“An unexpected phone call came one early morning. My elder brother’s voice at the other end of the line sounded confused. My nephew had just met an accident. He had been about to pick up my brother from work, but while driving he had dozed off, and those few seconds were enough for him to hit a motorcycle and kill two of his colleagues. They were both married men with families. It was indeed a shock for me; it was so heartbreaking. I went to look for my nephew. He was in a prison cell. I didn’t know what to say; I could only cry with him.
Since it was early morning and my nephew and the other detainees had not yet had breakfast, I went to buy some food for them. Then I asked the prison guard if it was possible to clean the prison cell which was quite dirty. When my brother arrived and started crying, I stayed to comfort him.
At this point, I realized that our next step had to be to ask for forgiveness from the families of the two victims. I told my brother that we should go to their wakes, face their families and ask for their forgiveness. My brother agreed, overcoming his own fear. We went to see the first family … and we went straight to the widow, who was crying. She was indeed quite angry with my brother. I felt I had to be there to absorb all her pain. Then I embraced her and said, ‘We are here to ask your forgiveness for what happened, without expecting to be forgiven.’
Then we also had to ask forgiveness from the victim’s parents. Their relatives advised us not to, because they were afraid that his mother would lose her calm and be beside herself with anger. But I strongly felt that we had to do it. I approached the mother, with my brother close behind me. Indeed, she cried aloud as I entrusted everything silently to God and embraced her tightly asking her to forgive us, also on behalf of my nephew. I assured her that if we would have found the way to take care of their family, providing for the education of the three daughters who were still in grade school.
I was profoundly experiencing the pain and sorrow of t family, but at the same time, I fully experienced that peace that only God can give. Before leaving, we went to say goodbye to the widow. She did not say anything to my brother; but she did introduce me to her three daughters. This consoled me since I considered it an indication that I was able to establish some kind of a relationship with her.
Some days later, with some friends from the Focolare, I attended the funeral… and also visited the family of the other victim.
My nephew was released from detention three weeks later. A case was filed against him, but after several court hearings, the two families agreed to drop the case upon monetary compensation. My brothers and sisters pooled together the money that they had and we were able to offer monetary assistance to the families involved. This made our family more united, having helped one another.
A year later, I thought of getting in touch with a widow of the accident victim. To my surprise she said, “I want to apologize for how I treated you and your brother when you came to the wake of my husband.” Since then we became friends… I was able to share about my faith in the love of God. Then I started sending her the daily ‘password’, a Gospel reflection to live by, which she now sends to all her friends. Two months ago, she invited me to a family gathering to celebrate her eldest daughter’s elementary school graduation.
My heartbeat was galloping so fast at the party because I realized that all of them knew who I was—the aunt of the person who had caused the accident. The widow was with me the whole time, sharing with me beautiful memories of her husband.
During a Mariapolis, at which she was present, she said, “You know, now I understand why God permitted everything that happened. Were it not for that accident, I would never have met you and the Focolare which has made a big change in my life.” She added that she had become closer to God. I thought this was my opportunity to ask her, “If you would meet my nephew someday, could you forgive him?”
She answered, ‘I have already forgiven him. Look at my face. There are no traces of hatred for your nephew and your family.’
I felt that it was indeed an enormous grace to be a recipient of God’s mercy, and through his grace, to be also capable of offering it to one another.”