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How Could I Forgive the Murderer of My Best Friend?

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By Cheryl Richards

My story begins on March 2, 1993, when I received a phone call from my mom telling me my dearest friend of twenty-three years had been murdered. Out of shock, I dropped the phone and started sobbing, “Bridgette, no, Bridgette,” I cried.

The next morning, as the cloud of disbelief cleared, I asked my husband to go buy a newspaper. I thought if I saw the facts about Bridgette’s murder in print the whole tragedy would be true—it was.

Bridgette was sitting at her desk in an office full of people when her ex-boyfriend, a man Bridgette’s family had befriended and trusted, walked into her office. He carried what looked like a delivery box containing long stem roses, but it actually hid a rifle. He pulled out the gun and shot my friend five times. As he was reloading, an unarmed security guard tackled him and took his gun away.

In the days that followed, my mind was full of thoughts and concerns. Did my friend suffer? Did she see Kevin standing there, and was she fearful for her life? What did those people in that office feel? Would they ever be able to get the shooting out of their minds?

And Bridgette’s family…we have known them since 1968; our families grew up together. We went to the same church. Bridgette and I loved to play Barbies and paper dolls. When we weren’t living in the same state, we wrote letters and called one another. We had a special saying that meant something only to Bridgette and I, and throughout our friendship we had jokingly swapped that saying back and forth. She was in my wedding, and I had hoped to one day be in hers. What was her family feeling now? If I was feeling this devastated, they had to be feeling ten times worse. My heart just ached for them.

When I went to Bridgette’s funeral, I saw her dad. He hugged me and said, “Cheryl, you were Bridgette’s best friend; how you must be hurting.” Me hurting, I thought, what about you?

All I could do was hug him and say how sorry I was. The words seemed empty, but I couldn’t think of anything else to say. I have never cried so hard at a funeral. I have lost other friends and family but this seemed different—it was so senseless to lose a friend at the hands of a murderer. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. At the grave site, Bridgette’s father was so overcome by grief that he flung himself on her casket and started sobbing—a memory I’ll never forget.

The weeks following the funeral, I kept dreaming of Bridgette. The dream would start out pleasant—she and I were hanging out. Then the whole thing would turn ugly. We would be in the graveyard, and she would be sinking into the grave before my eyes, or she would get shot while we were visiting. I was afraid to sit on my couch in front of our bay window for fear a car would drive by and shoot me in the back of the head.

My anger towards the ex-boyfriend burned hotter with each dream and each memory I had of Bridgette. I prayed that he would rot in hell. He should not be allowed to go to heaven and certainly not allowed to see Bridgette again.

As the months went by, I thought about him less, but when I did recall the memories I hated him even more. I felt that if I forgave him, I would be condoning what he did to my friend. I felt that being angry with him somehow gave justice to her family. I told myself, “I can say I forgive him, but I don’t have to mean it.”

But God reminded me that wasn’t truth: “You know you need to forgive him and mean it.” Even when I tried to ignore His prompts and not deal with the issue, He kept saying, “Cheryl, you need to forgive. It’s a sin not to be able to forgive someone.” I knew He was right, but I wanted to ignore the reality of having to forgive. I was hoping it would all go away.

Of course, God didn’t go away and neither did His reminders. I finally realized I was wrong, and I needed to make things right. I asked, “Lord, how do you forgive someone for something like this?” And His answer was, “TIME.” I needed time. Don’t ever feel guilty for taking time to forgive.

I needed the time for God to heal my wounds, but I also had come to the realization that I couldn’t let my unforgiveness go on forever. I finally prayed, “Lord, I forgive him. Please let someone in that jail lead him to You so that one day he can go to heaven just like Bridgette.” It was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders; it felt so good to be able to forgive and mean it. I guess I didn’t realize how much the weight of unforgiveness had been weighing me down.

I still cry on my friend’s birthday. I cry on the day she was killed, and sometimes I just plain cry because I miss her and would have loved for my kids to know her. But I’m not angry. I’m actually grateful to God for helping me to learn a great lesson in forgiveness. Without Him in my life, I don’t know if I would have been able to forgive. He was my strength throughout the entire process; He really helped me through it. God is so good!

©Cheryl Richards. All rights reserved. Used by permission.