Forgiveness is an unconditional giftPublished 12:00am Sunday, December 22, 2013
Forgiveness is something you either have to give or you don’t have to give.
It’s a gift not to be given on a conditional basis, but something you give with true sincerity.
To see an act of forgiveness is truly remarkable, and that is something I was able to behold earlier this week.
I sat in the back of a Lawrence County courtroom for two days last week covering the trial of Nathan Bloomfield, a man charged with aggravated vehicular homicide. His co-worker and friend, John Markel, a passenger in Bloomfield’s car, was killed as a result of drunk driving and about a year and a half ago.
The courtroom was nearly full for the duration of the trial, the seats filled with family and friends of the accused and the deceased. The courtroom was clearly divided.
And after each exhibit of evidence and each witness’ testimony, those family members and friends were taken back to what was probably the most tragic day of their life.
Photos of a mangled car. Photos of a lifeless body. All seen through tear-filled eyes.
All because of a drunk driving accident, Bloomfield and Markel became unfortunate statistics, while both families were left to mourn.
Bloomfield was found guilty of causing the death of his friend, but when it came time for the judge to hand down a punishment, something happened that I didn’t expect.
Markel’s brother asked for mercy upon Bloomfield. He said there were no hard feelings between the two families and asked the court to be lenient in sentencing.
Markel was a son whose mother outlived him. A husband who can never hold his wife again. A father who will never again see his children’s faces.
I did not expect a man who has just relived the death of his brother to stand up before the court and hand out forgiveness so easily.
Could I have done that? Probably not. Not so soon at least.
But forgiveness isn’t something you can pick up at the mall. Some people have it on hand. Some people have to search for it.
And if you’ve ever had to search for forgiveness, it’s one of the hardest things to find.
When I was in middle school, my mother and stepfather were involved in a car accident that left my mother paralyzed from the neck down.
It wasn’t the fault of a drunk driver. Just an utterly careless person who didn’t yield when he was supposed to yield.
I can still remember that day. When someone tells you your mom was in an accident, the only response you want to hear to the question, “Is she OK?” is yes.
But when the answer is no, no she is not OK, your world screeches to a halt. You can’t think. You can’t breathe. All you can do is cry.
I didn’t see her right after the accident. I was told she was in such bad shape, hooked to machines that were breathing for her and giving her blood. I didn’t want to see that. And when I look back on it, I’m glad I don’t have that memory to go along with my others.
After months and months, despite what the doctors thought was realistic, my mother was able to come home, and without a respirator. My stepfather, in what I consider the truest and most selfless act of love I have even seen, took care of my mother for the next 12 years. They had only been married six months when the accident happened. It was a hard life for them both.
Both they did their best to make it a good life. I had those 12 extra years with my mother that were almost taken away from me. She still bossed me like a mother does. She saw me graduate from high school. She laughed with me. She cried with me.
She died five years ago this month and I miss her every day, especially this time of year.
What became of the man who couldn’t take a quick second to look for oncoming traffic? He died some years ago from old age. I don’t know if he thought about my mother after the accident. I don’t know if he felt guilty.
I do know that I was mad at him for a long time. Mad at him for causing the accident. Mad at God for letting it happen.
I didn’t just have forgiveness to give away. Not at such a young age.
I can’t say when I finally found it, and the man probably didn’t know that I had. I didn’t know his name and I doubt he knew mine.
But forgiveness isn’t about making the other person feel better. It’s about letting go of a tremendous burden. Sometimes the burden is light and easy to unload. But sometimes it can be utterly backbreaking and so heavy you can’t breathe.
I’m thankful I was able to eventually find forgiveness and glad to see another family who did the same even despite the tragic circumstances.
It just takes time.
Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.