseini brilliantly initiates this flashback to contrast the solidity of sexist attitudes portrayed by Mariam's life, to provide as a beacon of hope that one day soon education will be the deciding factor of power rather than gender. A child of the revolution and the Soviet invasion, this passage foreshadows a bright future by characterizing Laila through this dialogue. Hosseini furthers his purpose beyond the plot to inspire readers to purse a future of education. Even in modern society, sexism is still an overbearing factor that continues to assault the security of women everywhere. Despite the antediluvian setting in which A Thousand Splendid Suns takes place, Hosseini exemplifies how hope still exists not only from women amidst female oppression.
"Sometimes Laila wondered why Mammy had even bothered having her. People, she believed now, shouldn't be allowed to have new children if they'd already given away all their love to their old ones. It wasn't fair. A fit of anger claimed her. Laila went to her room, collapsed on her bed. When the worst of it all had passed, she went across the hallway to Mammy's door and knocked. When she was younger, Laila used to sit for hours outside this door. She would tap on it and whisper Mammy's name over and over, like a magic chant meant to break a spell: Mammy, Mammy, Mammy, Mammy...But Mammy never opened the door. She didn't open it now. Laila turned the knob and walked in."
(E.) This passage displays a critical point in the novel. Much like Mariam, Laila's self-worth had constantly been depreciated by Mammy, who failed to live up to the motherly figure that she was to her sons. Although Laila was too young to understand, Mammy was disillusioned by the past, lingering in memories rather than reality. The more Mammy continues to grieve about her two sons, the further away she pushes Laila. The emotional trauma Laila underwent is evident from the passage. As Mammy becomes less and less of a motherly figure, Laila too becomes less and less of a daughterly figure. I felt that throughout Laila's adolescent, she had tried to earn the respect and love of her mother. When Mammy failed to provide the care and love to quench Laila's desire for attention, Laila simply gave up. With this, Laila and Babi's relationship flourished in ways Mammy and Laila's could not.
"In Tariq's grimace, Laila learned that boys differed from girls in this regard. They didn't make a show of friendship. They felt no urge, no need, for this sort of talk. Laila imagined it had been this way for her brothers too. Boys, Laila came to see, treated friendship the way they treated the sun: its existence undisputed; its radiance best enjoyed, not beheld directly."
(C.) More than once have I been in the situation Laila places Tariq in. The awkward silence between two close friends that are not exactly in a legitimate relationship. Although Laila's realization is stereotypical and a double standard, it does shed some truth for certain circumstances. I do not feel the need to express or display the obvious. I find that some girls feel insecure about friendships and constantly need clarification on the status of the relationship while boys just categorize most simply as "friends." Rather than get complicated and over dramatic, boys simply enjoy the friendship as it is without labeling and categorizing. I personally do not enjoy public displays of affection mostly because I find that the constant need to satiate a girl's desire grows to be a near impossible task.
"Women have always had it hard in this country, Laila, but they're probably more free now, under the communists, and have more rights than they've ever had before, Babi said, always lowering his voice, aware of how intolerant Mammy was of even remotely positive talk of the communists. But it's true, Babi said, it's a good time to be a woman in Afghanistan. And you can take advantage of that, Laila. Of course, women's freedom- here, he shook his head ruefully-is also one of the reasons people out there took up arms in the first place...God forbid that should happen!Babi liked to say sarcastically. Then he would sigh, and say, Laila, my love, the only enemy an Afghan cannot defeat is himself."
(C.) This passage poses a very controversial issue plaguing the world today, religious practice versus feminist struggles. As portrayed in the story, religion has often sparked many complications when poised against more new world thinkers. Babi exemplifies revolutionist ideas, the same ideas being fought over in many parts of the world. Religion has enormous influence upon societies even in the present. Sexism still pursues the daily lives of many women even in modernized societies like America. Variegated by perspective, remnants of sexism may still exist in fundamental readings such as the Bible. Sexism has grown to seem inescapable because of ignorance that has stemmed from years and years of male superiority.
"'We'll take care of her, Lailajan," one of the women said with an air of self-importance. Laila had been to funerals before where she had seen women like this, women who relished all things that had to do with death, official consolers who let no one trespass on their self-appointed duties...'Some days,' Mammy said in a hoarse voice, 'I listen to that clock ticking in the hallway. Then I think of all the ticks, all the minutes, all the hours and days and weeks and months and years waiting for me. All of it without them. And I can't breathe then, like someone's stepping on my heart, Laila. I get so weak. So weak I just want to collapse somewhere.'"
