An unexpected phone call came that early morning of April 5, 2014. My elder brother’s voice at the other end of the line sounded confused. My nephew had just met an accident.
He had been about to pick up my brother from work, but while driving he had dozed off, and those few seconds were enough for him to hit a motorcycle and kill two of his colleagues. They were both married men with families.
One had three daughters, and the other, one child. It was indeed a shock for me, and I hurried to share it with my friends in the Focolare. Assured that they were with me in this heartbreaking experience, I went to look for my nephew. He was in a prison cell.
I didn’t know what to say to him, for I could only cry with him. I remembered Mary at the foot of cross who could only stay put, unable to do anything for her Son. Yet she did not stop loving. I felt I could do the same.
Since it was 10:30 A.M. and my nephew and the other detainees had not yet had breakfast, I went to buy some food for them. Then I asked the prison guard if it was possible to clean the prison cell which was quite dirty. When my brother arrived and started crying, I felt I had to be there to comfort him. At this point, I realized that our next step had to be to ask for forgiveness from the families of the two victims.
I told my brother that we should go to their wakes, face their families and ask for their forgiveness. My brother agreed, overcoming his own fear. We went to see Mr. L’s family. Before entering the room, we prayed together and I suggested that we go there only to love them. Then we went straight to the widow, who was crying.
She was indeed quite angry with my brother. I felt I had to be there to absorb all her pain, as Mary Desolate would; then I embraced her and said, “We are here to ask your forgiveness for what happened, without expecting to be forgiven.
Maybe, as of now, we cannot understand why all these things took place… but let us look beyond all this and believe in God’s immense love.” Then we also had to ask forgiveness from Mr. L.’s parents.
Their relatives advised us not to, because they were afraid that his mother would lose her calm and be beside herself with anger. But I strongly felt that we had to do it. I approached Mr. L.’s mother, with my brother close behind me. Indeed, she cried aloud as I entrusted everything silently to Jesus Forsaken and embraced her tightly.
We asked her to forgive us, also on behalf of my nephew. I assured her that if we placed everything in the hands of God, He would manifest His love to us and we would find the way to take care of their family, providing for the education of the three daughters who were still in grade school. She stopped crying and calmed down.
During the service, I sat down beside her. It was truly a strong encounter with Jesus Forsaken. What gave me the strength to embrace Him was Jesus present among us in the Focolare. He was the greatest gift for me! Yes, I was profoundly experiencing the pain and sorrow of Mr.
L’s family, but at the same time, I fully experienced that peace that only God can give… for He was there with us. Before leaving, we went to say goodbye to the widow. She did not say anything to my brother; but she did introduce me to her three daughters. This consoled me since I considered it an indication that I was able to establish some kind of a relationship with her.
Some days later, with some friends from the Focolare, I attended the funeral where I met one of her cousins who later became my friend. We also visited the family of the other victim. My nephew was released from detention three weeks later.
A case was filed against him, but after several court hearings, the two families agreed to drop the case upon monetary compensation. My brothers and sisters pooled together the money that they had and we were able to offer monetary assistance to the families involved.
This made our family more united, having helped one another. A few months later, my nephew underwent a big crisis. He left home and nobody knew where he was. We suspected that he was on drugs.All of us in the Focolare prayed for him every night. After a few months, my brother informed me that my nephew had come home and wanted to be rehabilitated.
He remembered Fazenda da Esperança, a rehabilitation center featured in the New City magazine which I gave them. My nephew made it at Fazenda, and has now found a new life based on the Gospel. With God, everything is really possible! After a year, I thought of getting in touch with a widow of the accident victim...
I prayed hard before calling her up, feeling that a special grace was necessary for this conversation. I was therefore caught by surprise when she said, “Ma’am I want to apologize for how I treated you and your brother when you came to the wake of my husband.” Really taken aback, I told her that it was I, my brother and our whole family who had to ask forgiveness from her.
Since then we have become friends… I would tell her about the love of God and she became very receptive. Then I started sending her the daily Gospel password to live by, a phrase which she now sends to all her friends. Two months ago, she invited me to a family gathering to celebrate her eldest daughter’s elementary school graduation.
My heartbeat was galloping so fast at the party because I realized that all of them knew who I was—the aunt of the person who had caused the accident. The widow was with me the whole time, sharing with me beautiful memories of her husband.
About a month later, I invited her to a Mariapolis, a summer gathering of the Focolare, and she agreed to attend. I knew my nephew was also coming, and in my heart, I wished they would be able to meet each other. At the Mariapolis, she said, “You know, now I understood why God permitted everything that happened.
Were it not for that accident, I would never have met you and the Focolare which has made a big change in my life.” She added that she had become closer to God. I thought this was my opportunity to ask her, “If you would meet my nephew someday, could you forgive him?”
She answered, “I have already forgiven him. Look at my face. There are no traces of hatred for your nephew and your family.” Her words touched me deeply… God had really poured down an enormous grace on her. She did not know that my nephew was at the Mariapolis.
On the second day, while the master of ceremonies introduced the group from Fazenda, I told her that my nephew was one of the group. During the break, I saw my nephew run towards her, embrace her and ask for forgiveness… Then she stayed for the whole Mariapolis. In this year of Mercy, many miracles do happen… It is indeed a big grace to be a recipient of God’s mercy, and though His grace, we are also capable of offering it to one another.