Forgiveness Granted

I spent a lot of time trying to prepare for what was about to happen last Friday, October 12th, 2012. As a family we were finally able to take one huge step forward in attending the sentencing of the man that unmistakably took my fathers life. This was the first time we were able to meet him face to face and hear a small portion of his side of the story.

I can not even begin to explain to you the range of emotion my family has put ourselves through to prepare for this day. I was personally fearful of not knowing what to expect, and it was completely driving me nuts. My feelings inside just wanted to know everything I possibly could about this man who turned in front of my dad. What kind of person was he really? Is he a decent man? Does he come from a decent family? I felt deep inside that my feelings of forgiveness and anger-ness would all be determined off of my own confirmation on who this man really was. Upon some simple researching – I found a very close connection that we both shared… and was able to confirm that Geoffrey Birney was in fact the person I thought he was all along. I can’t even tell you what a relief this was. I was still confused, trying to process this information and wondering how I was supposed to feel heading into the courts on Friday. I was also concerned with where each member of my family was at processing their anger… and was completely amazed when every single one of us delivered such amazing forgiveness to the family of Mr. Birney during his sentencing.

Below are some excerpts from my amazing family on their feelings and emotions from this day. I love you family… you continue to blow me away in how we have responded to this horrible accident.

Mary Hydle – Oct 13th, 2012 – 8:00am – Facebook

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend the sentencing of the young man who accidentally took my father in laws life. What a huge lesson in life about forgiveness. I watched each member of my husband’s family stand before the judge and this young man and express their forgiveness. A simply true test to the human spirit. There was no anger or hatred towards this man who simply made a mistake. I am honored to be apart of the Hydle clan. And feel more honored I was able to hug this young man and look him in the eye and tell him I forgave him as well.

Jessica Hydle – Oct 12th, 2012 – 11:00pm – Facebook

Well, we survived. It was hard and sucked quite a bit. But, at least this part is over. He pled guilty and the judge accepted the terms of the community service. She then told us that for as much as she hates cases like this, because there is clearly no winner, she was glad that she was assigned it. She stated that she did not know before today, but realized when we brought pictures into the room, that she had met my dad. The crazy thing was, we were pushing for community service through the National Sports Center for the Disabled, who my dad volunteered with for over 30 years. The judge told us that this all came full circle for her when she saw his picture and realized that she had actually met him up at Winter Park at a clinic for the NSCD where she was getting information on the program to use it’s benefits for the cases within the Mental Health Court, which she is the judge for. My dad is the one who told her all about the program and the benefits it offers. — with Les Hydle.

Sheila Hydle – Oct 12th, 2012 – 3:00pm – In Court

For months I’ve wanted to be able to see you face to face and say what I have to say. The following is MY point of view and I am only speaking for myself.

I fully realize that nothing I say here today will affect sentencing. We’ve all already worked that out together to a mutually agreed on solution. But, I think that not only do I have things I need to say, I have things I need you to hear.

First off – I forgive you and I’m not angry with you. I in no way discount the fact you took my father’s life, but it was an accident in the purest sense of the word. I’ve never been angry with you – only the situation. If you had been drunk or texting or something – you can bet I’d be saying something completely different, but according to the police report, you weren’t. This was an accident. A horrible, life changing, excruciatingly painful accident. You didn’t mean for this to happen. But, it did. We can’t change it, we can’t understand it, we can only try to accept it.

I don’t know anything about you or the accident except for what I’ve read in the police report – and for me, that’s plenty. The images there are enough. My father was an excellent rider – there was no logical explanation for why this happened. He was careful. He was alert. He knew that driver’s don’t see motorcycles. For some reason, on this day at this moment this seemingly senseless tragedy was meant to happen.

There is not a person in this room who hasn’t driven to work only to think to themselves “wow – I don’t even know how I got here!”. There’s not a person in this room who hasn’t zoned out on the road. There’s not a person in here that hasn’t stopped paying attention for just a moment while they switch the radio, find something on the floor or mess with the mirrors. And that’s all it takes, doesn’t it? One. Single. Moment. That’s all it took for you to hit my Dad. One moment of your life changed countless lives forever, including yours. I can’t be angry at you. I can’t blame. What happened to you could have happened to any of us.

