I've mentioned before the opportunity I had to speak at the hospital in Savannah where Josh died. It was just 8 months after the accident. There were a lot of "God-type" events that happened that day. Some key relationships were begun. I got to know some significant people who were there the five days that Josh was in the hospital. It opened the door to one of the ministries that I carry on now through Ridley Barron Ministries. Maybe the most memorable moment came at the end, though.
I was making my way up the left side of the auditorium and taking the time to greet some of the people who had attended. As I looked up the stairs, there was a young lady in a pharmacist's jacket making her way towards me. Her eyes were red and watery. She offered her hand to me and I remember thinking, "Is this the woman whose error cost Josh his life?" She began by introducing herself and, as if she were reading my mind, she said, "I'm not the pharmacist who made the error." I think I made an audible sigh.
She continued. "But I am a very good friend of hers." She went on to explain that her friend wanted to be there that morning but she had responsibilities with her daughter. She finished by saying, "I know she would love to hear that you forgive her."
My heart sank. One of the first things I had asked to be communicated to the lady after Josh's death was that I forgave her. Now I was hearing that, eight months later, she had never received that message. I asked the young lady standing before me to get a copy of the presentation and make sure she saw it. She agreed.
Two weeks later, I was standing in my kitchen in Franklin, TN. I was preparing dinner for the kids as the phone rang. I picked up the phone and from the other end of the line I heard a quiet voice say, "Mr. Barron. My name is _________. I'm the pharmacist from Savannah." She began to cry.
I cried with her.
We talked for just a little while. She had called to say that she had seen the DVD and she had heard my offer of forgiveness. I apologized that my message had not reached her sooner, that her forgiveness had been so long in coming. I even encouraged her to live the rest of her life knowing that I held no ill will towards her, no bitterness for what had been an honest mistake.
I don't know if this is possible over a phone line but I heard a weight get lifted from her shoulders. The tone of her voice changed from that of a burdened heart to someone who had been set free.
That's the power of forgiveness. That's the power that you and I have to offer each other. I had seen it before with other incidents in my life but never to this degree. Some people thrive on bitterness. They love to believe that, by wielding its power, they can control the life of someone who has wronged them. Nothing is further from the truth. Bitterness is not controlled...it is controlling. And the freedom that comes from offering grace to someone else is not just for the one who made the error. It is for the one who has been wronged as well.
Search your heart. Every corner. Look for those places where you have held so tightly to your pain and anger that you've become blind to what it does to you. It's a poison. It kills you slowly. And the only cure is the one that God gave to us:
Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NLT