Ryan, 30, Vancouver, Canada
I grew up in a small town and was bullied as a child. Eventually I started hanging around with a group whose lifestyle impressed me. For the first time I felt accepted. By the age of 16, we were experimenting with alcohol and drugs and the partying began. Unfortunately I started getting into trouble with the local police and was involved in three separate alcohol-related car crashes. A good friend then died in a car accident, which totally devastated me.
On New Year's Eve 1997, a friend was throwing a party. His father was away. There were about 200 people there, and with so much drugs and alcohol around, fights started breaking out. When a stranger came up the stairs and asked us all to leave, my friend hit him. He fell to the ground and I kicked him four times in the head. After that, I moved on to another party, not knowing I'd just made the worst mistake of my life.
Throughout the investigation, the secret of my crime began to destroy me. I became depressed and introverted. I could well have committed suicide if, after four years, I hadn't broken my silence. My family was devastated. Having admitted my guilt, I wanted to apologize face-to-face for what had happened. I wrote a letter to Katy and her children apologizing for what I'd done. I also asked a police officer if I could meet with Katy. I'd read about Katy in the papers but never expected her forgiveness. If I put myself in her shoes, I think I would have hated the person who had done what I'd done to her.
Katy's forgiveness is the most incredible thing that anyone has ever given me. It changed my life. There's trouble every day in prison, offers of drugs and the threat of fights. I did not give in. My life would still be full of anger and violence if not for Katy.
The big question I still ask myself is, "Why did you do this?" After serving three years in prison, I realize how angry I was. My anger escalated from years of being teased, bottling up my emotions and feeling a need to express my senseless "bravado" to my "friends" out of loyalty to them. I was fearful of not being accepted. However, I make no excuses.
Doing jail time was easy compared to the guilt I'll have to live with for the rest of my life.
Now since I'm out of prison, I truly can see what Katy's forgiveness has given me. Forgiveness set me free from a "mind imprisonment." It has also given me a bright future with a woman who I truly love so much and a better relationship with my family—which has changed my outlook on life. Katy's forgiveness has built a community which has become a support network for me. I am slowly moving on with my life and trying to forgive myself.