Its a strange feeling, losing a family member in such an unexpected and unfathomable way. My mom called me on a sweltering August night and started the conversation by asking, "Is Doug home with you?"--the exact phrase she used when she called to tell me that my grandfather had passed away. Expecting to hear that my lone living grandparent was now gone, I braced myself. When she said (with remarkable calm--God bless her good old English stiff upper lip), "Laura's been murdered" I think my brain shut off. Things like that don't happen in my world. She said my cousin was missing, and I assumed that she meant, tragically, he had been perhaps abducted, or killed elsewhere. It wasn't until she said something about guns and his mom's car that I realized she meant he was the suspect.
How could that be possible? For the first 24 hours after that phone call, Doug kept asking, "Are you OK?" and I responded with complete sincerity that I was fine, because I simply could not process what had happened. It couldn't possibly be true. She said she wanted to call me before I saw it on the news somewhere. I think it finally sunk in when I saw the story on Newsweek.com It was one of those oh-sweet-heaven-how-do-things-like-that-happen stories, but it was about my family. For once in my life, I was grateful to have not been close to someone. I had never known my cousin and aunt all that well, and was so glad that was the case. I was miserable for my dad, my uncles (two of whom I have, at various times, been quite close to), and especially my aunt. She was the oldest in a family of eight children, six of them boys, and had now lost her only sister. That thought wrenched my heart, and I finally gave way to tears that initially I could not find.
My little Dylan was six months old at the time. When the enormity of what had happened finally started to sink in, I just kept staring at him and thinking, "This is what killed her? The sweet little boy she loved, fed, bathed, cuddled, taught--that's what ended her life. How could that have happened?" And I had a flash. One of those moments where I saw things I could never relay, where seconds felt like hours and I came to a realization that I shall never forget: I am absolutely certain that my aunt still loves her son. This inexplicable act (he still has spoken to no one) cut him off from her presence--maybe forever--but it did not remove him from her heart. Most of my family was and is very, very angry (how could they not be?), but I have to hold out some hope, however tiny, for Jeremy. Not for his sake, but for his mother's.
I looked at my precious, ebullient two year old and my happy infant and knew, with no shade of doubt, that nothing they could ever do could cause me to stop loving them. That's when I realized, really started to grasp for the first time, just how much our Heavenly Father loves us. Loving someone who has gone astray does not mean finding an excuse for their behavior. It doesn't always mean even trying to understand their behavior. It means that you see what they are robbing themselves of through their poor choices and it breaks your heart. I suddenly realized that just as surely as Christ's is our Father's greatest joy, Lucifer must've been his greatest heartbreak. His name meant "Son of the Morning", implying such tremendous potential. Yet he could think of nothing more grand than his own prestige, and so he fell. He embraced wickedness and now defines it. The Father knew the pain of losing a child--forever--long before the Earth was made, and so he offered His One Perfect Son as a sacrifice so that there could be great hope of regaining those that retained their first estate.
Forgiveness is something we all need, and yet it is something nearly every one of us struggles to give at some point or another. When the sin committed against us is so huge, forgiveness may seem like an insurmountable goal. But through this experience, I came to a new understanding of what forgiveness sometimes means. It doesn't always mean that we trust someone again; forgiveness doesn't necessarily mean that we don't seek just punishment for the wrongs done to us (indeed, sometimes we must). It does not mean calling evil anything but what it is: evil. What is means is to be at peace--forgiveness is letting the anger go and understanding that those who sin against us hurt no one more than themselves, and so we pray for them. We let that little glimmer of hope, no matter how small and how dim, survive. We trust in the infinite, eternal Atonement and He who worked that miracle. We trust that whatever the wrong committed against us, the price for it has been paid by the Savior and so we must forgive (even those who are not sorry) and leave it between that person and the Lord. Forgiveness means being still, and knowing that He is God and will make it right, even if at present we can't possibly see how.
It is tempting when such things happen to blame God, or get angry at Him--many people go that route (or, worse yet, cease to believe He's there at all). But to me my little cotton dishcloth has become a constant reminder that the Lord has paid a terrible price to give us the liberty of agency, and so He will not interfere with our ability to exercise it. And in knowing that, it becomes a reminder to me of the obligation I carry, as one who has taken upon me his name and promised to always remember Him, to use that agency wisely; it is incumbent upon me to follow the example of the one who has bought us with such a heavy price in saying, "Not my will, but Thine be done". For in what other way could I possibly show my gratitude for my freedom to choose than by choosing to obey His perfect will?