I will never forget that sound.
The crunching of the packed snow beneath my feet, dissonant with the throbbing in my ears from my racing heart.
He sought me out. He wanted my forgiveness. Wanted to talk to me…to see in my eyes that forgiveness was even possible.
I sought out a safe place to meet him. Though I knew with certainty that he wouldn’t physically harm me, I feared for my emotional safety. My aunt provided that shelter.
Fourteen years prior, he shot my father twice and killed him.
I was two. And in an instant, fatherless.
As I reached to open my aunt’s door, I was stuck between two places. In that moment, with my hand clenching her doorknob, I could move forward or I could retreat. There simply was no in between.
I pushed the door open and the heat from my aunt’s house engulfed me.
He was there. Sitting at the table. I greeted my aunt, shed my coat, and sat opposite him at the table. And I waited.
It wasn’t my turn to talk.
He apologized. His words were much what I expected them to be. I knew the story…the reasons why he did what he did. They had been the best of friends.
I can still see him, rubbing one of his hands with the other, worrying his skin raw.
But his eyes? His eyes expressed his sorrow and remorse in a way that his words never could.
I’m not sure I have ever seen eyes as soft as his were in that moment as he sat there, stumbling over his words, looking to me for encouragement to continue speaking.
I let him speak until he was completely deflated…words expelled like air from a balloon overfilled to near bursting.
There was a familiarity about him. Some part of my brain remembered him.
In that moment I was left to make a choice. To forgive him or to hang onto my anger and hurt, polishing it until it gleamed with bitterness.
It was the moment to choose whether to set him free of his burden or take that opportunity to make him pay. To crush his hopes for a release from even a small part of his guilt.
I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I forgave him.
I made a choice that freed us both.
The easy, predicable choice would have been to hold my anger close, fueling it with thoughts of all that had been ripped from me.
The more difficult choice was to forgive him, to recognize that he was human and that relinquishing my anger would bring me peace unlike anything I had ever known.
His life was already broken. He would never be the person he was before he killed my father.
But my forgiveness? He sat there and asked it of me.
And offering that it to him was truly the fork in my road.
The Road Not Taken — Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
*The decision to forgive this man who destroyed my family was my choice. This was the right choice for me. If I were my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or mother, I can’t say that my choice would have been the same. That is impossible to know. I can only truly know what is best for me. I love my family beyond words and their strength astonishes me to this day.
Powerful stuff Nichole, thanks for sharing.
Writing about that moment of my life made me feel incredibly strong and free.
Than you so very much for reading.
Oh, Nichole. Wow. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this in your life.
You are truly an amazing person. I’m glad I know you
ach and every experience that we go through in life makes us who we are. If things had been different, I have no way of knowing who I would be today.
And the person I am today is someone who cherishes her little family and gave her children the best gift in the world–a father who adores them.
There isn’t a day when I don’t wish that I had had a chance to know my own father, but who knows where I would be today if I had.
I’m at peace and for that I am eternally grateful.
I’m so happy to know you too. Thank you for your kind words.
You showed an amazing amount of strength and courage that day…and again when you shared this story with us.
Thank you for reading…and thank you so very much for commenting.
realize that thus far our friendship has consisted of creating an imaginary junk-food based fraternity, but I have to tell you how much I admire the courage it took to do what you did. Although forgiving him, based on the pain and sincerity you recognized in his eyes, was an act of mercy, you gave yourself a gift beyond measure. I’m glad you were able to do it before more decades allowed it to fester and ferment. The decades ahead will be easier for it.
Making the choice to forgive him freed me from having to carry the burden of being a victim through my life.
I couldn’t let what had happened define me.
Thank you for coming by, reading my story, and leaving your kind words.
Such a beautiful, heartfelt and amazing post. You are so, so brave. Braver than I could ever be. Thank you for sharing
You never know exactly how strong you are until tested. I did it as much for myself as I did for him.
I believe that many of us would have made the same choice.
This is extremely moving and honest. I don’t think any of us can say that we could be as open to forgiving someone but like you said, this was your personal choice and it was obviously what was best for you. Sometimes the pain of anger becomes just as bad for you personally than the act that caused it, and it sounds like this helped to ease your pain. That’s all that we can ask for I think. Beautiful post.
Wow. I recently found you on twitter. I feel empowered to know of someone whose soul is capable of this type of release and freedom. Thank you. This site is amazing. Can’t wait to spend more time here.
I’m so excited that you found us. We’re happy to have you here.
Amazing post. I’m so glad you made your way to Band Back Together. I can’t imagine the courage and strength it took to face him. Thank you so much for sharing