He gave me permission to write about hisstory but politely asked that I not use his name. We agreed that I would refer to him only as Pete.
And his story? Well, I think it’s a remarkable one. You be the judge.
Four years ago Pete had it all. A dream job running his own business which was enjoying year after year rising success, a loving and devoted family comprised of his wife – his childhood sweetheart – and three beautiful healthy children, peer acceptance as a champion in his industry, and “all the money a man could possibly want, and then some.”
That all changed on a warm, star filled summer night minutes after he returned home from a business trip.
He was busy unpacking when his doorbell rang. He opened the door and a somber police officer informed him that his wife, two daughters and son had been tragically killed in a fiery collision just a few kilometers from his home.
Four more victims of the insanity that is called drunk driving.
Four lives, filled with great joy and vast promise, wiped out because there are still many people out there who just don’t get it, despite overwhelming evidence that mixing alcohol and automobiles will only produce tragedy.
But our story today is not about the perils of drunk driving, our story is about my new friend Pete.
Pete told me that as he listened to the words from that police officer that evening it was as if his entire body lost all sensation and and his mind was incapable of absorbing the enormity of the information.
He told me that the next few days were a blur of slow-motion activity of people – friends, colleagues, family and even strangers arriving at his house laden with food, kind words and love.
He has vague memories of four coffins at a funeral and how surreal it all seemed.
For ten days after the funeral he lived as a hermit in his own home.
He only ventured into three rooms; the guest bedroom – where he spent almost all of his time – the kitchen to retrieve beer from the fridge and a small washroom to make room for the next round of beer.
For an entire week he didn’t shave, shower, comb his hair or brush his teeth.
And he began to fill with rage.
And the more beer he consumed, the angrier he became.
And revenge became his new “raison d’être.”
It was all he could think of.
It consumed him.
It took over his life.
He stopped going to the office.
And over time his business began to slide away.
And he didn’t care.
It meant nothing.
And then he sold his house for a price well below market value.
And it didn’t matter.
It meant nothing.
And he moved into a small apartment which contained no memories of previous good times to distract him from his new mission.
Hatred and revenge.
And he attended every day of the trial.
And stared unblinking at the man who had stolen his life.
And the more he stared, the more he hated.
And his hatred changed him.
And over time his friends began to visit him less and less.
And their calls became more and more infrequent.
And finally no one called anymore.
And he began to hate them too. And he continued to hate because he believed that he had to hate.
It was his duty to hate. He owed it to his wife and children.
And all the while he was eating less and drinking more.
And he was becoming used to passing out and then waking up on the floor of his
It felt normal.
And he began to direct his hatred at a new target.
And he started wondering whether there was any reason to his life.
And the more often he asked the question the more often the answer was “no.”
And so he came up with a plan to end his own life.
And he chose the day and date and began to put into motion the things that he believed needed to be done in order for him to complete this mission.
And just a few days before his “deadline” his doorbell rang.
And, as we know, he hated the sound of doorbells.
And so he chose not to answer it.
But the doorbell was persistent.
It kept ringing.
And finally he opened the door and standing there was a slightly familiar face from his past. He didn’t really recognize the face until he recognized the uniform. It was that same police officer whose awful duty that terrible night had been to notify him of that horrible event in his life that had led him to where he was today.
And he asked if he could come in.
And Pete poured him a cup of coffee and asked why he was there.
The cop told him that earlier that day he had attended a call, of a minor complaint, at Pete’s former next-door neighbor’s house and while he’d been there he inquired as to how Pete was doing.
And Pete’s former neighbor had told him that Pete not been doing too well and that he had sold the house some time ago and had moved into a small apartment.
The neighbor went on to say that he had recently run into a few of Pete’s friends who had expressed extreme concern.
They told him how sad and desolate Pete had become and how consumed with hatred he become and they weren’t quite sure what to do.
And this kindly police officer had asked Pete’s former neighbor if he had Pete present address and he decided to come over and visit Pete because he had a small gift for him.
He told Pete that he recently read a book that had profoundly opened his eyes to the possibilities that life offers and he asked Pete if he would be willing to read this book.
Pete told me his first inclination had been to say “no” but he was touched by the kindness and thoughtfulness of this person who barely knew him who had driven across town to bring this book to him and he had said “yes” he would read the book.
And he read the book that evening. And then he read it again the next day.
And again the day after.
And he began to feel the heavy haze of hatred slowly lifting from his body.
And he began to explore the possibility of making different choices in his life.
Of changing his perspective.
And he decided to give it a try.
And he decided that if he changed the meaning he had placed on life his entire life would change.
And he worked really hard at doing this.
And he channeled his hatred into forgivenenss and experienced peacefulness.
And his life began to change.
And he went back to work.
In a different profession.
He chose to become an educator.
A person who spreads the word.
And the word that he spread was the message of sober driving.
And he delivers that message at schools, colleges, to community groups, to businesses, to any and everyone who will listen to his message.
And he also lectures on the cathartic healing power of forgiveness.
And eight months ago he met Evelyn. And they began dating. And he is now hopelessly in love.
And he is happy. And life is great. And he has so much to live for.
And he now realizes that by choosing this path he is honouring the memories of his wife and children.
And he just wanted me to know that. And so he called and asked if we could meet for coffee.
And as I listened to his story I felt honored to be in the presence of a person who has found the inner strength and wisdom to come back from an unimaginable tragedy and turn his life from the darkness of despair back towards the light of joy and become such a powerful contributor to our planet.
And he told me of the two promises he asks everyone he meets to make to themselves.
And so, for Pete’s sake, I ask each of you to make those promises to yourself right now.
Promises that you will never break.
- Always, always, always seek choices that will strengthen and inspire you.
- Never, ever, ever drink and drive.
Till we read again.
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