On February 24, 2002, my 22-year-old son was killed in a drunk-driving accident. Kyle and five of his friends got into a car after drinking all night in two bars in town. The driver of the car was Nicole, one of Kyle's closest friends and a neighbor who lived around the corner. Less than a half mile from home, the car spun out of control and hit a tree. Kyle and his two friends in the back seat of the 2000 Camaro were killed instantly. The driver, Nicole, and two other passengers received serious injuries.
Even now, five years later, I can feel the pain that I felt when the police and the police chaplain came to the door. I knew something horrible had happened. Much of the next few months is a blur of pain and grief and disbelief. My beautiful, life-loving baby was gone and many lives were changed forever. The true cycle of life does not include burying your child.
Even in that horrible pain, I knew that I would have to somehow reconcile with Nicole and forgive her. This would have been what Kyle would have expected. His huge heart would not have closed to Nicole if he had survived the crash. Had any other of those young people in the car been driving, the same thing might have happened because they had all been drinking excessively. I have never believed that Nicole purposely got in that car to kill three people. I feel that in many ways a society that condones excessive drinking and is too tolerant of underage drinking was complicit in this accident.
Forgiveness is a process and a journey. It comes after long conversations in prayer with God and the healing that time brings to a broken heart. My prayer was always that I would be able to love Nicole and forgive her as Kyle would have done. Nicole was sentenced to six years for each of the deaths in the accident. Those sentences were served concurrently, and she was released from prison after three years. I visited her several times in prison, but that first visit was difficult. There were a lot of tears cried that day, but in the end they were cleansing and healing tears. A great burden was lifted from my heart and I truly began healing then. Today Nicole has turned her life around and is a productive member of her community. She has promised to honor Kyle by bringing her story to other young people in hope that no other families will have to go through the pain we have experienced.