"There are certain books that, having experienced them, change the way I think and live. When I first heard the horrific news of Candace’s disappearance my soul question was, “What happened?” I wanted to know the details of what took place. (I learned that in your earlier book.) As the years passed and I watched you find a way, to not only survive the horror, but to thrive, my questions changed. I wanted to know, “How does one survive such horror, loss and injustice and thrive?” How do you process it all?
It is this book that lays out that heart path in riveting, raw, honest detail. Like the homicide survivor group, I too found myself repulsed by the thought of turning to offer the offenders a conversation when my soul screamed for justice laced revenge. Yet I was riveted by each courageous conversation you had with offenders because you brought your own heart.
As I watched you courageously engage in soul to human soul conversations you gave me an invitation—a new way of thinking—another way to live. You showed me that in my own life I do not just have one way of thinking when I am wronged…to stew and fester until I get justice. There are more paths than dark soul anger that consumes. I am invited to live out my own experiment, to thrive.
I would recommend this book to every person I meet for I see we all encounter injustice. For some of us it is the person we live with who does not clean the kitchen, (a metaphor for all the small daily injustices I encounter) yet I see now how processing our daily “injustices” teaches us the heart path to overcome and thrive the darker moments. Your family practiced these ways before you were confronted with horrific injustice.
Although I already believed in the path of forgiveness in theory, your story urges me to live it with abandon. What if I lived my life as an experiment to use each injustice to live my life better instead of being drawn into the dark side of injustice by moving from speaking up to paying back to self-serving revenge and destruction.
I want you to know Wilma that I read an article decades ago in a magazine about you visiting a prison and it was the part of your story I was most interested in knowing more about. This book is exactly that heart story. I also want you to know your story—your heart path really has changed the direction of my life. For me, it saved me from becoming a retaliating difficult person to live with.
My injustice, as I look back, really was about others not cleaning the kitchen (and a hundred other now seemingly irrelevant details) but my heart was going down a wrong path and the dark cloud/the dark dog was snarling. I was teaching about forgiveness through your story when I came to see my own dangerous heart path. I was destroying myself and my family. Since then I have come to try to live the path of letting go. It has saved my life as I have a beautiful family life now.
In another way this book builds suspense like a detective novel. We can see hints and clues to the mystery; how can one survive a horror and truly go on to live? What is the “solution for my cloud situation?” Wilma asks and we hang on over word. If this story were fiction we would not know if it could be true. We have all felt a dark cloud of one kind or another creeping up to destroy us, so this time the mystery is somehow our own and thus it draws us in like no other.
Questions I have in myself:
What is it I do in the moment to dispel the clouds or feed the snarling dog? Is it what I focus on in my thoughts? Is it believing there is no other way to proceed and evil will destroy all I hold dear? Is it refusing to view the other person as is a human soul? Is it refusing to take down my guard for a moment to see their humanity? Is it losing the hope of redemption?
Lines I love;
“The impact of murder is more deadly than the murder itself.” (p.19)
“How can you come to a place of justice satisfaction when someone so dear to you—irreplaceable-has been taken violently from you, and there is no justice? If the killer continues to live—every breath they take becomes an insult to the life they’ve taken.” (p. 24)
Fascinating reading-this book grapples with the theory of justice in riveting story form—adding faces and personal details and intimate human heart reactions to something that cannot be understood as head knowledge theory alone.
Lessons I learned:
Our society has lost sight of the complexity of evil. In our polarized views we are good, and “they” are bad. Very few of us are brave enough to walk over to the other side and sit down to really listen and vulnerably risk our hearts in order to have our simplistic views shattered. It is only in this act that we are ready to live our story of transformation.
This is a book expressing justice theories in fascinating heart lived factual detail. One does not even realize that the real-life story is about to draw you into constructing your own justice theory as you react to horrific injustice, its aftermath and programs designed to bring justice. What is justice and from where do we get it?
After reading chapter 10; When one hears of horrific tragedy happening to a person you ask in stark horror—what happened? How did it happen? How could it happen? Could it happen to me? But really what we are asking is, “If it happened to me, could I survive? Or even, how could I ever survive? Fiction offers us the imaginary version. On rare occasions someone who does survive, and thrive, offers us the priceless treasure—an engaging, fascinating, well-crafted answer to our heart’s deepest questions.
