79. A Mother’s Lesson

79. A Mother’s Lesson

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

A Mother’s Lesson

Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.


Back in June 1987, my brother was killed in a car accident. He was twenty-six years old. The phone ringing in the middle of the night woke me. Shortly after that I heard my mom wailing. I walked into my parents’ bedroom and Dad said, “Bully died in a car accident earlier this evening.”

My world stopped. I was twenty-two and had just graduated from college. My brother was the one person in the world who accepted me exactly as I was. He was my confidant, my sounding board and my best friend.

Mom seemed to age overnight. I overheard her telling people on the phone, “I’m a wreck. I miss him already.”

As the days went by we learned more about the accident, which happened on Maui (we lived on Oahu). Turns out the driver was my brother’s boyfriend. They were drinking and had gotten into a disagreement. Angry, my brother climbed into the bed of the truck instead of the cab. The driver was speeding and driving erratically. As he moved to pass a car by driving on the shoulder of the highway, he lost control and the truck flipped. My brother was tossed clear but then the truck landed on top of him.

On the day of the funeral, Mom was pale and thin. Already a svelte woman, her grief curbed her appetite, making her appear skeletal. As we loaded into the car to go to the funeral home, she said, “I was hoping this day wouldn’t come.”

During the viewing we were surprised to see the driver’s mother, father and sister there to pay their respects. They hugged each of us tightly and we all cried together. I watched through wet eyes as my mom clung to his mom, the two ladies giving each other strength through their grief. It seemed his family loved my brother as much as we did.

We survived the funeral and burial and did our best in the following months to get back to our normal routines. Days and months passed.

Eventually my brother’s boyfriend was charged with drunk driving and manslaughter. He pled guilty to all charges. Having passed the stage of grief, many of us were firmly in the anger stage and several family members expressed their satisfaction that the driver would be punished.

At sentencing, Mom sent a letter to the court asking for leniency for the driver. She explained that she had accepted her loss and an incarceration would not bring my brother back. Further, she said the driver would live the rest of his life knowing that his poor judgment caused the death of someone he loved and she hoped he would seek mental health counseling to help him get past it.

Her letter surprised everyone. The judge read it out loud to the open courtroom, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The judge stated that Mom’s letter swayed his decision and he hoped the driver would use this event to seek counseling, change his ways, and change his life.

Days after the sentencing, Mom and I talked. I asked her how she could send such a letter and how she could not want that man punished for taking Bully away from us.

Through tears she told me something I have kept with me all these years. She said, “I am sad for your brother. He was my artist, my wanderer, my gentle soul. I miss him every day. But I cannot hold hate in my heart for anyone or for what happened or it will eat me alive. I have to forgive or I will not be able to live.”

And with that we closed the chapter.

Forgiveness is a powerful weapon in healing. Love for all.

~Danielle Lum

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