Yesterday I had an encounter that I was not expecting. I was talking with a contractor and as usual in the deep south we made small talk first (an old custom that irritates many people from other parts of the country). As we were talking, we learned that I knew a family that lived in their neighborhood. When I mentioned the family's name, the contractors face suddenly went ashen. It turns out that they had been involved in an accident that resulted in the death of my friend's 7 year old son (he was on a bicycle). For the next 30 minutes they spoke about the hurt; how it felt like it happened yesterday; and the feeling that they cannot forgive themselves for the incident. The most surprising event to them was the forgiveness that they received from our friends (how can they forgive us for being involved in the death of their son). I did my best to listen to their story and explain that supernatural forgiveness that they received from our friends.
I have talked on many occasions with our friends about their loss and how the sting never goes away (nor should it). However, I have never thought about the loss in the context of others involved in the accident. Although no one cannot compare the grief of a parent, even after ten years, the feeling for them is still raw and very real. They also need compassion and forgiveness, even when they are the last people anyone thinks of in those situations.
I do not believe in chance encounters like this one. I feel these people still needed affirmation that they are good people. I hope I helped them along that path.