June 9, 1999:
A date that forever changed my life.
After an awards banquet for my brother, my mom, sister Kelly, and sister Joelene were involved in a devastating car accident.
A young man had fallen asleep and crossed the median and hit their car head on.
Mom and Joelene were pretty bruised and sore.
Kelly was seriously hurt and she died the next morning in the hospital.
When we talk about that time in our lives, we talk about how we felt and how it has affected our family. We talk about where we were when we received that terrible phone call and how we reacted. We talk about life since she passed and all the things that she has missed. We talk about her funeral and how that annoying guy got up and spoke forever about nothing during what was supposed to be a time for her friends to share memories of her. We talk about how much we miss her and how much she meant to us.
But we do not talk about the young man who fell asleep. Sure, we have casually mentioned him, but we have never really focused on him.
I can only speak for myself in this situation as I have not really asked others what they think.
And I am not on a soap box saying how we all should handle things, because everyone is different and handles things differently - not right or wrong, just in their own way.
The morning of the phone call I experienced about 30 seconds of anger towards whoever hit the car, but then my anger turned quickly into forgiveness and into a prayer for that individual. I prayed that they were OK physically and I prayed that they would be able to forgive themselves and that they could move on with their life.
The rest of that day and the coming days were focused on the passing of my sister, her funeral and where to go from there.
But I continued to wonder about the young man.
What was his part of the story?
I wondered who he was, how he was feeling, was he sorry, was he able to forgive himself? Why was he on the road that night?
I knew a few things like his name and where he was from and how old he was, but that was about it.
Until last week, I had so many questions and no answers.
Then, I found him and contacted him by email.
Oh, I was so nervous.
What would he think? How would he react?
But I felt compelled to let him know that I had forgiven him long ago and that I only wished good things for him. I wanted him to know that I thought about him often and hoped that he was happy and that he had allowed himself to move on with his life.
The words of his email back to me brought tears to my eyes. The peace that came from his email made my heart heal. His honesty and sincerity was overwhelming.
He answered questions that I did not even know I had or even wanted to know.
He shared with me how he felt that night and why he was driving that night.
This young man was trying to better his life by getting an education.
He was working during the day and going to school at night. He had been very poor his whole life and his life choices were not great. He was trying to change that.
He was heading home after class that night when he fell asleep.
He told me that once he came to, he tried so hard to turn the wheel of his car in hopes of avoiding the oncoming car.
He told me how after the crash he hoped and prayed no one was hurt.
He told me of how he tried to go and help my family, but that some one restrained him. He told me how helpless he felt.
He told me of his life since then and how sorry he was for what had happened.
He told me of how grateful he was for my forgiveness, but that he could not and never would forget what happened.
He told me how the thought of Kelly brings him strength to go on when life gets hard.
He told me how he tries to live each day the best he can so that he can honor her memory.
Life has never been easy for this young man and my heart goes out to him.
How grateful I am that I found this young man and how thankful I am that he was willing to be open and honest and talk with me.
I hope that I have been able to bring him some peace in knowing that I wish him all the best and that I hold no anger or malice towards him.
I hope he can find his smile again and joy in his life.
Forgiveness is healing.
Our lives are forever linked by this tragic event 11 years ago. I hope that one day, I can meet this young man, give him a hug, and say, "Hello friend."
guest post by Amanda Bartel
*image via Google