Last week, as we celebrated Caylee’s life, I learned something about grace under pressure from my brother. I saw him do something to comfort someone that made me realize just what a great guy he is.
As y’all know, Caylee, as young as she was, had demons. She was an addict. We don’t know why she turned to drugs to ease her pain. Now we never will and we will never have the joy of seeing her beat her addiction. I know she would have. She was stubborn and strong minded enough she would have won that battle. I am still angry that someone took all that promise from us.
After the service, when the flowers were loaded in our cars and we were making our plans to meet up later that night, a young girl walked up. My other niece immediately stiffened and gave me a look that only someone who loves an addict can understand. She told me that it was one of “Caylee’s other friends”. The ones we didn’t want her to have. We knew she was on something the minute we saw her. What do we do? How do we handle this? Personally, I had a surge of anger unlike any I have ever had.
You could see the pain in the girls face as she looked at me and asked where the service was. I explained to her that the service was over. As tears started streaming down her face, she whispered that she had to ride the bus over two hours to get there. She was so sorry she had missed it. Where was Caylee? Could she see her? I struggled to find the words to say to her that weren’t mean and hateful. I wanted to shake her and scream at her to go away. Why was she alive and Caylee wasn’t?
Then my brother walked up. He put his arm around her and asked her name. He thanked her for coming so far. As she stood there and cried he reached into the flower arrangement I was holding and pulled a flower out of it. He handed it to her and told her to remember Caylee as she was, full of life and sass and laughter.
With that one simple gesture, my brother taught me something I thought I knew. I was wrong. In the pain and grief of losing his daughter, he showed me grace and forgiveness. He showed compassion that at the time I didn’t think was deserved. Yet it was.
As he said those words, I looked at the girl and I didn’t see someone who was on drugs. I saw someone’s daughter, sister, niece that was on the wrong path. Who was full of pain she had no idea how to work through. I saw someone that had loved Caylee and tried the best she could to be there. It humbled me.
She asked what she could do for us, to help us, as Caylee’s family. My response was to tell her to not let Caylee die in vain. She had her whole life to honor Caylee if she chose to do so. SHE had the chance taken from Caylee. I asked her to go and do something great with her life and do it in memory of Caylee. To make a difference. To show someone that they could beat it. I told her it was what Caylee would have wanted her friends to do.
My prayer is that somehow, someway what we said got through to her. That she will turn it around. I will never know if it did or not. That’s ok. I learned something I needed to know that day. Compassion, grace and forgiveness for someone are things we should all strive for, even in our darkest days.
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