I think the fact that Cliff and I were still together, continuing our lives with some semblance of order and decency was some kind of proof that we had integrity - and that we had forgiven. I think the fact that our children had grown up - married and become contributing members of our society, was also seen as some kind of amazing accomplishment.
I've often said, our only accomplishment really - is that we survived our tragedy.
So even though it took some time for the case to be tried in court: the arrest, trial and guilty verdict too over 3 years in all, everyone seemed to be impressed.
Now when I was asked to speak the topics were becoming a little more direct - and challenging. Some were very obvious.
"How do you forgive a murderer?"
I continued to speak and I still continued to simply tell my old stories.
After the trial, the interest heightened even more.
And I was finding it more and more challenging to answer the questions... concisely. Our story had grown as well. It now covered 27 years. How does one summarize that into 40 - 45 minutes?
But forgiveness wasn't my only concern or my only topic? Now I wanted to tell the story of the trial, but how does one tell the story of a trial that spanned five weeks?
As I was working on this -- my next book, I received an email, "Congratulations! Your application to speak at TEDx Manitoba 2012 has been accepted. ... all you have to do is fill out these forms ...." etc. etc.
At that time, I hadn't even heard of TEDx talks, and I had definitely not applied! The tone reminded me a little of the telephone scams that promise a cruise. I could almost hear the fog horn in the distance.
I deleted it and went on with my work.
A few days later I received a call from a woman, a leader in our community of some distinction. "Why aren't you filling out your application?"
"Your TEDx application?"
"And why would I want to do that?"
Apparently, it was her that had nominated me. I was mortified.
And apparently the TEDx talks were something new and wonderful, - an amazing opportunity. All I heard was the disappointment in her voice - which I certainly didn't want. Besides what's another speaking opportunity -- I always said yes.
In fact - that is how my speaking career had happened - if that is what you would call it. I had just never said 'no'.
Apparently that is common among speakers. On one occasion when all the speakers of an amazingly organized conference were being honored by riding in horse and buggy parade through town, one beautiful hostess assigned to look after us - asked the four of us how we had become speakers of such stature... It was cute she was so mesmerized by us. I had laughed as I thought about it. I had been the first to answer. "I just never have said 'no'...".
I had never declined any speaking opportunity that fit into my schedule. I had valued each invitation.
I was surprised when all of the other speakers in the buggy answered accordingly - even the featured speaker from Australia. They had just never said 'no' -- not even to the smallest gathering that might have been considered of some small significance. We agreed that all speaking opportunities are significant.
So now listening to this TEDx enthusiast describe this amazing opportunity, I wasn't about to begin to say 'no' now.
I filled out the application in record time, and forgot about it. Until I received an answer declaring that I had indeed passed all the entrance requirements - and had now been assigned a "coach," who would help me with the next assignment which was to fit my innovative, original idea into a TEDx formula.
Apparently I was also very fortunate because this woman of distinction had been assigned to me - and she had accepted her responsibility.
I think that's when I started to realize I was in something over my head.
Soon after I met with the organizers - and passed some more tests of some kind -- and I was also introduced to the formula, I began to meet with my coach.
I had not idea how I fit into the formula. I must have wondered a million times if they had made a mistake.
I'm so glad this beautiful woman, a speaker, a minister and an academically minded teacher - took me under her wing.
I'll never forget her expression -- when she would look at me during our weekly appointments -- "But you've done this before -- talking about forgiveness?"
She could not hide her confusion that I was so inarticulate about the topic that I was so well known for.
How do you describe lifestyle forgiveness - give a sense of the murder abyss -- and then give a pithy relational formula at the end?
I just wanted to tell my historical story about my entry into forgiveness. Much like what I've been doing in this long series of blogs - but I was restricted to 20 minutes. And she wouldn't let me!
Discouraged, I remember hanging around Chapters one evening, waiting for my husband, when I spotted a book "Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell. It seemed to be beckoning me, so I picked it up -- and perused it quickly, I was immediately enthralled by his writing - his thinking. It somehow inspired me. Not sure how -- but I didn't forget the book -- and I remembered the name - not something I usually do.
I went home -- and finally I just took my list from hell - the all those issues that the list represented.- and then rethought them in terms of what I had to "let go" of in each issue. What menacing tentacle snaking into my life looking for my soul had I had to chop off so the issue had no hold on me?
The first issue was the fragmentation of story--the first realization that I was no longer in control of my story. I had to let go of the idea of controlling my story. Going deeper, I had to even "let go" of my ideal story that of living out our lives with Candace as a complete family. My whole image of a family story had just been shattered. From now on every time we would take a family picture - I would see the hole. the missing presence.
I had to let go of that - and take family pictures and celebrate the story I now had -- the one that I was telling constantly - the murder mystery.
I didn't say all that.. I just said that forgiving meant I had to let go of story. I did that to all 15 elements.
And then my formula for forgiveness - "Love First, Justice Second."
Somehow I managed to complete the speech to the satisfaction of my coach by the time deadline came.
I somehow managed to get in front of that camera -- and say it.
I've never really watched it -- I just see all my mistakes.
However, I was and am continually thankful to my distinguished friend for forcing me to hone it down into a new presentation.
She has no idea the gift she gave me.
“I could not stop talking because now I had started my story, it wanted to be finished. We cannot choose where to start and stop. Our stories are the tellers of us. ” ― Chris Cleave