Do You Forgive Him?
A long time ago, over 18 years ago, an elderly gentleman missed a stop sign.
His truck was travelling at about 110 km/hr (65mph).
My family, in a much smaller car, was also travelling at the same right of speed. My family did not have a stop sign.
In an instant, one innocent mistake resulted in a t-bone collision.
The truck hit my mom and sister directly. My mom died instantly, my sister died on the way to the hospital.
My Dad survived bruised and broken with visible scars to this day.
My brother survived, with a less then ideal prognosis. He made a full recovery but still carries visible scars.
I was not in the car. I had no physical healing and to this day I have no visible scars.
Innocent lives were lost and a family, my family, fell apart.
All individuals of the truck had injuries but all survived.
I’ve been asked many times in my life, do you forgive him? Most recently by my counsellor. (As I said yesterday, that last appointment was pretty epic).
The short answer:
Yes. I do forgive him.
The long answer:
I realized within days of The Accident that having a heart full of hate and anger was not a life I was willing to lead. In my heart, I forgive him within days/weeks. I always understood The Accident to be the result of an innocent mistake, not an act of malice or viciousness and because of that I could forgive him. I deserve better then that and so did he. People make mistakes, it’s part of life and death sometimes too.
In part I was able to forgive him because holding onto anger was not the life my mom or my sister would have wanted for me. I was brought up understanding compassion and love, and forgiveness. Somehow in those very first days After The Accident, I knew if I had any chance of surviving and learning to live in my new reality, I had to let go of the hateful and angry emotions. And to do so, the only way I could was to forgive him. I didn’t have to wish him well, in fact I didn’t/don’t often even think of him with specific emotion. But, I knew in my heart I had to forgive him. And so I did.
Also, alcohol was not involved. I’m sure I’d feel very different if The Accident was the result of alcohol because alcohol based car accidents are just so simple to responsibly prevent.
Instead, he made a mistake. He never intended for The Accident to happen. For whatever reason he took his eyes of the road and he missed a stop sign and at that very moment he hit my family. But, I don’t believe for a second he intended to do it. In a second his mistake destroyed my families life, ended my childhood and literally ended my mom and sister’s lives, but it also ruined his. He had to live with that guilt, because no-matter how you look at it, he was driving and didn’t stop when he was supposed to and people died as a result, including a young teenager. And even more, he left a family broken and children motherless.
I never met the driver of the truck. I don’t even know his name and have no picture of his face in my mind. I have no idea what I’d say to him if we ever did meet. I wouldn’t downplay the hurt, the loss, the life-long grieving. But, I know I don’t hate him. I know that I wouldn’t have wanted him to suffer and be haunted for his mistake. But I also realize for the majority of people that’s not the type of mistake you just forget about and I wouldn’t have wanted him to forget either. Had we met when I was a teenager, I don’t know if I would have ever had the courage to tell him to his face that I forgive him. But if I met him today, I believe would. I know it wouldn’t fix him, and it would fix my reality, but it would probably help both of us continue to heal.
But the reality is that I will never meet him. Not as a direct result of injuries from The Accident, he died a few years later while I was still in high school. I remember my Dad in passing mentioning to me that he died. I distinctly remember feeling almost emotionless, I wasn’t sad nor was I somehow relieved or satisfied in anyway. More then anything I remember noticing how strange it was that I didn’t feel anything. It was almost like I was empty. I was told once he was never able to live again after the accident, and somehow that impacted me. He truly didn’t mean to do it and he probably tortured himself emotionally over it. I have my own guilt about not being in the car with my family, but I could not imagine living with the guilt that I imagine he did and nor would I want to.
Yes, sometimes I’m upset that he made that mistake and if I visit their graves I am always angry. But I’m upset at the consequences. I am not angry with him. And for me, that’s a big distinction.
And so today, just as I decided years ago, I know in my heart that I forgive him.
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They say forgiveness isn’t for the person you’re forgiving, but for yourself instead. And that is so very true. You have a lot of emotional maturity – and it sounds like you did even as a young girl, to be able to forgive him so quickly.