(Q.) The way in which Hosseini illustrates this funeral perfectly describes the supercilious nature of people. I fail to understand why these women feel so inclined to only take part of Mammy's life when they are invited to do so. Furthermore, why is it that Mammy continues to neglect Laila even in her time of weakness? As Hosseini described it, these women were "official consolers who let no one trespass on their self-appointed duty." Laila had tried to be there during Mammy's moments of weakness, only to be pushed further and further away from any chances of a legitimate relationship. While Mammy mourns for her sons, she is completely unaware that Laila is her child. She laments how horrid life will be without taking into account of her only remaining child. What truly bewilders me is why Mammy insists to be so unaware of her own child's palpable state of depression.
"Mammy was soon asleep, leaving Laila with dueling emotions: reassured that Mammy meant to live on, stung that she was not the reason. She would never leave her mark on Mammy's heart the way her brothers had, because Mammy's heart was like a pallid beach where Laila's footprints would forever wash away beneath the waves of sorrow that swelled and crashed, swelled and crashed."
(CL.) Hosseini further elaborates upon the complications developing between Mammy and Laila. The figurative language justly describes the anguish subjected to Laila. Despite Laila's efforts to leave an impression on Mammy, Mammy remains lost in the memories of her deceased sons. Laila had been devoid of a motherly figure throughout her childhood, and still so even after the sole attention of Mammy had passed on. The dueling emotions Laila feels signifies one of the first internal conflicts Laila undergoes. This internal conflict ultimately clarifies the abandonment that Mammy had so long initiated. Faced with the harsh reality, this passage elucidates Mammy's insecurities. When stripped of her very pride and glory, Mammy returns to the safety of her memories, longing for the impossibility of seeing her sons again.
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"With the passing of time, she would slowly tire of this exercise. She would find it increasingly exhausting to conjure up, to dust off, to resuscitate once again what was long dead. There would come a day, in fact, years later, when Laila would no longer bewail his loss. Or not as relentlessly; not nearly. There would come a day when the details of his face would begin to slip form memory's grip, when overhearing a mother on the street call after he child by Tariq's name would no longer cut her adrift. She would not miss him as she did now, when the ache of his absence was her unremitting companion- like the phantom pain of an amputee."
(E.) Hosseini uses a flash-forward technique to drastically contrast how much Laila truly misses Tariq. Tariq's departure alters Laila's progressive thoughts about the future and replaces them with dismal illusions. This event symbolically marks when the repercussions of war finally reach Laila, as her life is slowly but surely destroyed by violence and terror. Throughout the first half of the novel, Tariq had always acted as hope and the very reason why Laila bothered waking up every morning. As Tariq and Laila split paths, the hopes and aspirations slowly disipate into a struggle for survival. She realizes now that forgetting Tariq is inevitable and prolonging will leave her with regrets, but cannot bring her to do so.
"'Mm.' He smiled sadly.'I can't believe I'm leaving Kabul. I went to school here, got my first job here, became a father in this town. It's strange to think that I'll be sleeping beneath another city's skies soon.' 'It's strange for me too.' 'All day, this poem has been bouncing around in my head. Saib-e-Tabrizi wrote it back in the seventeenth century, I think. I used to know the whole poem, but all I can remember now is two lines: 'One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs, Or the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls.'"
(C.) As Babi departs, he cannot help but mention the most prominent and significant lines in this novel. Hosseini brilliantly initiates these lines from the poem Kabul as a resolution for Laila's childhood, a subplot in the novel. The two lines flawlessly capture the essence of nostalgia, a feeling most readers are familiar with. While reading this, I remembered departing from Taiwan with the same feeling of nostalgia illustrated in this passage. At first view, Taiwan was just a mundane rural country infested with people; however, the memories I shared with my family here cannot be denoted by words. An author's job is to successfully build a relationship with the reader as Hosseini successfully does. Hosseini's choice in using figurative language allows for more imagination and understanding rather than a blatant perception of nostalgia.
"Laila wasn't listening anymore. She was remembering the day the man from Panjshir had come to deliver the news of Ahmad's and Noor's deaths. She remembered Babi, white-faced, slumping on the couch, and Mammy, her hand flying to her mouth when she heard. Laili had watched Mammy come undone that day and it had scared her, but she hadn't felt any true sorrow. She hadn't understood the awfulness of her mother's loss. Now another stranger bringing news of another death. Now she was the one sitting on the chair. Was this her penalty, then, her punishment for being aloof to her own mother's suffering?"
(E.) Laila had already felt the repercussions of war before when Tariq had left her. Now, however, as the war scene shifts towards Kabul, she feels the overwhelming influence war has upon her and those close to her. The news of Tariq's death stabbed at Laila's old wounds. Hosseini draws a clear line between death and abandonment with this passage. This passage clearly defines the relationship in which Tariq and Laila had shared, one that was far greater than any other relationship. Despite how the war had killed all of her family members, Laila's security, that had remained untouched for so long, had finally broken. It is evident that Tariq was more than a mere friend or brother. Tariq was an unrivaled lover that Laila knew could never be replaced. A love that had blossomed as children, Laila's childhood had finally collapsed upon her.
