'Letting go of poison': In wake of grief, families offer astonishing acts of forgiveness

Published: Sunday, Sept. 4 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

"If three funerals isn't enough to stop a guy from drinking and driving ...," Ceran said.

Prieto was sentenced to 10 years in prison and will likely be deported for being an illegal immigrant after his time is served.

The Christmas after the accident, Ceran visited Prieto at the state prison in Gunnison. He said the man — who had been depressed, lonely and had made the bad decision to drink and drive that night because his wife was going to leave him and take their young child — had completely changed.

"There was so much light in his eyes," Ceran said. "He was a strong, good person."

Because of Ceran's act of forgiveness, Prieto said he was able to forgive the man who had killed his father many years earlier.

Ceran said the community should not look down on Prieto because he is not an American citizen. "If the temple president had had a heart attack and hit my car, my family would still be dead," he said.

After Williams was involved in his accident, Ceran received a letter from him, which he still keeps today. Although the two had never met, both men understood what the other was going through.

In his letter, Williams apologizes for taking so long to write to Ceran, noting, "I'm sure our wives have already met and no doubt started a great friendship."

In 2010, a moving video filmed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their "Mormon Messages" series was released featuring Williams. In it, Williams talks about his decision to forgive, Cameron White, the then 17-year-old boy who killed his family.

Williams said he "never felt so vulnerable" in his life as he did on the night of the accident.

"I saw her chest go down and her last breath leave her body and I wanted to cry out to her to come back. The next sound I heard was of me wailing and grieving they were gone," Williams said in the video. "Such a huge part of my life was gone."

Williams said his LDS faith and prayer helped him get through the tragedy. He said God listened to him first when he prayed, then let him get his anger out before responding.

"In my heart I didn't know or understand or comprehend how it had happened or the circumstances," he said. "The only thing I remember sensing and feeling was I needed to let this go."

The video also shows an interview with the driver, White, and the first time he met Williams after he had been incarcerated.

"He walked in and he had a big smile on his face, and I had no smile on my face because I'm facing the man I had done this to," White said in the video.

Williams didn't mince words, White's family said. But he also told White to pick a date and from that point on, let go of what had happened and move on.

"There's no way to explain it. It's an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness, of gratefulness, of strength to see him, to see how he's acted in this situation," White said.

Williams said he was thankful for the trials and tragedies in his life, "not because they're easy or they're desired, but because they help us love."

Williams recently released a book, "For Giving Hearts," in which he talks about the accident and how he was able to forgive and heal through his faith.

Letting go of anger

The dictionary defines "forgive" as "to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong), and to "stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake."

But that doesn't mean there isn't a place for anger, Derezotes said.

"Anger is a motivator," he said. "I think anger is there for a reason. Maybe being angry motivates me to protect myself and the people I care about."

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