This book is that journey in true story form. If I am emotionally brave enough for the journey-- I, too, might find a way to thrive in my daily struggle to survive.
I loved the group discussion rule: “we…cannot interpret someone else’s story for them.” Yet somehow, ironically, the group would not let you interpret your story through the lens of forgiveness. It was not tolerated. (p. 37)
“When I went back to our group, I noticed that every time we shared our stories, we rarely talked about our children. We were instead obsessed with the murdered.” (p. 41). This is what happens to me when I become obsessed about someone not cleaning the kitchen (a metaphor for all the small daily injustices I encounter) when I lose sight of being grateful for all the gift in my life.
“There is never a justification for murder nor is there to forever withholding forgiveness and healing.” (p. 48) This statement by an offender is the crux of the theory…I love it and I hate that it is said by an offender. It is so true and yet I rail when it is said by a murderer. It is the statement that makes me wrestle with myself on my own dark edge of my cloud. (It is riveting to hear you tell the story of reading this letter and each of you having to pass it on, in horror—it is a moment I so follow you in my heart.)
“Forgiveness is something that makes you feel better. It really has little to do with the other person at all. It allows you to get on with life.” (p.54) I think this is the key difference in changing people’s opinions on forgiveness—yet in some ways it is an oxymoron because it does make the offender feel better too and to do so seems unjust.
“Face it—that’s why we are all in here. It’s because we can’t forgive.” (p.59) …almost as an ominous warning to the rest of us!
By chapter 9 I was beginning to understand that forgiveness has a first step, which is giving up on the notion that I am good and the offender is evil. “The movement was creating cracks in the wall.” (p. 65). As I begin to see my own dark cloud I see that I, too, have evil lurking in me just as the offender is not defined by evil he/she has done. It was my favorite chapter for other reasons.
The rawness of your thoughts of injustice (classroom vs gym); it makes me want to hate Durocher but I was already drawn to him in the opening chapter--- your writing beautifully captured the ambivalence of trying to find the heart path of letting go in moments when your heart is screaming…no! It is the rawness of this heart path that makes it real. I think the problem with forgiveness is one’s inability to capture and communicate all the nuances of its complexity. It cannot be explained in a definition. It requires a life story to describe its complications. You bravely offer yours.
“…forgiveness doesn’t need to be defined, it just needs to be lived and felt.” (p. 189)
“Forgiveness has a power.”…of its own. (p.197) “A love that outshines justice” (p. 217)
“It is the secret renunciation, the giving-up, the letting go, the sacrifice that nobody understands but the person who does it—that generates inside of you a peculiar power to…” (Hannah in White Banners p. 225).
I loved the contrast of Durocher’s parents and yours— vastly different environments and hence ways of operating in the world and yet the two worlds meet over breakfast. (p. 77)
Why is forgiveness so hard? “It was one thing to deal with my own inner trauma and demons; it was another thing to deal with the haunting presence of the murderer.” (p. 90) This is why the journey is so hard! It is their trauma on top of my own when I am already at my capacity. How do I grow my capacity to love?
“It was interesting that some black clouds dominated their owner; some owners dominated their black cloud.” (p. 101) Wow!! One of the most profound statements of the book. How do I dominate my black cloud and in what actions am I allowing it to dominate me??
“Story accesses our emotions, and therefore is important to decision-making. It creates meaning out of experiences. It gives a sense of belonging. It engenders empathy and sympathy across differences. It surpasses our rational minds and allows us to dream. When it comes to change, story is foundational.” “…completing the story, having the story validated and then recreating the story—entering into it to changes the course of the story. (p. 115) Such a profound quote! Somehow this is the clue I needed to see redemption. The forgiveness is worth it because of redemption. When I can give up my sad story—I can let go of demanding justice—the miracle happens, and my story is formed in new ways to bring something more than I could have managed. When I am stuck in the sad story, I can only perpetuate that ending. Wow! Thank you for this clarity.
“I believe for there to be true reconciliation the story of redemption needs to equal the story of the crime. Whether we want to admit it or not, the moral code written on our hearts is a life for a life.” (p. 168)."
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” - Rumi