An Open Letter to the Driver of the Jeep

Dear Driver,

This is not an accusatory letter. I know nothing about you, the status of your personality or character, what kind of state you were in when you were driving, or the degree of safety or speeds at which you were driving. I only know that it was your jeep that hydroplaned and came to a stop in the westbound lane right in front of my mother.

I also have just found out that even though my mother died, you have survived.

If you were doing anything unsafe, I urge you to use this experience as an opportunity to make positive changes that will bring more happiness in your life and in the lives of others around you – even other drivers on the road.

However, I also know that hydroplaning just happens. I know the roads were wet. I know it hailed later that evening, and my husband and I had to drive the slick roads to the hospitals to find my mom.

If it was only the weather, please know that we do not blame you.

If it was a mistake, please know that we are people of many mistakes. We do not hold your mistakes against you anymore than we would want our mistakes held against us.

My mother was certainly a stubborn woman, anyone would tell you that. This was the seed of her tenacity to survive, and the virtue by which she demanded respect and goodness from the world. But she was also the first one to forgive, the first one to let things go, the first one to welcome prodigals home.

We offer this to you, our forgiveness for any mistakes, and also our compassion for all that was not your fault.

We believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ, and we believe it is big enough for any mistake or injustice. We believe in the embrace of mercy, the doorway of grace, and the rest that only true peace brings. We believe in faith, even the faith of our mother, and we believe that she has survived many things because she still had work to do on Earth.

She did not survive this.

We believe it is because her work was finished, with my brother happy in his family, her grandchildren celebrated, and me married to my kind and attentive husband.

We believe our Father-in-Heaven knew the bounds of time and place to every detail in her life, and that this tragic car accident was simply a tool for releasing her from the burdens of mortality.

And for that, we thank you.

She lived a long and full life, carried many burdens, and was often in great pain. She had lived a hard life, loved fully, and longed for her parents who passed many years ago. She witnessed the restoration of our family as we together learned the lessons of repentance, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness – and it is these very gifts we now offer to you.

I do not know what kind of injuries you sustained, what kind of person you are, how old you are, or even whether you are male or female.

But I know there is a plan for each of us, and that God wants all of us to be happy, healthy, and well. Even if you did nothing wrong, I cannot imagine the shock of your experience or how I would wrestle with it to healing. I am so sorry for your pain and hurt, whether physical or emotional, whether spiritual or emptiness.

After many years of our own foolish mistakes and stubborn drama, our family has chosen to be a people of mercy, a people of compassion, a people of holiness – the kind that can only come by being at-one with God by being at-one with people. We feel love for you, are full of gratitude our mother was taken quickly and without pain, and pray for you daily. We hope you recover fully and quickly, and testify of the compassion that comes from mercy and forgiveness.

Sincerely,
Emily Christensen
Daughter of Jeanine Barrett
Owasso, Oklahoma

Kirk Brown
Son of Jeanine Barrett
Springfield, Missouri

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About Emily

Things about Emily: "I'm a Mormon." I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love my family. I love my friends. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010. I will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. I enjoy taking pictures. I have two ugly puppies. I have my PhD, but that is mostly nerdy-boring... except that I love my job! Resting days are lost in gardens and books. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. His hip and cool day job includes writing copy for UncommonGoods.com. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Comments

An Open Letter to the Driver of the Jeep — 5 Comments

  1. This is beautiful, heartfelt, and wonderful of you. I don’t know if the driver of the jeep will get to read it, but it’s a great reminder to all of us about the forgiving natures of our Savior and of our Father in Heaven. Your mother seems like a wonderful woman, and maybe she’s up there with my mother in law, who is also among heaven’s new arrivals. Thank you for this. ((hugs))

  2. Emily,
    Your letter to the other driver is absolutely beautiful.
    When we were children, your mother and I shared our first grade year of school and also our 3rd and 4th. Both of us cherished our memories of Mrs. Goldenburg. Jeanine had written to her in the past so it was kind of neat to find our teacher again on Facebook. It was neat to find Jeanine, too, and neater to find that she even remembered me after about 40 years.
    She and I shared some things in common. We liked lots of friends and correcting them now and then. And, I didn’t know until lately that she had family in Sparta and often visited there. My husband also has family there and we have visited there no telling how many times. Small world.
    She invited me to come to Springdale to meet up at the dinner the old classmates have. I live in Indiana but we are retired and planning to move back to Arkansas. I was looking forward to meeting Jeanine again. I shall always remember her shy smile as a little girl.
    I am proud to hear about her children. She talked about her little grandchildren a lot and was so proud to have her little grandgirl come visit her at Christmas. What a treasure you all have been to her! I hope that someone who loves her little dogs as much as she does will take care of them. I thought about how many times she talked about them getting out and how she appreciated when the missionaries came to fix the fence.
    My prayer is that God holds each of you close in these next days. What a glorious letter you have written.
    I shall miss your Mom,
    Polly

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