Sacred | Art by Angela DiGiovanni

Several months ago when a client kept insisting to Mark and I that she sent a check, we chalked it up to the old cliche, a sort of stall tactic. But when she called and said that it had been cashed, we became concerned and had the situation investigated. It turned out someone had stolen our mail and forged our name to deposit the check into his own account.

Because the bigger issue was federal mail fraud, the police decided to prosecute the man who did this. We knew this man, and we were astounded that he would do this. He was nice to us. He was friendly toward us. He had recently suggested we barbecue together. He was our neighbor.

It turns out that he had additional court related situations other than ours, as well.
This is what dual nature looks like. Where your friendly neighbor can become so desperate he is willing to commit mail fraud, forge your signature, and steal from you. This is what desperation can do to a man.

Because he was an immediate neighbor, we had to see this man frequently. We were told we weren’t allowed to talk to him or approach him in any way. It was hard. It was awkward. My heart went out to him. I wasn’t mad at him. I know what desperate looks like. I know what utter despair feels like.

While circumstances were slightly different, as we did not intentionally steal money to use it for our own gain, we have faced our own accusers when after failed investments in the market crash, friends and family lost money… a lot of money, unrecoverable amounts of money, people’s nest eggs, people’s equity. I live with despair over it every single day, even years later now. We live with a bad reputation and assumptions and judgments that may or may not be true about us from people who were very dear friends at one time. From others, we also live with indescribable mercy, that humbles to the core. It’s one of the most brutal and shameful experiences of my life and has left irreparable damage to my soul.

So I didn’t want to approach him to yell at him, or question him. I simply wanted to see how he was doing. I wanted to tell him that we forgave him. I wanted to help make his burden lighter. This all might sound corny, but when you’ve been to the bottom of despair like we have been, the last thing you want is for anyone else to go through it. It is one of God’s ways of teaching us compassion and mercy, I think; our deepest aches in life become our greatest opportunities of service to others.

We had stopped seeing him around, and I started having premonitions of him being dead in his house, that he had killed himself. It was so unlikely to not see him for so many days, so that is where my mind went. It went there because I have felt that level of despair, where you just want to go home from where you came because you can’t take the shame anymore. Life can be so hard, cruel, and complicated, and so I worried for him.

I called the detective in charge and begged him to come to his house to see if he was
alright – that his car had been parked for three days in front of his house, but that we
hadn’t see him come or go. I told him my fear, that perhaps he took his life. It was then the detective told me that his car has been parked and we haven’t seen him come or go because they had booked him in jail. My heart rended for him. For his family. What had we started? What could we have done differently to have remedied this course in a more civil and dignified way? It was too late, and out of our hands as it was the police who were prosecuting him, not us.

He got out on bail and was back home days later. We were still under order not to speak with him. Eventually he got evicted and so our lives weren’t crossing paths anymore, yet we kept ‘running into him’ in different towns on different errands. I asked God why we kept running into him. What were/was we/he supposed to learn? Was I supposed to say anything? What should I say? Tell him you forgive him, let him know how you feel, was the answer I received. But I didn’t do it. I had four opportunities. But all I could think of was the order we were given to not speak to him or approach him in any way. He could be dangerous.

Yesterday was his sentencing.

He never showed up to court.

He was found dead.

As you can imagine, my heart is heavy. I share this story because I hope it has an impact. If we can be merciful to someone, let’s do it. If we can forgive someone, let’s do it. If we can tell someone we forgive them, let’s do it. If we can lighten someone’s burden, let’s do it. Life is hard, precious, and complicated. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt when we can. We don’t know the level of fragility of a human life and soul. Our ‘rightness’ will never be more important than another’s human condition.

Or a child’s dead father.

Or a wife’s dead husband.

Or a parent’s dead son.

May his soul find peace, and may God have mercy on him.

Please pray his family may find peace and comfort.


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