I thought about you today, but wish I didn’t.
It was only because of a news story about a man who killed a woman, who was given full parole and released after just 17 years. The woman who died was only twenty one years old. Her family has had to relive the devastation over and over again every time the man came up for parole.
Her family has to read about it again and again on social media. The family doesn’t ever get to heal because the old wound keeps getting ripped open. Nobody should ever have to know that kind of pain.
I don’t understand their heartbreak, but I know mine. And sometimes it doesn’t take much to take you back in time and remember so clearly.
Half my family was killed in a car accident. A guy I went to school with, blew through a stop sign, going way too fast. A guy I went to high school with, maybe even passed in the hallway, shared a lunch table with.
In a moment, that guy, took half my family and changed my life forever.
It would take a year before we got our day in court. He sat in the box, reading a book. He never made eye contact. He never looked up. I remember that so clearly. My dad, my brother and myself, each gave a victim impact statement. We shared the best we could how much our lives had changed since that day. I learned a lot about my dad that day. Things he never shared with my brother and myself. It was heart breaking for sure.
Nope. He never looked at us. Not once. We never got an apology. We never got a feeling that he even felt bad about what he did.
He was sentenced to 21 months in jail for taking away my family. Because he was a “good person”. Because he was young. Because he had his whole life ahead of him and had never done anything wrong before that day.
He was released in 14 months. He got his life back.
We didn’t. We will never get our family back no matter how many months or years he spent in jail. That’s a tough one to understand. It’s not enough and no amount of jail time would ever be enough for what was lost.
So unfair. How can a life matter so little? It’s insulting. A slap in the face. Salt in the open wound. It hurts.
I know how her family is feeling now, knowing that the man who killed their daughter/sister/friend is FREE. Free to live his life. FREE to do what he wants with whom he wants. Free to laugh and love and live. So unfair.
You want them to suffer. You want to inflict as much pain on the person that caused your pain as they did to you. You don’t want them to be happy. You don’t want them to ever smile again. You want them to FEEL your pain. Every bit of it.
But here’s the big secret. It doesn’t help.
It took me a really long time to get to that point of understanding.
Nothing – no amount of prison time, or personal harm, or ill thoughts – will bring back what was lost, and that is the most difficult thing to come to terms with. It’s the most difficult thing to make peace with. But it’s so necessary.
I often wonder about the guy that ran the stop sign. The guy whose picture is in my yearbook. I have wondered what I would say if I ever met him face to face. Would I know him? How would I react? Would I be able to say all that I’ve thought I’ve wanted to? What would I want HIM to say? Why didn’t you look at us?
I’m not sure. I wonder if he struggles. Part of me hopes he does. Because I still do. Not like I used to. But our lives are forever changed.
Part of me would like to reach out to him. But I’m just not sure I have the courage. My dad reached out to him a number of years ago and offered forgiveness. From what I’ve been told it was quite an incredible meeting and HE was grateful for the chance to ask forgiveness. He does live with the guilt. It does come to him every time he closes his eyes. He has not forgotten, even though we might want to think they are FREE.
Yes, I have snooped on his Facebook page. Just today. I couldn’t help it. A wife, kids, a job, a life. I wanted to send a note and just remind him of how much he hurt me and how his decision stays with us. I pictured his reaction seeing my name as a “friend request”.
But I didn’t because I know at the end of the day – I’m sure he does struggle and I’m sure he has not forgotten. Because you can hide easily behind a smile – I’ve done it. You can show your best self online. It doesn’t show the scars, and the open wounds you still carry. It doesn’t give any truth to what you have lived through.
Yes, I thought of you today. But I didn’t want to.