Not to mince words – but this accident has indeed devastated our family. It has torn me down. It was horrific. It was terrifying. Seeing my father that way brought up a place of pain in me that I didn’t even know could exist. However, I know that eventually, I will be OK. My family is close and loving and we are together in this. The pain I feel of losing my Dad is equal to the love I feel for my family. While I don’t think one ever truly gets over the death of a parent, I do think that this pain will lessen over time. I do think the weird crying jags will subside. I know I will honor my Dad and his legacy. I know we all will. I know I’m a good person and I will constantly strive to be better.

I’m sure that this has devastated you and your family as well. But through all of this – we all have something to learn. My Dad coined the phrase “new normal” with me back when I was in college. We all have a “new normal” and what we choose to do with it will dictate the rest of our lives. We can choose to keep spiraling in grief, keep feeling sorry, keep being sad, keep beating ourselves up for what we did and didn’t do for an endless amount of time – but that doesn’t honor Dad, nor does it give us the opportunity to grow out of tragedy. I truly believe that some of our greatest growth can come from our greatest pains.

I will continue to allow my Dad’s death to change my life in a very positive, drastic and dramatic way. It was meant to be this way – *I* was meant to be this way. I know it. All of this was meant to be – although I don’t know why. I really don’t know why any of us had to take this route of our life’s journey in order to learn what we needed to. This is a crappy route. For some reason – we all had something to discover. We all had something to experience. That is the reason this happened. I don’t know you – but you had something to learn from this and I hope your heart and mind is open to it – and you embrace it and take it with you. I hope whatever it is that you had to learn from this changes you in some positive way.

Our lives are forever intertwined now – although I may never see you again. But my Dad is a part of your life now too. We all need to find some kind of affirmation for ourselves in this situation – Dad would have wanted that. There has to be some growth that comes from this for you too. I don’t know what it is. I may never know – but I have to believe in my heart that we can ALL take something from this and utilize it to make ourselves stronger, better people. If we can’t, Dad’s death would be pointless. It would mean nothing. I can’t accept that.

Again, I wanted to talk today not because it makes a difference in your sentencing, but for some reason I need you to know I empathize with you and your family as well. I can’t even imagine being in the position you are – I can’t imagine the pain you’ve gone through too. Yes, my family has been turned upside down and has grieved and felt unimaginable pain– but you took a man’s life. I’m not sure how one moves on from that.

I’ve given that a lot of thought. Just how does one move on from taking someone’s life?

Well, first, I want to tell you that if my Dad was here (which I think he is), I believe he would give you a hug and tell you that it’s ok. He’s not mad at you either. I just know he isn’t. Let yourself feel that comfort. My Dad had a brother that died over 35 years ago in a motorcycle accident. Three months to the day my Dad died, his brother also passed away unexpectedly. So, Dad is up there right now with his two brothers and is probably having a ball. Finally at peace from all the stresses of this world.

I also know that when people close to me have died, I’ve always done things to honor them in a consistent, constructive manner. My hope for you is that you find a way to honor my Dad in a way that doesn’t bring you sadness, but reminds you how fleeting life is and that you should appreciate every moment. Something that reminds you of whatever your “lesson” is here and keeps you grounded and following that path. Something that will keep the spirit of Les Hydle alive in your life in a beneficial and encouraging way. Your community service is one huge step in that direction. You have no idea how delighted I am that you are doing community service for NSCD. The lenient sentence for this type of accident actually boggled my mind at first and I’m so very happy that you also agreed to do the service. THIS will honor my Dad. THIS will help make his death mean something. My Dad had to stop participating after decades of teaching disabled people how to ski at NSCD, and it devastated him. Maybe that is why this happened – maybe you were meant to be there for some reason because my Dad couldn’t be anymore. Maybe this is where you make a difference and leave your mark on the world. I don’t know.

There are a million ways you could honor him – should you choose to do so. I do hope that’s what you choose. You may not see it now, but how you live from this moment on is your choice. It really is. Just as it is mine.

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