I woke up at about 9 o’clock in the morning on April the 8th, 1986 with the nightmare
of the accident flashing through my mind. I felt numb and exhausted. Grief and
sorrow washed over me as the reality of the accident began to haunt me once again. Before the end of the day, I would face a horror few people have ever
experienced — committing to the ground the remains of my entire family. A week
had passed since the terrible accident that claimed the lives of my husband and our
three precious children. Today, I must bury them. Today, I’ll have to watch their
caskets being lowered into their graves.
Today…I don’t know if I’ll get over today.
Something felt contrary to nature here. How could I bury the children I brought
into the world? They were supposed to bury me, not the other way around. I did not
want to see their caskets. I am not even supposed to see their caskets. And yet
today, I have to.
I had fed them, cared for them, wiped their noses, dried their tears, and loved
them with all my heart. They were so young and tender. Temple had just turned
eight. The twins were not yet three. Oh, my children, I wished that I had died in your
My husband died in the same accident, leaving only me to mourn all of them
together at the same time. He had been a good and capable husband, always
smiling and caring for everyone, and suddenly, he was gone, leaving me to gather
up the remaining pieces. How I wanted to hear his comforting words and cry on his
Nine days ago, Johnny, the children, and I were a family. Our future was filled
with hope and anticipation.
Then, tragedy struck.
We were driving back from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to our home in Lincoln,
Nebraska. As we were approaching a construction zone, a drunk driver struck our
car from behind. The impact sparked a fire that took away the lives of my husband
and our dear young ones before my eyes. I was the lone survivor.
Is there room in my heart to forgive the man who killed my family in their
prime? Is there some criteria he must meet before I must bestow my forgiveness on
him? These are the questions I kept asking myself.
As difficult a decision as it was, I knew from within that I had to forgive. I told
myself that it must have been an accident, and that he did not actually mean to hurt
my family. It just happened. By mistake. After all, to err is human.
After two or three days of grappling with this issue, I resolved to forgive him.
This decision was based on the general view of the Bible that we are meant to
forgive. It was time for the issue to be laid to rest.
A few days later, I read in the Lincoln Star, the daily newspaper of Lincoln,
Nebraska, that the young man’s blood alcohol level had exceeded the legal limit. I
became furious. This was no longer an accident. It was blatant murder! My resolve
to forgive was shaken. Drinking and driving…how could he be drinking and driving?
Anger welled up inside me. The deaths of my family members could have been
avoided. My family could have been alive today if it weren’t for him. His drinking
problem had deprived me of my family. His drinking problem had obliterated all the
dreams Johnny and I had for our future.
It was not until ten months later that the Lord used my therapist, Beverly Jones,
to bring out this unforgiving spirit in my heart. During counseling, Beverly probed me
about my reaction to this man, the one who took my family away from me. I tried to
convince her that I had truly forgiven him, but she noticed the hollowness of my
conviction to forgive. She asked me insightful questions that I answered as truthfully
as I could. She noticed that I was apathetic toward him. I did not care about him. I
did not care if he was alive or dead. Thinking of him was a waste of my thoughts.
But Beverly was such a good counselor; she pointed out that my apathy denoted a
lack of forgiveness.
At first, I argued. I remembered how I had resolved to forgive him two years
earlier. I tried to make Beverly see that I had truly forgiven his transgression. But by
repeating the very words that had come out of my mouth, she convinced me that I
was deceiving myself.
Suddenly, as if scales fell from my eyes, I realized that I had been burying the
ill feelings; I had not released him.
Beverly told me to come to her apartment, where she would counsel me free of
charge. Both of us were in the seminary at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa,
Oklahoma (USA). She was majoring in counseling while I was majoring in theology.
She guided me through a process that would lead me to forgive him. She asked me
to release him and let him go. I later learned that the English word “forgive,”
translated from the Greek, means to let go or release. She told me to follow it up
with a confession.
And so I began to confess aloud, “James, you are forgiven. I forgive you, in
Jesus’ name.” At first, I did not like the idea. I felt uneasy and indeed reluctant. But I
persisted. And, as if by miracle, I began to experience the joy of forgiving others, as
Christ has forgiven me.
I was free.