I wonder whether mothers have an unexplainable sixth sense when it comes to their children because I was reading the story of a mother called Aba Gayle who suddenly left her workplace to go home early in the fall of 1980, saying, “I had a funny feeling something was wrong but I didn’t know what it was.”
(Shot of Aba Gayle's daughter, Catherine)
When she returned home, she received a phone call informing her that her 19-year-old daughter had been stabbed to death.
She wrote about how she almost lost her mind. She became afraid of driving alone because she would often burst into tears at the wheel. She spent eight years of her life living in torment and lusting after revenge.
When the murderer of her daughter was finally put on death row, she thought she would be ‘healed’ but she wasn’t.
(Aba Gayle (right) with Naseem Rakha, the author of The Crying Tree)
She started learning how to meditate and she began reading books from various religions and mythologies. The principles were essentially the same. So many enlightened thinkers throughout the ages have taught about the importance of forgiveness.
When she watched a video of a Jewish Holocaust survivor, she was amazed and inspired by his story. He not only forgave the German people for what had happened to him, but the actual guards who killed every member of his family. She started to hope she could do the same to find peace in her situation.
Approximately 12 years after her daughter’s death, she did something she thought she was not capable of. She wrote a letter to the man who murdered her daughter. She detailed the events leading up to her death. She explained what she was up to and what her dreams were before she was ‘taken’.
She finished her letter by saying she had found it in her heart to forgive him as a “child of God’ and that she would also pray for him.
The act of writing this letter and mailing it was the moment she let go of all that heaviness and rage that was overtaking her life. She finally felt a sense of peace.
In the book Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, he explains how forgiveness does not mean condoning another’s hurtful actions but it’s about releasing the negative emotions surrounding these painful events.
The problem of holding on to resentment and anger is that you end up being the ‘victim’ in life.
We lose all our power and energy by allowing those who have hurt us in the past to continue to control how we live our lives in the present. One of Buddha’s quotes was, “You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.”
When you are filled with hatred against someone, you are the one mentally suffering because you are not free from anger.
Personally, I’ve always believed that violence never solves problems, it simply magnifies them. Revenge can never undo damage already done or bring back a life taken from us.
This was what Aba Gayle, an ordinary mother discovered the day she did something extraordinary by mailing that letter to the man who brutally killed her daughter.
She did not require a response nor was she expecting one. She felt healed by the simple act of offering him the gift of her forgiveness.
However, he wrote back to her and in an interview on ABC News, she recalled, “I was so scared to open the letter because everyone on death row must be a monster and what kind of letter would a monster write?”
She was surprised when she read it because there was so much sorrow and remorse for his crime.
She decided to cross a final hurdle in her journey of self-healing, which she later described as “the most frightening day” of her life. She applied for visiting rights to meet him in prison face to face.
She never imagined meeting anyone on death row, much less the very man who stabbed her daughter to death.
This was how far she went to face her fears head on and “let go” of the pain she was carrying for so many years.
It worked. Choosing forgiveness changed her life for the better. Not only did she remove herself from the path of self-destruction and revenge, she channeled her energies into setting up a foundation in memory of her daughter (a non-profit organisation called the Catherine Blount Foundation) where she is dedicated to help others heal through the power of forgiveness.
We all go through pain, hurt and resentment on so many different levels but I will leave you with this vivid quote from author Lewis B Smedes, “Vengeance is having a videotape planted in your soul that cannot be turned off. It plays the painful scene over and over again inside your mind... and each time it plays, you feel the clap of pain again. Forgiving turns off the videotape of pained memory. Forgiving sets you free.”
If you wanted to read the whole story of what this incredible mother went through, please visit www.catherineblountfdn.org