You are right that he had to live with the guilt and the pain, knowing what he had done. I am sure he didn’t live a day without thinking about it, and all of you, whose lives were torn apart by his mistake.
MPB, your emotional depth and willingness to share always touches my heart. You’re amazing.
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Such a powerful testimony to resilience and forgiveness. Xo
I can not imagine having to live through that and reliving it daily through the memories and the visible scarring on your father and brother. Forgiveness is the most powerful gift you can give yourself and to others. Beautiful testimony.
You have the right outlook. Holding onto a grudge on top of your grief would have been maddening. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through. It’s so unfair how fleeting life am can be for come.
You are magnanimous. i would never be able to forget. Driving is a luxury, not a right. You absolutely have to be cAreful, lives can get lost.
Ask yourself this , if you were the driver, can you forgive yourself?
Sure, people say forgive , life is too short to hold on to anger etc, but if I were to wipe someones family, and change everything in an instant for someone ,i would never forgive myself, so even less is the chance of me forgiving someone.
I am inspired and awed that you have it in you to find forgiveness. You are amazing.
I agree with Lindsay above. It seems like you were mature way beyond your years as a teen, and your thoughts and emotions are always so deep. I’m sorry that your family had to go through this, but that man and his family had to as well. I’m glad that there was no alcohol involved, because as you said, that would probably have changed things drastically. I think it’s great that you found forgiveness for him, especially so quickly. It definitely says a lot about you as a person. ❤
Wow. I know you’re sharing your thoughts and not intending to be inspirational, but I think you so are. It’s amazing that within only days you were able to find that kernel inside you that wanted to forgive him so that somehow you could live. In the most traumatizing of events, you chose love. xx
I have started typing numerous responses to this post but ended up deleting them because I am struggling to find the right words to express what I want to say. I am so sorry for you & your family. That you have found a way of dealing with your feelings towards what happened and the driver involved is so important and I think the conclusions you have come to with regards to forgiveness are a credit to you.
So beautifully written. I admire your ability to forgive and that is something I wish I could do more easily. You are truly a role model!
This speaks volumes about you my friend. Forgiveness isnt something that comes easy to people, and in a situation as tough as yours, Im sure its not always easy. I do believe forgiveness is always the best choice though. Forgiving others can give you freedom, or at least for me it has. I commend u for being the bigger person in this horribly tragic loss 💗
You were a very evolved little 14 year old! I do understand this though. I had a really bad car accident when I was 14 and ended up in hospital for most of the year. My boyfriend at the time was driving and there were 2 other friends in the car. The crash WAS his fault as he was a speeding 17 year old however I never did blame him and mostly that was because I knew there was nothing in his day that made him want to be in a car accident and almost kill me and potentially seriously injure everyone else, including himself. It was what it was and no hating will ever change it. You are amazing! xx
This post is beautiful, just beautiful. There is tangible healing in your words, and such raw loss from a single moment that changed everything.
What a wise choice so many years ago not to hate and harbor toxic feelings. I’m sure it was hard to feel them and let them go but I’m so glad for you that you were able to do that. For so many people, that’s a climb during which they get stuck.
I have said and written many times:
Forgiveness frees the forgiver.
When I pray, “forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” I understand it not to ask that He forgive me only if I forgive others, or only to the extent that I forgive others. I understand myself to be asking that He give me the strength to forgive others as He has the grace to forgive me.
What impresses me is that you have seen that forgiveness is only forgiveness if it’s full and free, not self-righteous, not condescending.
Good for you. I think this is hard for a lot of people to do. I like to think that I would forgive too… We all make mistakes. I caused many accidents as a teen, and could have hurt someone badly in one of them. I remember his name, and I’m so glad that I didn’t hit him as hard as I could have. I could not have lived my life normally if I’d have hurt him badly or killed him.
Forgiveness is powerful, and not always deserved but so good for the person doing the forgiving.
I guarantee up until his death he lived with the horrific memory of what happened. Forgiveness is not an easy feat. You are so strong my friend.
Thank you. I suspect you are right my friend. I think after an event like that everyone involved lives with the memories.
Very heavy piece. It is so hard to do and yet it has to be done to overcome this. You are strong.