I believe in forgiveness. As I sit here trying to think of topics to write about, I am reminded of so many instances where I have forgiven. What good does it do to hold onto those feelings once felt so long ago? Holding on to these emotions only brings us more heartache.
About a year before I was born, my parents gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Gretchen. My parents were so proud of their first-born child. Nothing could go wrong for Gretchen; she was perfect. Three months after God brought her into this world, He took her back to Heaven with Him. I do not ask my parents about what happened that day. I figure it would be too hard for them to talk about. She died in her sleep; at least she was not suffering. I used to ask God on a regular basis, “Why Gretchen, God, why do You let babies die? Why did You let my parents take pictures, create ‘baby’s first’ certificates, and form cherished memories, only to take her away? Why, after only three months of life, did You let her die?”
In 2002, I transferred from Gulfport High School to Saint John High School. I met with my guidance counselor to discuss what classes I should take. I was given the option of not taking Religion Class, but figured, “How bad can it be?” so I took it anyway. That one five-minute decision would change my life forever. My teacher, Greg Van Acker, was a young guy – mid twenties at most – who seemed to love life. This guy was great; he treated us like his equals and joked with us. He read us his “Life Story” that he had sent into the Vatican so that he could become a Catholic priest when he got older. He read to us about his battle with skin cancer and how he was ready to give up. As I sat there in class, mouth gaping open with amazement, I thought to myself, “Wow, this guy is amazing. He has been through so much, yet he is so strong.” I thrived to be like him after that day. When the semester was over, it was time for Christmas break. The holidays came and went, and soon it was time to go back to school. Although I went back to school in January, Mr. Van Acker did not. According to the teachers, among other issues, his cancer had come back; this time he did give up. On January 20, 2003, he shot himself. After his death, the other students at Saint John High School and I asked God, “Why did You bring this man into our lives and then let him senselessly take his own life?”
I have since come to find the answer to the question I asked so many times. I have discovered along the way that God brings these people into our lives to teach us something. For many years I have been angry with God about the people He has taken from me. I believe God brought Gretchen into my family’s life to let my mom know that He did not want her to give up on me. On the other hand, I could not forgive Him for Mr. Van Acker’s death. I feel that He brought Mr. Van Acker into my life to teach me lessons about love and faith. However, by no means, does forgiving mean forgetting. I will never forget the ones I love and I hope to someday see them again in Heaven.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.