Video Review: Journey Toward Forgiveness
The seven feature segments tell the stories of loss through:
- Terminal illnesses such as cancer
- Drunk driving accident
- Institutionalized racism and violence
- Historic massacres of indigenous peoples
- Terrorist attack
While each case is different, those telling their stories describe similar feelings and decisions. They talk about the weight of anger and revenge. For example, Bud Welch, whose daughter died in the Oklahoma City Bombing, describes how the inability to move beyond his daughter's death made him both physically and emotionally ill, and then discusses his breakthrough realization that rage and revenge had been responsible for the bombing. This spurred him to the path toward forgiveness and to seek out the family of Timothy McVeigh.
Many of Welch's sentiments are echoed in the story of Wilma and Cliff Derksen whose 13-year old daughter was kidnapped and murdered. They discuss the intense anger and darkness following the murder. In describing the first dark days, Wilma describes the visit of someone who worked with an organization of parents of murdered children. She and Cliff were surprised at the description of how even the memories of the man's child were blackened by the murder. Wilma defines her turning point as making a statement to a friend that 10 child killers would have to die and she would have to pull the trigger to receive any type of closure. From this realization, the Derksen family decided to move in a positive direction and not be trapped by this bitterness. This led to Wilma working in a prison with victim offender mediation. It also led her to go into prison to ask prisoners her own questions about crime and violence.
In answering the quetion “Does forgiveness mean forgetting?”, Chief Lawrence Hart explains how he found healing through caring for and repatriating the remains of Cheyenne people once on display in museums around the country. This led to participation in a commemoration of the Washita Massacre in Oklahoma in 1868 (done only after the town agreed to return remains being displayed in the local museum). During the re-enactment of the massacre, Hart became filled with rage as he realized that the decendents of men who had fought in the 7th Cavalry were participating in the event. But he also continues to talk of the reconciliation that took place between himself and one of the men representing the 7th cavalry.
Two segments highlight the healing work done through hospice programmes around the country. Providing assistance to families through end of life issues and bereavement programmes, hospice groups around the country are helping individuals and families come to terms with death. In one segment about hospice, a family describes participating in a hospice bereavement programme after the death of a teenage daughter in a drunk driving accident.
In relating the pain families face when a loved one has a terminal illness, Lutheran pastor and storyteller Walter Wangerin, Jr. relates the story of two of his church members. The husband had cancer. The wife watched the decline and death of her husband consumed by anger and bitterness. Wangerin relates the joy of the moment that she found release of those emotions during her husband's funeral.
The real emotion of loss and victimization are evident in these stories. Each story teller stresses that healing, forgiveness and reconciliation are a process and not a single decision.
Journey Toward Forgiveness is available from Mennonite Media for $24.95.