In lieu of flowers, I forgive.

Monday, June 29th, 2009

It is said that somewhere in Iowa, a small town’s football team still takes a knee before each game.  The players and coaches join hands and bow their heads, and they defy the laws that tell them that they cannot pray together.  It is rumored that they kneel together and recite the Lord’s Prayer.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On Earth, as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us…”

***

His legacy is his faith.

Not the games won or the classes taught.  Not the immaculately kept football field that we lovingly referred to as The Sacred Acre.  Not the state championships or the pep talks or the speeches.  Not the NFL players he groomed or the countless coaches around the state that he mentored.

A life’s worth of work and accomplishment pale in comparison to the gift of grace brought by his death.

“Please remember to visit the Becker family,” his son said in a press conference.

“Our opinion of Mark has not changed,” his family was quoted as saying about the 24 year old boy who took their husband and father.

And we followed their lead – his lead – the way we always have.

Facebook statuses were updated to reflect prayers for the Thomas family and the Becker family.  News articles were written about the person Mark was before he became an alleged murderer.  The grief and shock and anger mixed with compassion, the movement towards grace led by those who we least expected to be able to offer it.

I’m a Christian and a Catholic.  I have heard about grace.  I have read about forgiveness and been taught the meaning of faith.

But never in my life have I seen a more real, tangible example of these abstract principles.

Today, the funeral for Ed Thomas is being held at his church – a church I could see from my backyard when I lived in Parkersburg.  The streets will be lined with cars.  The pews and basement will undoubtedly be overflowing with mourners who have come to pay their respect for the hometown hero and offer condolences to the family he leaves behind.

And I will sit here, more than 1,000 miles away, surrounded by the trappings of my perfect life that goes on just as perfectly as it did last week.

I will not shake Aaron and Todd’s hands.  I will not cry along side old classmates or rest my head on my mother’s shoulder.  I will not hold my own brothers and pat them on their backs as they say goodbye to yet another father figure.

But I will honor his legacy in the only way I know how.

I will forgive.

Today, I forgive the man who hurt me.  Not because he deserves it or because what he did ceases to be wrong.  But simply because, I can.  Because I, too, have been forgiven without being deserving.

Today, I forgive the stepfather who abandoned my brothers, abused my mother, and robbed me of pieces of my childhood with his violence and addiction.  I don’t have the strength to shower him with love, but I can find the power to let go of the anger.

Today, I let it go.  I remember that the grace required for these small mental acrobatics is but a mustard seed compared to the mountain of grace required to show compassion for the person who stole your father and husband.  I believe that the faith and love that affords them this grace is as readily available to me as it is to them.

Today, in lieu of flowers, I forgive.

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  1. KIm says:

    You are a stronger woman than I will ever be.

    And you are an inspiration, in more ways than one.

    I wish I could forgive what has befallen me. But I can’t forgive myself, and I have no one else to blame.

    I only hope one day to get the relief that forgiveness must feel.

    And I hope that your community forgives Coach’s killer, just as you have. It will be the first step in healing for everyone.

    Sometimes, being from a small town is not so bad. It’s always home.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @KIm, I am no stronger than most, honey. Certainly not strong than you.

      You are so, so early in your grieving. Far too early to give up on yourself.

  2. Dee says:

    This is really powerful, and I really am in awe that a man and one family can do so much. Your example has me thinking and by the end of today I too will forgive someone that needs to be.

  3. ginamonster says:

    I think that forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to send. Perhaps your post will inspire more people to do so. I know it’s inspired me to try.

  4. whall says:

    I just hope I can give my condolences along with my own prayers before Adam shows up with his interview.

  5. marielle says:

    You inspire me. To write about things that matter. To shout it if it’s important. To really really put my heart out on a page.
    I just thought you should know.
    I love that you do this.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @marielle, I have to tell you – from a selfish stand point – the nicest thing anyone ever says to me is that I “inspire” them in anyway.

  6. Faiqa says:

    It’s nice to know that as awful as we can be sometimes that human beings can simultaneously be utterly magnificent, as well. I love this post.

  7. catherine says:

    Bravo.

  8. avitable says:

    Forgiving is one of the most powerful actions you can take, which explains why it can be so difficult. Even if it was easy, though, I don’t think I’d forgive people for their transgressions.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @avitable, I know that you say you don’t forgive. And yes, I know that you hold grudges.

      But I have seen your capacity for forgiveness – and I know that it is much deeper than you realize.

  9. Dawn says:

    I was utterly and completely moved by this post. I could write paragraphs and paragraphs of WHY this awed me, but suffice to say that you are incredible and inspirational.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Dawn, thank you. There are few things that make me feel more connected or more comfortable in the idea that I might be where I’m supposed to be, than hearing that something *I* said or did moved someone else.

  10. Kyra says:

    I think it’s a wonderful thing for you to do, and means far more than flowers – especially when many of us, myself included, cannot do the same.

    sorry for your loss, Britt – in both the coach, and the person you used to know who did this.

