November 10, 2013

photo (10)The car is totaled and my right side is tight and stiff and stubborn. I saw him coming, in my rear view mirror and I knew. He tried to brake at the last second but he’d been going so fast and the impact was great. I hit the car in front of me and then we all sat stunned. He took off, and the woman from the car in front of me stood on the sidewalk with me and I saw her beautiful big eyes and jet black hair and her fear.

Her sari’s colors were bright and she said she had been on the way to temple. Oh bless you, sweetheart.

He took off and we were shocked. We found out soon enough that he went on to create another accident, sending one woman to the hospital and many witnesses into a confused lack of control. Just like that, a drunk driver changing lives. It happens all the time.

This time, we survived. I heard from a witness that the woman who went to the hospital was going to be fine. I heard that the hit and run driver was caught. And the world spins on and you never get to know what will happen next. That’s one of the hardest parts, and I think forgiveness is a way of not staying tight and stiff and stubborn.

Later that night, I told a short version of this story on Facebook, with more detail than what’s here, I guess. I was kind of free-writing, still in a state of shook-up shock. After all, I had just dropped off Asher and I was on my way to get Miles and what if what if what if….could I forgive then? I don’t know.

I told a fellow sober friend that I have this desire to go see the kid in jail. That I feel sorry for him, even though I know that angers a lot of people. I understand him while I don’t. My soul does, or something. I texted her, “Is that weird?” and she said, Yes. :) But I get it. Part of wanting to forgive yourself, probably. My former self is what she meant, the one that drank too much.

That’s it, I think. Forgiving him even in the midst of the whole thing came naturally because when you’ve truly been in someone’s shoes, that’s the only way you know how much forgiveness is needed.  But maybe forgiveness isn’t even the right word because the reality is that I haven’t even gone through anything like others have–lost someone or my ability to walk or other tragedies. I’m talking about love, I suppose, and I’m not talking about love because I’m so damn good at it. Trust me, I can be quite bad at it. I don’t know exactly why it rushed in so quickly. It’s just that I saw this kid, in my rear view mirror, after he plowed into me going about 55 into a red light line of cars, and I knew him, you know?

The athletic build and hair grown out just enough to be trendy, not unkempt. The baseball cap pulled down low with tufts of that mussy brown hair coming out around his ears. Rugged looking t-shirt and then the way he held his hands to his head while he shook it back and forth in disbelief. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and there he was, drunk on the highway, crashing into innocent people who were just trying to pick up kids from birthday parties or go to the temple.

People always say they can’t believe someone would make the choice to get behind the wheel drunk. And yes, I understand. It’s horrible, the risks that are taken and why why why? Isn’t it so obvious, not to do that, right?  And I also don’t know how many times I was FINE, just FINE to drive. My friends were taking my keys or offering rides and I was FINE. Not wasted! Not even feeling buzzed! I’m FINE. Because that’s how not fine I was. So not fine that it made perfect sense to only me to call myself fine.

It is rare that someone makes a responsible decision when drinking.

Is that an excuse? For the boy who hit me yesterday and for the millions of others that have taken lives? No, it’s not. They are wrong. I was wrong. He was wrong.

Our system is broken and that kid will most likely get his license back one day not too far off, or drive before he has it and the statistics show that he’ll drink and drive again. This is the very nature of the beast. In many lives, alcohol is the driving force, the king, the greatest need, the god. And gods need striking down and carrying off to make room for redemption and the problem is that the boy who was in my rear view mirror and could have been my nephew or my future boys, God forbid, has to do that for himself and doesn’t know how and has his addict brain so messed up that there’s a good chance he doesn’t want to strike down anything other than the barriers to the bottle. And he’ll paint you another picture and conjure up justifications and even after nearly killing people on the highway, he’ll find a way to say I don’t have a problem. It was just that this happened or he did this or they wouldn’t give me a ride or I had a particular celebration that got out of control just this once.

A journalist wrote about tragedies recently and for the life of me I can’t remember where this article was, but he was saying that if you write about something dramatic, ask yourself if you’re doing it simply for the telling of the story, or are you sharing it because it will effect change? Do we need to see horrific photos from an accident or a natural disaster? Well, that depends. If a town is struck by a tornado and the graphic photos will engage complacent people to action, then that’s what it takes. But if I see an accident on the road and tweet it and Facebook it, what am I asking for, other than attention?

I hope somehow, in some small way, this post inspires action. I don’t need or want attention for this but I want conversations, even just a few, to strike up around it.

What this boy needs is love, and that couldn’t be more vague or fluffy sounding, so what exactly does that look like? A jail cell will keep him off the road momentarily, but then what? Court ordered rehab? And then what? Here’s to hoping he’ll take a forced experience and make it his own experience, of his choosing.

