I've stated on here before that my oldest sister was killed in a head-on collision with an vehicle driven by a woman who was stoned on drugs at the time. My sister, to whom I was extremely close, was killed instantly when the SUV plowed straight into the front of her late model Toyota Corolla (pre-airbag age). That was October 19, 2005, around 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon while my sister was driving home from work.
The entire family, all her friends and the community where she lived and worked were devastated by her untimely death. But there have been two family members who have struggled with anger these past five years, to the detriment of their own well being. Those two are my brother-in-law and my nephew, my sister's only son (my sister has a daughter as well, so the two kids lost their mum).
My nephew had become bitter and depressed over this senseless tragedy and had never been able to come to terms with his mum's death.
Until recently. He decided to fight his demons head on and wrote a letter (email) to the woman responsible for taking his mum's life. I don't know what he said in the letter, as he's never shared that, but he did share the woman's reply and asked if anyone in the family was interested in contacting her. Each and every one of us (his aunts and uncles) have come to terms with my sister's death, found ways to lessen the pain and to continue our lives in ways that would make her proud. We each told him, in our own ways, that he needed to find a way to do the same, to take his mum's own outlook on life (and it was a damned good one!) and apply it to his own way of thinking and living.
Today, he shared his reply back to her with us. I am so proud, my heart could just burst! He has taken to heart all the things he knew his mum lived and believed in, and has seen it in his heart to forgive this woman for an unforgivable indiscretion. He is an incredible young man with a huge, caring heart and having seen how he'd been suffering the past five years, this is a major step in his healing. I love him as if he were my own son.
Below, I have posted her reply to his initial email, followed by his reply back to her. There is light and kindness and love in the universe, and a portion of it lives in this wonderful family of mine... especially my oldest nephew.
Reply from M*** to initial contact:
For 6 years I have not been able to get any info nor names of you or any other family members. I've wanted to get in contact, I've written letters that I couldn't send out cause of lack of info, so my jaw dropped when I received your message. Your pain & anger & bitterness shakes me to the very core. But it is completely justified. I am shaking as I type these words. I don't deserve your attention nor forgiveness nor can I forgive myself. It is a heavy weight that I will carry upon my shoulders for the rest of my days. That a beautiful soul of a woman was no more. That in a split second, I had turned so many lives upside-down. It floors me that somebody had to lose their life in order for me to live mine!! But that is exactly what happened. It is because of this tragedy that I am the person I am today. I just finished a 14 month incarceration due to this situation. There is not one day that goes by that I don't think of your mother. I actually pray & talk to her in my mind. I understand this might piss you off, for what right have I to do this? I pray that with each day that goes by, that all her loved ones & family might find it just a little bit easier to bear not seeing her beautiful face or hear her lovely voice or just feel her embrace. These things I think about. I have been in therapy for the last 5-6 years. I am a different person mentally, physically & emotionally. It is because of her that I am clean & sober & have been so since going to jail. And I've learned how to be a loving, caring and responsible human being throughout this journey that began on October 19, 2005. I feel indebted to your mother to remain this way. What a gift she gave me. But how undeserving I feel that I am. Obviously, I would trade places with her in a heartbeat. And how truly sorry I am. But "sorry" sounds like a cliche, for I am so deeply beyond "sorry" that I don't know if there is a word that exists to explain this deep pain I feel. In March of 2009, my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer. The doctors gave her a year, give or take a few months, and that was about 2 months before I went to jail. I remember thinking "God, please let me & my mom have time to spend some quality time together. Please, let her not die while I am in jail." Well, then it dawned on me how you did not get to have that option. There is so much I want to say to you & your family, I am overwhelmed right now, for it breaks my heart to know how much pain & grief I have cause you; all of you. And I don't know if there is anything you want to know, or ask me. No matter what you say to me, no matter if you need to unload your anger and sorrow or pain, I will respond to you. I also realize that just because I am sending these words to you, that you might just delete them and not give me the time of day.
M******'s response back to M***:
You know, M***, I so wanted to vilify you, and make you suffer just a fraction of what i suffered. The more I read your message, the more i don't want to be angry with you anymore. What's done is done, and while I'm not happy with the outcome, I can't change it.
What I can change is in my heart. I want to thank you for your sincere reply. You have shown me that hope can come from the least likely of places.
I'm not one to believe or follow the Christian vision of God, but do believe there are other powers and entities out there that help guide us and live our lives to the best of our ability. I hope that whatever you believe provides a solid foundation for who you are trying to be in this world. More importantly, I hope you are living by example, and teaching your son that you don't need to be a victim of your circumstances, and that you are always accountable for your actions and words in life. I believe he will make you proud if you can do that for him.
M***, should you wish, there is a bursary at the University of Manitoba, established after she died. It is a bursary designed to help single mothers who want to enter the faculty of education and need some financial assistance.
That is what she was, you see. A single mom of two, who got her teaching degree while raising my sister and I, because she refused to be a victim of circumstance - more specifically, she didn't let being poor and overwhelmed with life get in her way. I don't know your financial situation, but if you wanted to donate 20 bucks, 10, 5, whatever you can whenever you can, I know she would be pleased with that gesture. I don't make a ton of money, but have small donations set up as a payroll deduction, so every two weeks, it grows a little bit. If you want the correct information for the bursary, please call the University, the bursary number on the website is currently wrong. Or I can give you the right one if you like.
Since getting her education degree, Mum dedicated her professional life to helping young single mothers who had no chance at life. They had no idea how to keep house, pay bills, do a resume, care for their babies. These kids were all looking for a way to escape their circumstances, and not only did she lead by example, but she genuinely cared and loved each and every one of then over almost 20 years of doing this. I remember many nights her coming home and crying over the heartbreak she regularly faced, as some of these girls just weren't strong enough to get through it all. But she persevered, and was on her way home from working with a group of troubled kids on October 19, 2005. They came to her wake in Grand Forks, and they cried just as hard as all of us in her family did over what happened. She was easy to love, and accepting of all - without prejudice or judgment..
Had she known you before, M***, she would have supported you without judgment too. If there is an afterlife, I know now that even though what happened happened, she would still be with you, trying to help you find a better way. I encourage you to use her spirit as strength during tempting or troubled times in your life. We all know life does not get easier, so if her spirit and memory helps you be a better person, then you need to keep talking to her every day.
When I got your message, I reached out to my family, to see if any of them were interested in engaging with you. All of them have moved on and found a way to forgive you for what you did. It seems that I (and my Dad, who I fear will never stop being angry) were the only ones who had not let this go. Their reply was not to you, but to me encouraging me to be compassionate and forgiving, because any other road would only serve to poison my heart.
I must have read your message over 100 times since you sent it, and you know what? I can't be angry anymore. It serves no rational or emotional purpose. I need to let go and celebrate what life I had with her. I need to celebrate that I am the caring, sensitive, loving man that I am because of her. She was, is and will always remain my hero, and she can be yours too.
M***, I forgive you.
Live your life, honour her spirit and do good in this world. I have faith that you can and will.
With love and compassion,