Some parts I remember as if I'd recorded them. I replay them time and again.
Other things about that day are a blur.
It began with a police call over the scanner. There had been shots fired in our little town of 2000. I waited for the
ambulance call but it didn't come, so I figured it had been nothing serious. Then came the knock on the door. A knock at 1:45
AM is never good news.
My husband answered to see a young deputy sheriff who didn't look old enough to be out at that time, and an equally young,
bleary-eyed young woman. They asked to come in. I stood at the top of the stairs and listened as they asked Charlie to get
his wife--me. I came down a slow step at a time.
There's no easy way to say this," the young deputy began. There's been a shooting. It's Chad. He's dead."
I lose track of what happened next here. My daughter, who was thirteen at the time, says I began to moan. The next thing
I remember is the living room filling up with people who didn't talk at all. Someone made coffee--it may have been me.
We sat until day had fully come, which in late September is around 8:00, then went to our oldest daughter's home to escape
the curious people who kept showing up and walking by, peering into our windows.
The DA came in the early afternoon to give us details. Chad had been at a party--he'd been drinking--and
a woman whose husband gave Chad a ride to work each day came to the place looking for Chad. She invited him to their home.
He went. A short time after, as Chad sat on the couch in their basement apartment, Jared Beier took out a shotgun, lopaded
it and fired it pointblank at my son's face. There was no motive, No argument, nothing. Beier had delayed calling 911--though
the injuries he'd inflicted on Chad were instantly fatal. He even rearranged Chad's hands--put them on the gun as if Chad
had committed suicide. Indeed, that's the story he gave the police, but there had been another young man at the scene who
told a different story, as did Beier's wife.
Beier was convicted of 2nd degree murder ( the judge wanted us to go to trial and charge 1st degree, but we didn't think
we could survive a trial) and has served nearly 14 years of the 18 year sentence he received. He will probably get out in
spring of 2009.
I've worked hard at forgiveness, but maybe not the kind you think of when you hear that term. I haven't yet reached the
point of wishing Beier well. Of praying for his welfare, or even for his salvation. But I have reached a point of forgiveness:
GIVING IT UP TO GOD.
Whether or not you believe in God, you should agree with His premise that bitterness hurts the person who harbors it.
Science tells us bitterness can even predisposition people to heart disease and some cancers. That's why we have to be able
to release it. I believe there is a reckoning day coming when justice will be meted out to people like Jared Beier. That justice
will be far more complete and final than I could ever manage. So I don't have to obsess about how to even the score. I can
let it go.
TEACH KIDS THIS WAY: Write the name of the offender on a slip of paper, then wad it up and throw it in the trash. Next.
WALK AWAY FROM THE TRASH CAN. leave the paper there. And every time the child ( or you--or I--) thinks of the offender, getting
angry and tense, he needs to repeat the process. The goal is to get through a day, then a week and finally a month or more,
without thinking about it at all. When you give up claim to be judge and executioner, it is a great release for the spirit.
Eventually, you may need to go further into forgiveness. Again, if you are a Christian, you can count on God for the
strength. But this next journey of forgiveness is best taken in small steps.
People who can open their arms to killers of their children or rapists or child pornographers are far beyond me. They're
far beyond most people. But I remember the story of a little girl named Madelyn who was blinded when she was struck by
a drunk driver. It made the news when Madelyn held out her little hands to the man who maimed her and said, "I forgive
you." I couldn't do that, even now--after all these years.
BUT WE CAN TEACH OUR CHILDREN to reach out to others when they feel the bitterness sinking in. They can read to nursing
home residents, for instance, or help you adopt a poverty-bound family at Christmas. We bought presents for such families
for several years in Chad's name--until we became foster parents. It is hard to be self-concerned when you are helping others.
IT MIGHT HELP CHILDREN TO IMAGINE WHY SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE CAUSED THEM HURT. Is it because they themselves were hurt by
others? Is it because they felt left out or jealous or threatened? Maybe this isn't where you--or your children--want to go
right now, and that's okay. In order to delve into someone's motives to find redeeming attitudes, you have to INVEST some
of yourself. That takes being willing to risk being hurt again.
It won't hurt to talk to kids about why someone may have done something bad to them. If the offense is small, the child
may be able to connect to the feelings which prompted it. We ALL feel rejected at times, for example, but we don't ALL lie
and slander other people to feel better about ourselves. If the offense is larger, if it involves REAL HURT, then maybe the
"CAN YOU IMAGINE HOW THEY FELT" step is not appropriate.
At the most elemental level, though, forgiveness is JUST LETTING GO of bitterness and the desire for revenge. The first
step--writing down the offender's name and then throwing it away--helps in this release. The second step--substituting good
experiences and warm feelings whenever the bad ones surface by helping others, allows scabbed-over emotions to heal and get
And the hardest thing about teaching forgiveness to our kids is that all the steps we teach them will lead to nowhere
if we don't model the skill ourselves.
IS THERE SOMEONE YOU NEED TO FORGIVE TODAY? IS THERE SOMEONE TO WHOM YOU NEED TO SAY, "I'M SORRY?"