Lucas, I really do hope that for you. I woke up in the middle of the night, a few times last night, and there you were behind me. And in a flash of a moment I saw us sitting together and all I could say to you, while I searched my cluttered mind for something that would pack the right punch and came up short, was, Dude, I hope you get better. Because you know that any of my recovery slogans are going to sound trite and until he’s more of a grown up, you know he’s going to somehow go back to thinking he’s invincible.

It is so rare to be there right at the tiny sliver of a moment when someone has had enough, when they’ve opened themselves up to surrender but only by way of jamming a foot in a door that keeps closing by way of an addict mind, like a noose, tight and stiff and stubborn.

This is what I love about people being truly engaged in a recovery program, one in which others will come around them and understand them and allow them to say the ugliest things and support them every single day as they try to come to terms with the fact that they cannot drink. And if they don’t make it? Oh the prayers that they will walk back in, another day, before it’s too late. So often it is the only road to freedom, and to safety for any innocents that happen upon the path of a drunk, his self will run riot.

I know people take unconditional love and stomp all over it, especially addicts. I’m sorry if that’s happened to you. I’m sorry for each of us, because it took me a long time to stop stomping, to really regret my selfish and reckless mistakes, and to change my life. My sobriety is priceless, like the lives of the people on the highway, making their way to birthday parties and the temple.

Lucas is priceless, too. That’s the twisted reality of grace, and we could not survive without it, not one of us. I extend it to him because it is also mine, you guessed it, wrapped around me — tight and stiff and stubborn.


Laurie November 10, 2013 at 6:11 pm

I read your post on Facebook and right after my gratitude for your safety as well as everyone else’s who was in his path, was gratitude for and complete understanding of your response. I knew that what gave you the capacity for the grace of it is what allows us to live at all, We are lucky to have had just enough love for ourselves and capacity to feel it from God that we were open to change, and the only way go keep it for ourselves and the people whose lives we can hope to touch is go give if away. I’m able to do that in any capacity today because of you and others who gave and gave and gave, who showed me it was possible by your very lives. I hope he gets better. I hope that he is not too young to have had enough, that he is ready to surrender. I love you. Thank you, Hearher. I thank God for you.
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Laurie November 10, 2013 at 6:13 pm

(Typing half blind on my phone. There are some “gos” that ought to be “tos.” Whoops.
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Ash November 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm

This January marks two years I stood by my dear friend as she pieced her life back together after her husband could not find his way to grace, to be humble, to get help. He flew into a canal taking two other passengers with him. I pray for his soul every day, apologize for not showing him enough forgiveness before the accident, curse at him for his pride. Your forgiveness of Lucas might make the difference, his turning point. You’re a good soul, Heather. I aspire. XO

Jenny November 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Wow. This is pretty terrific, Heather. I’d like to think I’d have the same reaction as you, show that same forgiveness. But who can say how they’d react?

Good on you. And yes, my heart goes out to Lucas. Thank God nobody was maimed or killed.
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Ann November 10, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Prayers, prayers, prayers.

For healing, for grace, and for honesty with ourselves.

Amazing post, Heather.

Lisa November 10, 2013 at 10:21 pm

Gratitude for your safety. How blessed we are in so many ways.
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Charrette November 11, 2013 at 3:25 am

Amazing post! Thank heaven you’re safe! Forgiveness is a miracle…and so are you. XOXO

When I Blink November 11, 2013 at 9:39 am

Good lord.

This made me put my hand on my heart: “I know people take unconditional love and stomp all over it, especially addicts. I’m sorry if that’s happened to you. ”

I’m so glad you’re OK.

And so impressed with the clarity and kindness in your thoughts during the aftermath.
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Suebob November 11, 2013 at 11:24 am

I was listening to the TED walk by the person who wrote Connected: The Surprising Power of our Social Networks. Their studies have shown that what we do affects our friends and families, and their friends and families, and even their friends and families. So we have a circle of influence of about 1000 people.

By sharing these stories of hope and healing and compassion, you are casting your net wide. I know the changes I have made would not have been made without the lovely warm circle of support that surrounds me. Change is the hardest thing on earth. We need all the help we can get. Thank you for being a helper.
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Kate Hopper November 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm

God I love you, Heather. Thank you for this–for your grace and understanding and love. I’m carrying this message with me.
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Natalie DeYoung November 11, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I am so glad you’re okay. I was a drunk driver in another life, and only by grace never harmed anyone or anything.
However, reading this has helped me a bit. We’re going through discovering my sister is an addict, and it’s hard to have compassion right now, even though I have been there. I needed to read this today.
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Leigh Ann November 11, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I’m glad you’re okay. When I read your FB post I was struck by how graceful you were. And I know it’s because you’ve been there. I hope he finds the help he needs.
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Maggie November 12, 2013 at 1:51 pm


