She will never get to dance at her son’s wedding.
In the dignified, compassionate words that Ursula Ward spoke about her murdered only son, Odin, they were the ones that had me uncontrollably sobbing.
Compared to this family, I have nothing to cry about and I am not trying to jump on the pain bandwagon. They have endured, and will do for ever more, not only Odin’s death, but a lengthy trial, six days of what must have been unbelievable pain as they waited for justice. It has been served. The killer has been sentenced to life without parole.
I don’t believe I would ever be capable of the dignity that Ursula displayed in her words of forgiveness. I am not in favour of the death penalty (and I have really struggled with the issue since moving to the US, and I continue to find it an interesting ethical debate), but I have no idea how that would change if I lost someone close to me in heinous circumstances.
I consider myself a fair person and try to be fair to others. We are complex creatures; most things are rarely what they appear to be on the surface. When I am wronged, however . . . when people cause trouble with their lies in order to protect their own backs (and you know who you are . . . I’ll say just one thing: large vessels that sail on water), the hair on my arms really does stand up. Our instinct is to protect ourselves under attack, and it manifests itself physically very quickly.
Years ago, a journalist very nearly destroyed a close friendship when she told a completely false story about me to him. Thankfully, because I am someone who has to deal with every upsetting situation NOW, it was all sorted. Years later, that journalist came up to me all sweetie-pie and I tore her apart (not literally). I don’t forget.
More recently, another so-called friend (now ex) tried to back up her case against me with a “And so and so said this about you, too . . . ” I never even brought it up with the “accused” because, quite simply, I judge people on who I see them to be. Everyone talks, and, regularly, behind someone’s back. But most people do so very kindly, or out of concern. I happen to like this particular friend and can imagine the spirit in which the words were spoken. But it’s still a dash of poison that I could have done without, and I will never speak to the instigator – or, shall I say, the administrator of said poison – ever again.
Not only do I not forget. I don’t forgive. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"? It was a part of my Baptist upbringing that was never going to resonate.
Forgiveness is, to me, a state of being (like that of grace) to which I cannot even begin to aspire. An ex-boyfriend, with whom I broke up on December 8th 1999, ruining not only Christmas, but the Millennium celebrations, recently got in touch. He was going through all sorts of woes, including the break-up of his marriage to the woman I discovered 15 years ago he was sleeping with. I queried why he would contact me and he said that he thought I would “understand”.
I wondered which part of “understand” he thought I would get. His pushing me against a wall in Soho so aggressively, I had passers by coming to my aid? His laughing when I fell flat on my face on the French holiday (one of many) I paid for? The exorbitant sum of money I had to shame him into paying back (well, his mother) when I wrote about it? The hysterics as I argued with the Dyson on Boxing Day as I cleared up after the most miserable Christmas ever?
Where did he think I was in my life? Did he think that I had been pining alone in a room just waiting for this moment? There wasn’t an atom of “I’m sorry, I really hurt you” in any of it. Just ME, ME, ME. Well, guess what, buddy? Since I knew you, I have met some amazing people, including men. Men who are much brighter, funnier, kinder. And taller. Oh, yes. Much, much taller. And thinner. And richer. Dear god, yes: richer!
So, you see? Forgiveness does not come easily to me. I wonder whether it does to any of us. And when I watched Ursula Ward publicly declare forgiveness – and ask for it from others – the magnitude of her spirit moved me to tears.
My stories are not in the realm of the sorrow she is feeling. Her life has been destroyed. But still, she found it in her heart to say Forgive.
Would that I could ever be such an extraordinary human being.
Odin, I am sure, would have been so immensely proud.
You may not ever dance at his wedding, Ursula, but today, I feel certain you have danced in ways few of us could ever have imagined.