It was a moment I will never forget.
On February 22, 2003, I was visiting with my son Brian Michael at his home in North Carolina, where I had been since Christmas. Brian had had an accident at work a few days earlier and hurt his back, so I was keeping an eye on him.
At 7:00 am on that Saturday morning, I went into Brian's room just to check on him - you know the way mothers check just to see if their children are breathing when they're sleeping - even if he was 26 years old. I couldn't see his chest moving, so I touched his arm. He felt cold, but I thought sometimes our skin feels cold when we are outside of the covers. Then I felt his face and it was cool too. I shook his shoulder just a little, afraid to shake harder for fear of disturbing him because he had been in so much pain with his back. I thought maybe he would wiggle just a little and I would know he was okay. He didn't. I walked calmly into the bedroom where my husband, Dennis, was sleeping. I told Dennis I couldn't wake up Brian and asked if he would come and see if he could wake him. Dennis came and tried. He couldn't wake him.
I dialed 911 and told them I could not wake my son. They asked about my name, address, etc. and I asked them to please send an ambulance right now. They said it was on the way. The operator asked if I wanted to try CPR and I said my husband would try. He pushed on Brian's chest, but it didn't move. He tried to open his mouth and he couldn't. Dennis looked at me and sadly said "I'm sorry." It was a moment I will never forget. All the moments that followed are a blur. I remember several policemen in the house and they were asking questions. I felt like I was in a dream. My sister came before they took Brian away, and she and I had to argue with the police offers to get back into Brian's room to say goodbye before they took him away. I remember that I leaned across the bed and hugged Brian's chest and I said, "I love you and I FORGIVE you."
I've always wondered why I told him I forgave him. I even felt guilty for having said it. A year and a half later I was introduced to a story, Jill's Story, an excerpt from a book, Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping, and my perspective began to change. I began to understand. I realized that as I was saying goodbye to Brian I was "radically forgiving" him, acknowledging that my spiritual self knew that it was time for him to go and that his life had served a great purpose in my life.
Of course, I didn't realize any of that when I said those words to Brian. There's more... On that Saturday morning, after my Brian's body had been taken away, my husband, my sister and I went over to Brian's grandparents to tell them about Brian. I hardly remember exactly how we told them, but I remember my mother screamed “Oh, God NO!” There was a mandatory autopsy which took more than five months to be finalized and the results are still not clear. The autopsy indicates that the pain medication prescribed for Brian's back injury interacted with another prescription he was taking for a bi-polar disorder and caused a toxic level in his blood.
However, his grandparents and his friends were not able to see his face and say goodbye. We made funeral arrangements the next day and I took Brian's favorite clothes and shoes to the funeral home, along with his favorite gel for his hair and a photograph of how he liked his hair styled.
The next day we were scheduled to go to the Funeral Home for a private viewing before the public visitation in the evening. The funeral director called to ask if we wanted Brian’s mustache shaved. Brian had no mustache, but we thought he must have been talking about growth since Brian had been in bed for 3 days, so we said yes, clean shaven. Later I learned that my sister was also called and told that Brian’s hair seemed too long for the hair gel and the style of the picture we provided. The funeral director also described a tattoo... and it was not Brian’s. My sister went to the funeral home and found that the funeral home had the wrong body. It was not Brian.
We learned that the bodies of two young men, both autopsied at the same hospital, had been transported to the wrong funeral homes. The family of the other young man had requested immediate cremation – so my Brian’s body had already been cremated. At that point, the funeral director came to our house and through tears told us that the bodies had been mixed up and that Brian had been cremated. He asked how we would like to proceed. I told him I didn’t want to change anything. I wanted the ashes to be buried in the casket as planned. Brian’s grandfather had made special arrangements for a burial plot for Brian next to where he and Brian's grandmother will one day be buried, and that is where we all wanted him buried.
We went to the visitation scheduled that evening and of course had to explain to everyone why Brian's body was not there. We put pictures and letters and poems in the casket. I put Brian’s new glasses that he loved so much and his favorite book (Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg), that a woman had given to him in the airport the year before while he was waiting in the airport to fly home from spending a week with us in Michigan for Thanksgiving. He felt he had experienced a miracle in meeting the woman who gave him the book. Brian was a writer and he wanted so much to write a book, so this little book was very special to him.
There were many people involved in the events that occurred in conjunction with Brian's passing and the subsequent accidental cremation. It all seemed just too incredible to be true. How could this possibly happen to Brian and to me and my family?
I may never completely understand the purpose of these events, but as I continue to embrace the principles of Radical Forgiveness, it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that everything that happens is in divine order. There is no one to forgive.
I believe it is Brian's gift to me of helping me to know that part of my life's work is to share the concepts of Radical Forgiveness. Since I read Jill's Story and Radical Forgiveness I have felt powerfully driven and compelled to learn and share these concepts, which mean much more than what we know as traditional "forgiveness."
You are invited to read "Jill's Story," the first chapter of from Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping at http://www.ArtOfRadicalForgiveness.com
May the concepts and principles of Radical Forgiveness make a difference in your life too.
Copyright 2005 Linda Miller is a Spiritual Entrepreneur whose quest is to empower others to deliberately create true abundance and prosperity while contributing to increasing the consciousness of the world. This article may be distributed freely, provided that this resource box is included in its entirety.
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