Elaine A. November 12, 2013 at 2:07 pm

I know someone who was Lucas. Thankfully after his experience, he changed his ways. It CAN happen. Our belief in that is what we MUST hold on to. So glad you and the other people are all alright. xoxo
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Chrisor November 12, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Such a scary thing to have happen, Heather. Things like that really do make you think of everything under the sun, don’t they?! I mean, you think of your own past but also the person who did it and all the what ifs. For whatever reason, if you seriously feel like visiting the guy in jail, you should. I don’t know if he’d see you or even if he’d still be in there. Probably released after a few hours. But I think that would be a phenomenal talk that would spur growth for everyone involved. I don’t think just sitting in jail would be a wake up call for the dude but maybe a chat with you would.

Everyone has different observations from reading a story. All I can think of is sure, the guy may not have known better about driving after drinking but he surely knew it’s wrong to leave the scene after hitting someone else’s car?! This isn’t just one mistake of poor judgement, it’s several. That’s really hard for me to understand. I’m not an alcoholic but can understand how someone could make the mistake of thinking they’re not in bad shape. I know there was a ton of people that drove drunk in the ’80’s but now there’s so much emphasis on it that it should’ve diminished. Yet, the way I see people driving on the road, it makes me wonder….
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anon November 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm

a month ago, my best friend’s brother was killed by a drunk murderer. (i’m sorry but he CHOSE what he did and taking a life willfully makes him a murderer. actually, i’m not sorry.) he drove TEN MILES down a highway the wrong way at 75mph. good for him that he died too after hitting my best friend’s brother’s car head-on, because otherwise i’d fight with everything in me to make sure he felt horrible & spent his life suffering for what he did. i know that makes me sound horrible… i know i’m wrong for it… but it’s still so fresh. there is ZERO sympathy for someone THREE TIMES THE LEGAL LIMIT and then chooses to drive. alcohol is evil, pure & simple. there is no good purpose for it.

April D November 17, 2013 at 1:45 am

Thank you for sharing your heart here Heather! I too am so happy you are ok. The reality is, you CAN change this world with your heartfelt words…and you can change it in ways unfathomable with words that express unconditional love. It is the love of Father inspires us (you) to do so. I had the great privilege of growing up along side you Heather and walking with you in your faith, so I know this to be true. As I read this post and the comments I am reminded of God’s work that I am blessed to help carry out in the local jails and the prison. I was recently sitting a room with a bunch of men at the prison (likely much like Lucas) who were new faces to my life. We were called to speak of the fruits of the Spirit with them. It was my first time there and to be honest, I was on the edge of my seat with anxiety. As I sat in the circle and took in the details of each of the men, I heard whispers to my soul that said, “Welcome, these are your brothers.” To which my human-ness swiftly tainted my thoughts with judgement and I replied, “Yeah, thanks for the invite Lord. But I have NO IDEA what the offenses of each of these brothers are.” And in the next sweet moment of silence I heard the Lord say, “You are right, you do not know their offenses. And April, they don’t know yours either.” We are called to love. Unconditionally. And it’s never really about sympathy…it’s more about a heart of empathy. If anyone reading this has lost a loved one or suffered great loss at the hands of an addict, I want you to know that you are in my prayers each and every time I pray for the incarcerated…daily. I have been blessed to see first hand the power of forgiveness and its ability to heal the world. I recently confessed to my brothers on a weekend chapel visit that I had some forgiving to do. (Mainly because when we choose not to forgive, WE ARE the ones held captive.) I wrestled with what I knew God was asking of me and concluded with “God, I will forgive her when she is sorry, she expresses remorse and accepts responsibility.” And His reply was, “I do not ask you to forgive with conditions. Just look at my Son up there, on the cross. He required no conditions of you!” The truth is, when we forgive, when offer someone unconditional love, it is often LIFE CHANGING, EARTH SHATTERING and it is then that the true sorrows of someone’s heart forges change in them. So I commend you Heather for rushing to forgiveness instead of judgement. I believe with every fiber of my being that your walk with Lucas will in some way, shape or form produce much fruit in the future. You may not see it now, you may not be privileged to see it ever…but I have seen the HOPE that rises from the ashes of some great offenses. Don’t robb yourself of the opportunity to forgive; it can be of great blessing in your life. I would encourage you to continue to love Lucas unconditionally (even if you only can in prayer) an then watch as God abundantly pours out His grace!
“Lord, heal the broken hearted. Teach us to love as You do; taking no offense into consideration, that I may offer up forgiveness for others, just as your Son so graciously did for me.”

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