Another Story of Forgiveness: The Story of the Family of Deceased UHP Trooper Eric Ellsworth, and of the Young Lady Whom They Now Have Forgiven
By Ken K. Gourdin
Utah Highway Patrol (UHP) Trooper Eric Ellsworth has passed away due to injuries sustained after he was struck and killed while attempting to guide a semi rig safely around a downed power line by a vehicle driven by a young lady. Trooper Ellsworth’s family offered forgiveness to the young lady, and I responded as follows. The story can be found here (this and all other links last accessed November 23, 2016): http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865667818/Family-of-critically-injured-trooper-offers-forgiveness-to-driver.html.
God bless Trooper Ellsworth and his family, as well as the young lady on the other side of this accident. As tragic as so many of the things that happen in this mortal Second Act are, knowing that there was a premortal First Act and that there will be a postmortal Third Act are crucial to maintaining perspective.
As much as anyone might be tempted to second-guess what happened here, the reality is that there, but for the grace of God, could go I, or you, or anyone. The forgiveness Trooper Ellsworth’s family offers will be crucial to the healing she needs, as well. Again, God speed to all involved.
Any number of factors may have played a role in this accident: youthful inattention, or other forms of carelessness; inexperience; and so on. Whatever the case, while I have always tried to be responsible (and by no means am I suggesting that this young lady was not), I certainly wouldn’t want my entire life to be defined by anything I did as a sixteen-year-old: that would be a nigh-impossible burden to have to carry throughout the rest of one’s life.
And indeed, as much as we might be tempted to blame youth for such apparent carelessness, who among us (whatever our age) unceasingly has been as vigilant as necessary every single time we have ever gotten behind the wheel? Far more likely, even the most vigilant among us has, at least on occasion, been the beneficiary of the old axiom that sometimes, it’s better to be lucky than it is to be good.
I hope (and if the Deseret News story is any indication, I expect) that this young lady will be embraced by Trooper Ellsworth’s family in the aftermath of this tragedy. Indeed, if (however difficult it may be) it is possible for those left behind to forgive even those who have engaged in much more willful conduct which has resulted in tragedy, certainly, it is possible to forgive those whose unwillful conduct has had such a result.
For just a few of such notable examples, see the following links.
Chris Williams forgave the drunk driver who struck his vehicle and killed his family, writing a book about the experience which later was made into a feature film (full disclosure: I have neither read the book nor seen the film, but both come highly recommended). See the following address: https://www.amazon.com/Let-Go-Story-Tragedy-Forgiveness/dp/1609071271.
Brian Larson forgave the man who murdered his father. See the following address, as well as the link contained in that Blog entry: https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/3113/.
Ann House forgave Addam Swapp, who shot and killed her deceased husband, Utah Department of Corrections Lieutenant (and K-9 handler) Fred House. See the following address: https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/on-the-death-of-lt-fred-house/.
Perhaps nothing is heavier nor harder to carry than is a grudge. In light of such noble examples of forgiveness when willful conduct has resulted in tragedy, we would do well to ponder whether we, too, harbor any lingering resentments we ought to lay down (whether those resentments result from willful conduct, from carelessness, or from some other type of behavior on another’s part).
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May we, however bleak our circumstances may seem, all count our blessings.
Update, May 8, 2017: No Charges Forthcoming — In response to a Deseret News story that no charges will be filed against the young lady involved in Trooper Ellsworth’s death (see here, last accessed May 28, 2017: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865679510/No-charges-to-be-filed-in-UHP-trooper-death.html), I responded:
As a member of a law enforcement family, in no way do I wish to minimize Trooper Ellsworth’s death or its impact on those who mourn his loss. Yes, family, friends, and coworkers face an adjustment, and yes, in some ways, it will be very difficult (I’m sure it has been already). But the fact of the matter is, Trooper Ellsworth is fine: he’s in a better place. Nothing would have been accomplished by subjecting this young lady, a novice driver, to prosecution. In some ways, her healing process will be most difficult of all. Nothing will be gained by compounding that difficulty. Best wishes to all concerned.