"'Why have you pinned your little heart to an old, ugly hag like me?' Mariam would murmur into Aziza's hair. 'Huh? I am nobody, don't you see? A dehati. What have I got to give you?' But Aziza only muttered contentedly and dug her face in deeper. And when she did that, Mariam swooned. Her eyes watered. Her heart took flight. And she marveled at how, after all these years of rattling loose, she had found in this little creature the first true connection in her life of false, failed connections."
(CL.) Hosseini's use of dialogue in this passage truly makes for a heartaching moment in the novel. Never before has Mariam understood what unconditional love felt like. Mariam matured expecting the worse in people after having been surrounded by lies and deceit throughout her adolescence. Those she cared about were either guilt ridden or stripped away by the war. She was insecure, callous, and alone. When Aziza is introduced, Mariam finally realizes she is not alone, or rather; she does not have to be alone anymore. She tears down her walls that had so long prevented her from forming any true heartwarming relationships. Most of all, however, she learns how to forgive and forget, no longer grieving over what had happened by rather hoping for what has yet to happen. This passage clarifies very well the personality and persona of Mariam.
"Seasons had come and gone; presidents in Kabul had been inaugurated and murdered; an empire had been defeated; old wars had ended and new ones had broken out. But Mariam hardly noticed, hardly cared. She had passed these years in a distant corner of her mind. A dry, barren field, out beyond wish and lament, beyond dream and disillusionment. There, the future did not matter. And the past held only this wisdom: that love was a damaging mistake, and its accomplice, hope, a treacherous illusion. And whenever those twin poisonous flowers began to sprout in the parched land of that field, Mariam uprooted them. She uprooted them and ditched them before they too hold.
(R.) Hosseini augments the distinction between marriage and true love. Mariam, although forced into marriage, had remained optimistic, hopeful, that perhaps what had been simply a coincidence would blossom into contentment and what she believes to be true love. As disappointment after disappointment occur, this dream shatters and dissolves into torment. A prospect of human nature that Hosseini seems to instill into the reader is how emotional pain cannot be simply mitigated or eradicated. Moreover, such pain, if continually nurtured, will embody a permanent scar in one's beliefs, aspirations, and ultimately personality as witnessed in Mariam. The connotation of the figurative language used to describe Mariam's feeling reflect the anguish and insecurity subjected to her, for example, "She had passed these years in a distant corner of her mind. A dry, barren field, out beyond wish and lament, beyond dream and disillusionment." Hosseini elegantly words this passage to truly allow the reader to relate to the callous state Mariam has slipped into as a result of an arranged marriage. Love and hope, once regarded greatly by her, are simply whisked away. The security she once had with her loved ones had devolved into a void of self-pity.
"It wasn't the fear of bleeding to death that made her drop the spoke, or even the idea that the act was damnable- which she suspected it was. Laila dropped the spoke because she could not accept what the Mujahideen readily had: that sometimes in war innocent life had to be taken. Her war was against Rasheed. The baby was blameless. And there had been enough killing already. Laila had seen enough killing of innocents caught in the crossfire of enemies."
(E.) Hosseini captures the true essence of developing Laila's character as the protagonist of the novel. When faced with the realities of war invading every aspect of her life, Laila is lost, confused, and much like Mariam, alone. She attempts to cope with all the problems that shortly ensue after losing her beloved parents, but only manages to avoid them. Thoughts, opinions, and ideas were all things Laila could escape with perseverance and determination, however, reality soon catches up with a tangible breathing being. The moment Laila makes the distinction between politics and her personal life is when she fully matures into an adult. Shortly after this realization, Laila makes a connection with the baby- much like herself, he was the result of being "caught in the crossfire of enemies," where in this instance are her and Rasheed. Laila begins understanding the true value of human life, and how easily it is taken away. Clearly against the mindless violence, Laila chooses not to stoop down to the Mujahideen's method of murder.
"Death from starvation suddenly became a distinct possibility. Some chose not to wait for it. Mariam heard of a neighborhood widow who had ground some dried bread, laced it with rat poison, and fed it to all seven of her children. She had saved the biggest portion of herself."
(C.) Poverty and world hunger are two critical issues plaguing many parts of the world. Hosseini distinctly provides an example of how torturous life is in indigenous third world countries, where death is a plausible option of starving. Things we take for granted such as food, shelter, and family are scarce and near extinct in war-torn places such as Afghanistan. Hosseini instills a powerful image into the reader by bringing children into the equation rather than adults. Children that have been deprived of education, friendship, and other fundamental things such as fun are not given the opportunity to live life to the fullest extent. The most compelling aspect of this, however, is how the widow had chosen to take the lives of seven children, all of which were too young to make an adequate decision, in addition to her.
