We don’t get to see Cousin Inez very often—perhaps every other year or so. She is older than my brothers and me, so she is more like an aunt to us than a cousin. But whenever we are in Utah, we pay her a visit and are always welcomed as part of her family. Her husband of many years passed away recently and she now lives alone upheld by good friends, family, and members of her church.
My wife and I had the privilege of calling on Inez a couple of weeks ago. She lives in a modest but comfortable home in the scenic Heber Valley at the foot of Mount Timpanogas not far from Park City, where much of the 2002 Winter Olympics took place. As usual, we were received with a genuine smile and open arms. Most of the conversing took place between Inez and my wife as they talked quilting and dill pickle recipes.
As we talked, she related to us some vexing little things that often happen that, if allowed to fester, could easily cause discord between close family and friends. “I have to remind myself,” she said, “that some things just aren’t worth the aggravation and that it is better to just let them go. That’s why I have that little sign over there.” She pointed to a little framed sign propped on the kitchen counter that said simply, “Let it Go, Inez!” I was so impressed that I determined to keep a similar sign in my office.
On February 9, 2007, the Williams family was on their way home from a night out when 17-year old Cameron White, driving from the other direction, slammed into the side of their car. White would later plead guilty to four counts of second-degree felony automobile homicide. Charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an injury were dropped.
Chris Williams made a decision as he stared out his shattered windshield at the overturned car, fully and painfully aware that his wife, their unborn son, 11-year old son and 9-year old daughter were dead. He decided then and there to forgive the driver who had caused the accident.
Before Williams even knew the teen’s name or the circumstances, he knew he had to “let it (the act) go.” “As a disciple of Christ,” he said, “I had no other choice.” In the years since, his story has become a sermon on healing and forgiveness.
Williams often speaks about his decision to forgive and let go of what could have been a miserable burden of entwined grief, righteous anger, and resentment, choosing instead to separate his feelings about the deaths of his family members from the teenager in the other driver’s seat.
“Everyone has his opportunity to put the past in the past and move on. I still remind Cameron of that. I hold no ill will against him. I’m a brother in this with him. I tell him that as often as I can. My expectation is that he marries a beautiful woman, has a family and has a wonderful life.” Now 22, White has been out of juvenile detention for a year and a half and is involved in educating youths on the consequences of underage drinking.
The book, “Let It Go; A True Story of Tragedy and Forgiveness” by Chris Williams was released by Deseret Book in July. Williams hopes people will ask themselves, “Could I do this?” and describes at length a principle he called “fore-giveness,” or being prepared to forgive others before an offense comes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a related video in 2010 entitled “My Burden Was Made Light.” Williams was surprised to learn that people all over the world were viewing the video. He began to receive requests to talk one-on-one with people who were struggling to forgive or move on from something in their lives.
I remember a short film produced by BYU back in the 1960’s entitled “In One Blinding Moment.” It portrayed a true incident wherein a small girl on her way to school carrying a small goldfish bowl for show and tell was struck down in the crosswalk and killed by a teenager who was driving his car recklessly and much too fast.
The father of the girl was so filled with grief and anger and hostility toward the boy that his desire for revenge took over his life and threatened to tear his family and his life apart. As he prepared to prosecute the boy in court, he began to find out more about him and the situation that lead to the tragic accident. The father came to feel compassion for him. To make a long story short, he and wife ended up adopting the boy and making him a part of their family.
The most important thing to remember, according to Williams, is that “the Savior heals all. I think for those that don’t believe in the Savior, that aren’t Christian, they’ve got to believe in at least a power that’s greater than themselves. If they can believe that, there is a power greater than themselves, that heals, then they can really get through anything.
“I think that too many people start to look at the people that offend them and include them in that group of things they want to control…it’s a way of trying to find that empowerment within a life that is suddenly chaotic. For me, it was being driven so very quickly to the point of realization that I am nothing. I can’t, I have no strength to heal, to move forward, and to carry anyone else’s burden.
“There was this immediate new perspective, a realization that I could be OK. …One of the great blessings of forgiveness is it allows the tragedy to stop. It doesn’t need any more lives wasted.” (Source: “Letting it go,” by Jessica Henrie, Deseret News, 8/5/12)
Well, all I can hope for is that I never have to go through anything akin to what Chris Williams experienced. Life’s daily little aggravations are sufficient to severely test my mettle. Thank you, Cousin, for pointing out your little sign: “Let it go, Inez!”