An older man shuffled into my office this week. He walked with a short careful pace as though afraid he might lose his balance if he went too fast or took too large a step. He was a nice man. He was alert, and clean and intent on seeing the boss.
He gave me his name: "Willard."
Willard? Something in my spirit Ďpinged!í and emotional alarms began clanging in my mind!
Willard...hmmm... Could it be?
I picked up the phone... "Kelly, tell me... I know this is silly, I can never remember his name, but I think this is him. What is the name of the man?"
"Willard," she said.
I havenít seen him in almost 25 years. This man who is responsible for my sisterís death. His presence triggered a swarm of unwelcome memories.
Unwanted memories of a hospital room... a comatose young woman... an injured and bleeding two year old baby girl. Black streaks on the pavement... Broken metal and glass... broken bodies...broken hearts.
Hard difficult memories of a funeral home. Hundreds of people. Words of sympathy...arms wrapped around me.
Finally... it's quiet. I am alone with the body of the young woman and mother, my beautiful little sister, Karen. She was only 19 years old. GOD! I remember the physical ache of grief; straining to hold back the gushing unstoppable flood of tears.....and then: the numbness.
The only sensation I am aware of is in the construction work on the walls going up. Brick by brick, the mortar hardening, and eventually seasoning into an impenetrable fortress around my heart. Walls that will keep out pain and grief for the next 20 years. Walls that also will keep out joy and gladness; resisting the love of God.
There had been no anger, no pointing fingers of blame. No words have ever passed between us. In truth, I didn't think about him. I didnít want to. In my mind, he only existed as a symbol, or token of anguished resentment The wall had been very proficient in keeping him out. If no one mentioned his name, I could not remember it or him. When his name did come up, I felt sorry for Willard.
Imagine living with it; even though everyone knew it was an accident. He didnít mean to pull out in front of her vehicle. He never meant to end a life and change so many others. He has lived with it every day too.
I wonder, does it haunt him... or did he also build a wall? I pray that he has peace.
Yet here he is... standing in front of me. His very presence calling up the ghost of old grief.
He expects a response. Demands that I acknowledge him. Now.
What do I do about Willard?
Heís 88 years old.
Will he even remember who I am? If I mention this to him, will it be too painful or will he welcome my compassion for him? Will it help him to know I am not angry with him and that I have peace in my heart now? Do I tell him how God tore down that fortress around my heart years ago with His love? Will he even care?