"'It isn't your fault. Do you hear me? Not you. It's those savages, those wahshis, who are to blame. They bring shame on me as a Pashtun. They'e disgraced the name of my people. And you're not alone, hamshira. We get mothers like you all the time--all the time--mothers who come here that can't feed their children because the Taliban won't let them go out and make a living. So you don't blame youself. No one here blames you. I understand.' He leaned forward. 'Hamshira I understand.'"
(R.) Zaman, the orphanage director, is one of the few characters that understands and relates to Laila. Often times people fall into a deep state of disillusionment when reality has grown too "real," per se. As reality hits a breaking point where fault is found in near everything and no one takes blame, people begin blaming themselves. Bystanders that are powerless to make a change find fault in themselves for not having enough money, enough control, or enough courage. It is an innate behavior to always want to help whether you do or do not have the ability to. Finding someone who understands this, however, is rare in war torn countries like Kabul. The world is not fair; power does not directly correlate with hard work and perseverance. People will blame others for events that are completely out of their control, while others will take the effort to actually take part in the resolution.
"Mariam wished for so much in those final moments. Yet as she closed her eyes, it was not regret any longer but a sensation of abundant peace that washed over her. She thought of her entry into this world, the harami child of a lowly villager, an unintended thing, a pitiable, regrettable accident. A weed. And yet she was leaving the world as a woman who had loved and been loved back. She was leaving it as a friend, a companion, a guardian. A mother. A person of consequence at last. No. It was not so bad, Mariam thought, that she should die this way. Not so bad. This was a legitimate end to a life of illegitimate beginnings."
(R.) Mariam had throughout her life expected the worst in people and herself. Faith, hope, and trust had all withered along with each new chapter of her life. At these last moments of her life, Mariam finally begins to see the positive aspects of her life rather than the negative. People in general always bury themselves in a pit of self-pity when cornered, confused, and in their moment of weakness. They try to run away from reality's responsibilities through lies, rejection, and solitude. However, eventually, reality catches up to them and they realize the only person to blame is themselves for not taking a chance, the opportunity to love and trust again. Mariam took a leap of faith by extending her hands as a gesture of friendship toward Laila. Hosseini seems to have intended this passage to leave an everlasting mark on the reader: despite all of the things he or she was not able to complete, all the aspirations and motives he or she did try to achieve are what truly defines him or her as a person.
"'I'm sorry,' Laila says, marveling at how every Afghan story is marked by death and loss and unimaginable grief. And yet, she sees, people find a way to survive, to go on. Laila thinks of her own life and all that has happened to her, and she is astonished that she too has survived, that she is alive and sitting in this taxi listening to this man's story."
(E.) Laila beings to realize how narrow minded she had been thinking ever since the ripples of war had destroyed the very essence of Kabul. She sees how the repercussions of war have simply augmented the problems of everyone including her. No longer is she in her own circle of torment when she realizes almost everyone is struggling for survival, some worse off than her. The belief that there are still people alive and trying to reconstruct their lives gives Laila hope that is not directly stated by Hosseini. This taxi driver, a seemingly insignificant character, introduces Laila to hope for Kabul and most of all herself. Before Laila had only taken into account her own life rather than Kabul in general.
"Laila watches Mariam glue strands of yarn onto her doll's head. In a few years, this little girl will be a woman who will make small demands on life, who will never burden others, who will never let on that she too has had sorrows, disappointments, dreams that have been ridiculed. A woman who will be like a rock in a riverbed, enduring without complaint, her grace not sullied but shaped by the turbulence that washes over her. Already Laila sees something behind this young girl's eyes, something deep in her core, that neither Rasheed nor the Taliban will be able to break. Something as hard and unyielding as a block of limestone. Something that, in the end, will be her undoing and Laila's salvation."
(E.) This scene follows shortly after the death of Mariam as Laila visits Mariam's old home. Laila has a flashback and sees Mariam mature progressively, however, rather than seeing the negative, she notes all the positive aspects of her life. This passage is critical in the story as it is one of the few scenes marked by salvation and generosity; one where a character is defined by her personality and traits rather than her tragedies and losses. This passage acts as Laila's show of gratitude without a direct statement. The most prominent quality Laila seems to emphasize the most is Mariam's unfaltering loyalty to those she loves and cares about. Hosseini's use of figurative language and imagery makes this passage graceful and justified as a reminiscent of Mariam and her sacrifice. The interpretations of this passage are endless, as the figurative language invokes a more abstract definition of Mariam rather than direct characterization.
"I hope you do not think that I am trying to buy your forgiveness. I hope you will credit me with knowing that your forgiveness is not for sale. It never was. I am merely giving you, if belatedly, what was rightfully yours all along. I was not a dutiful father to you in life. Perhaps in death I c
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