Holy Saturday

On Easter Sunday, 2015, I wrote “Letter to the Other Driver.” It was about forgiveness to the man who had caused the car accident that changed our lives on March 1, 2000. The forgiveness my children and I offered was hard won.

But as we near the joyous end of Holy Week with the crescendo of “HE IS RISEN!” it is important, I think, to mark our ability to celebrate without bitterness.

Have a Blessed Easter.


Dear Driver of the Red Pickup Truck that ran a light on Paoli Pike on March 1, 2000,

My daughter and I were coming out of the hospital yesterday when I asked her if she thought you–the driver who caused her father’s grievous car accident–ever thought about Ron and his family. We were walking up an incline and she, with her longer and younger legs, was a bit in front of me. She did not immediately answer me. I thought perhaps she had not heard me.

Then she stopped and turned, the freckles standing out in her pale face. Visiting her father when he is so ill is never easy. “Probably not,” she said. She shook her head and smiled sadly. “His life wasn’t changed forever.”

So true. You, the other driver, received a ticket and, eventually, your insurance company sent us a check for the amount of income Ron would have made in a year. The company probably raised your insurance rates. The check did not completely cover the out-of-pocket medical expenses for the first three years.

This is fifteen years later and the medical expenses do not end. Ron is spending yet another holiday in hospital, away from his family. In the last 15 years, he has been hospitalized, on average, twice a year. He has had 26 major surgeries. His body is a mass of scar tissue. What we have paid out in medical bills would have seen all three of our children through college without the need to take out student loans.

I work three jobs to keep us afloat. I am always tired and frequently lonely. Our children have all been raised to adulthood without a “real” father. These things are sad. We still regret the circumstances of March 1 that brought us here.

But we have moved on. We have survived. And in our survival, our adaptation to a husband and a father so altered, we have found a new reality. We do not forget–we can never forget–but we adapted. We loved the old Ron, and we learned to love the new.

Perhaps what I say next will not matter to you because, as Bonnie observed, your life was not changed. But sitting in church on Easter Sunday morning–again without Ron–and realizing just how precious is the gift of forgiveness Jesus gave to us, this thought occurred to me:

We’ve forgiven you.

It did not come easily or quickly. The more surgeries Ron needed to endure, the more our lives changed and we learned to live with the specter of chronic illness, the more we held onto our anger. We needed to blame someone. So, it wasn’t until six months after the accident that our oldest son, Dennis, voiced his thoughts. “You know, Mom,” he said, ” I used to be really angry at the guy that hit Dad. Then I realized that it was just a mistake. He didn’t wake up that morning gunning for Ron Cobourn. It just happened.” His siblings nodded in agreement. It was time to forgive you.

We never told you.

And perhaps it makes no difference to you, but it made a difference to us. Forgiving you meant letting go of our anger. It gave us more energy to focus on Ron. The last fifteen years have been difficult, but not without joy. Our two oldest have found wonderful partners for their lives. Our youngest is buddies with his father. And I have achieved not only a doctorate in education, but found my voice as a writer.  Ron continues to be as involved in our family life as his health allows. One of our favorite memories is of our daughter’s wedding last June. Ron was unable to walk her down the aisle, but with the assistance of several friends and his walker, he danced with her briefly, something he had vowed he would do. Everyone at the wedding cried.

And so, nameless and faceless driver, we have come to another Easter, another hospitalization, another close brush with death. We remember March 1. It changed our lives forever.

Perhaps it did not change yours at all, but I like to think that it did, that once in a while you think of Ron and maybe pray for him.

I prayed for you this Easter morning, you who accidentally and without malice so injured my husband and altered our lives. We have survived. Jesus has risen. We are forgiven.

And we forgive you.

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