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Craig, 28, Reedsburg, Wisconsin

I did many things wrong on that November day when I was just a kid. I made more than one mistake. The largest choice I could make in my life up to today—the poorest decision—took place on a chilly day in the middle of a quiet countryside. It was on this day that I shot Jackie and nearly took her life from her and those that loved her. I had somehow gotten to a place in my young life where I no longer cared about anyone or anything, including myself.

I was obviously troubled, as I don't think an untroubled person could bring themselves to attempt to take the life of a perfectly innocent stranger. Nothing mattered to me. I guess I had felt empty, hollow, lost, without any desire to be found. I had reached a point of limbo and didn't see a way out or reason to get out. I hid it well, though. So well that people around me thought I was a happy kid. I wish I hadn't hidden my pain and confusion. I had no idea it would fester, spread like a cancer and allow me to commit such a horrible act.

I broke into my mother's boyfriend's gun cabinet and a desk to steal some pistols. I entered someone's house with those guns, stole a car, set it on fire and nearly took someone's life that day. All of these things were wrong and are crimes. These weren't my biggest crimes. All of the pain I have caused Jackie and her family, the fear I created in the community, the broken trust people must have felt by my actions. Jackie had to relearn everything and her struggles continue today. Her sons missed out on years of life with their mother as they knew her. There was hate in their hearts because of me. These things were not only the effects of my action, but my biggest ongoing crime.

This is only a very brief glimpse into what I have done, and the reality of what I have done weighs heavily on my heart. So much so I can't or won't allow myself to forgive myself for what I have done. When Jackie forgave me for all that I have done, it made what I have done more bearable. I am still troubled by it at times, of course, but to know I am not hated but forgiven is indescribably important to me. It allows me to see that I am not a monster with no hope for the future. My actions were monstrous but it doesn't have to define me or my future.

Jackie's forgiveness has helped me see that I can define myself and my future. I know that a second chance is possible. Her forgiveness has demonstrated love and love is never too proud to seek forgiveness or too stingy to forgive. It is willing to let go of hurt and letdowns. Forgiveness allows us the opportunity to improve and correct ourselves.


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