  11. Hilly says:

    This post is very powerful and had me in tears almost immediately, thinking about the things that I too need to forgive and let go.

    Ive got some thinking to do today…good thinking though.

  12. This is absolutely beautiful Britt – and also has me in tears.
    xo

  13. alan7933 says:

    I am not a religious person but I believe that carrying anger is hurtful to the one who carries it both mentally and physically. I have read that forgiveness is a freeing of the anger that shouldn’t be carried. It seems to be extremely difficult for me and for most people to do. I think it’s the right thing to do.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @alan7933, it IS difficult. And I don’t think you have to be religious to appreciate it.

      Being religious might make it a tiny bit easier to do – but it certainly doesn’t make it “easy”. At least not for me.

  14. Finn says:

    What am amazing legacy Coach Thomas left. Forgiveness is sometimes the hardest thing for people to give, but that’s what makes it so extrordinary.

    I hope that in forgiving your heart is lighter than before and that you have a new sense of peace.

  15. Lynette says:

    This is a beautiful post. But I kind of hate you for making me ruin my makeup.

  16. Mrs Soup says:

    Thank you for this. It’s amazing how God places even things like blog posts in ones life to remind them about something they need to do.

    I will also forgive today. Forgiveness that has been a long time in coming.

  17. Maria says:

    Beautiful, Britt.

    I’m so sorry this has happened.

  18. Beautiful and powerful, hon. Good on you.

  19. you give me chills. powerful piece, britt.

    but even more, a very powerful act.

    i’m sure coach would be proud.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @hello haha narf, I have no doubt he would be extremely proud of the way his family, his players, his students and his town has reacted to this tragedy.

      Mom said all the signs all over town say “Pray for the Thomas family and the Becker family.”

  20. Someone who I’ve always thought of as a far better person than me, convinced me to forgive once. And he was right. XOXO.

  21. Someday? I hope to grow up and be Britt. I wish I was mature enough to forgive. I’m still a grudge girl.

    You = Awesome.

    • Miss Britt says:

      @Coal Miner’s Granddaughter, HAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA. Oh. Right. Because *I* am so mature!

      *snort*

      I don’t think it’s a maturity thing.

      Honestly? I think it’s a result of some serious humility.

  22. Darla says:

    Thinking of you.

    I think the article where the coach’s family and people from the area spoke positively about Mark speaks volumes about their character.

    For me, I wish I knew what makes someone do that. It’s not that I can’t forgive, it’s that I wish there was a litmus test of sorts that could just fix the damn world already.

  23. Wow. Seriously lovely.

    Forgiveness is what it’s all about.

  24. Poppy says:

    I’m glad you can.

    I choose to never, ever forgive.

  25. NYCWD says:

    I really have nothing original to add other than when it comes to forgiveness I often think of this quote…

    To err is human, to forgive is divine.” -Alexander Pope

    … and find it true in more ways than one.

  26. Sybil Law says:

    Forgiveness can be freeing.
    What an awesome tribute to that beloved man.
    xo

  27. dad says:

    nicely said and even nicelier done britt, i do know how hard it can be to do..remember ..FATHER forgive them for they know not what they do…
    dad

  28. Al Warren says:

    I lurk here. sorry, but I very seldom peek out of the bushes and talk.

    Forgiveness is not foe you, it is for others.

  29. [...] could be a preacher if she wanted to be. She preached a sermon about forgiveness yesterday that was very inspiring for a lot of people, including me. It inspired me to admit that there are [...]

  30. I’m kind of awestruck at this point. I have chosen to forgive people for some pretty heavy stuff but the strength of you and his family, as well as the rest of your community, is amazing. I’m not sure that, in the same position, I would be able to do the same.

    My thoughts and prayers remain with you and Parkersburg.

  31. Lori says:

    This is one of the most beautiful posts I have read in a long time. It is raw with honesty, grief, sadness, pain and beauty. This thing called forgiveness is a powerful thing. It is all about grace and it leads to being able to let go, to something bigger then us.

    I have been on both sides of forgiveness and grace. I have been the guilty one, in need of forgiveness and it was grace that set me free. Pardoned when I didn’t deserve it, yet without it, I would not be here today.

    I have stood on the other side of the fence as well. I was the granter of forgiveness. I gave the gift of grace so someone else could be set free. But when all is said and done, they weren’t the only ones set free, it is I that was set free…from the ugliness of hate, bitterness, rage, and resentment, when I let go to something bigger then me.

    This is a beautiful gift you are giving to them and to yourself…and to all those that will read this post, I pray that even one person might hear what you are saying and take action in their own lives with this beautiful thing called forgiveness and grace.

  32. Sodapop says:

    Forgiveness is full of grace & faith.

    I’m proud of you. It takes a lot of courage to forgive..

    *hugs*

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