I was born July 24th, 1948 in a small Southwestern Michigan town. I am a high school graduate and have an associate’s degree in an applied science. I am a disabled American veteran, retired government worker and published author. Both of my parents are deceased and I have one sister that’s living. What I am going to tell you are the life and death events in my life that led up to my passion for sharing how powerful the action of forgiveness is. At the age of five in 1954--I was at a summer swimming class at a public beach near the town where I lived. I decided to jump off the diving platform at the edge of the beach just like the big boys were doing. The problem was--I couldn’t swim. I immediately sank like a rock straight down into thirty feet of lake water off one side of the platform. I started swallowing water as I clawed my way back up to the surface but couldn’t reach the platforms ladder. At this time I was too weak to do anything and sank down into the water for the last time. As I sank I watched the surface of the water getting farther and farther away. I saw the last of the air in my lungs bubbling up above me. Everything went from light, to gray, to black silence. I closed my eyes for the last time. Since time stopped at that point I had no idea how long I was down there in the water. I want to interject here that I did talk with the lifeguard at my father’s funeral in 1985. After I thanked him for saving my life I asked him what I was like when he pulled me from the water. He said I wasn’t moving or breathing and that I had turned purple. What happened next to me in that thirty feet of water was definitely spiritual. I know people would probably argue with me on this one but no matter if you believe in him or not I know God met me down there. No, not angels or demons or spirit guides—but god in his spiritual form. I have never felt so much love and joy and peace as I did then in all the years I have been in this world. I didn’t want to leave his presence. But, I believe God had other plans for me and gave me back my life. All of a sudden I gasped, my eyes flew open and I started coughing up lake water. I had a migraine-like headache because of the lack of oxygen to my brain, and I was so weak I couldn’t get up from the face down position I was in. The life guard who obviously resuscitated me—carried me into shallow water and sat me down in it. A wise decision, otherwise I probably would have been terrified of it today. I immediately buried the trauma from that incident deep inside my mind. Later I found out that the city had closed that beach because someone else had drowned in the same spot I did—that person didn’t survive. Life went along somewhat normally until I was ten years old. I was riding to school one day in 1959 on my bike and was turning into the school’s driveway when I was hit by a 4200 pound car going fifty miles per hour in a twenty-five miles per hour school zone. After he had hit me the driver skid his car 110 feet beyond where he hit me. That’s how the police estimated how fast he was going. The impact threw me and what was left of my bike twenty to thirty feet across the school’s gravel driveway. My left shoe was torn off and my left pants leg was shredded and shoved up to my left hip. The skin on my left leg was torn and bloody and dirt and gravel ground into it. When I was hit all I remember was seeing a flash of chrome and that’s all until I came to all tangled up in what was left of my bike. I thought about it later and I guess my ten-year-old mind couldn’t comprehend what was going on because everything happened so fast. It must have been so traumatized (I did not hit my head on anything nor was it injured at that time) that it shut down and I became unconscious. That was a miracle in itself because if I hadn’t I could have frozen up and had all kinds of bone fractures. The police did not ticket the driver because according to him, I didn’t hand signal that I was going to turn. Between the ages of ten and eleven I was molested by a teenage boy. I immediately buried the trauma from that incident in my mind. Also, I didn’t dare tell my parents, especially my father. I knew—because of the strained relationship I had with him, he would have ostracized me in some way. Even my sister doesn’t know what happened to this day. Later after I graduated from high school in 1967—my draft number came up. Instead of being drafted into the army I enlisted in the air force and ended up in South East Asia on an air base. One day in 1968 I was assigned guard duty near the end of the runway at one of its entrances. A fully loaded air-to-air refueling plane took off with its nose landing gear on fire. At the end of the runway nearby to where I was, its left wing dipped and hit the concrete landing light supports. As a result all 94,000 gallons of jet fuel exploded in a huge fireball, instantly killing all but one of the crew members who died a few hours later. I was a little over a block away from the explosion. It was a miracle I lived through that one with all the pieces of plane flying around. Again I buried the trauma. On the same base a big fire came too close to the Charlie (guard tower) I was in. They ordered me to stay in the tower. I wanted to run—but I didn’t, I obeyed and stayed. All this time five-ton tractor trucks were pulling fully loaded trailers with bomb racks full of five hundred pound bombs quickly away from the area where the fire was—they didn’t have any air brakes connected up to the trailers because they had no time to hook them up. Some of the bomb racks almost tipped off the trailers they were on. I was also exposed to herbicides and got PTSD as a result of being stationed on this base resulting in more trauma. In 1969 I received a blunt force blow to the right side of my head by another serviceman—all over a mistaken identity on his part. As a result I suffered and still suffer from TBI or traumatic brain injury as a result of that one instance in time. In 1971 I left the air force and got a job at a printing plant. Later in 2001 I had two heart attacks back to back with blood pressures of 370/280. The ER doctor said it was a miracle that I didn’t blow out some blood vessels in my head. The hospital should have kept me after the first attack but they didn’t. They just sent me home with some kind of blood pressure medication. After the second one they did and discovered blockage in my heart. My family MD said they should have discovered the problem with the MRI they gave me in February of that same year (my heart attacks were in November) and apologized that they didn’t catch it in time. In Summary: I could have held a grudge against the lifeguard and not forgiven him even though he had saved my life, because of the time he took just to get to me out of the water. I could have had a grudge against the driver who hit me on my bike and not forgiven him. I could have not forgiven the teenage boy who molested me or the government for putting me in the situations I was in or the hospital and doctors for not being more responsible—or the serviceman who hit me over the head. But I eventually did. What all of these people and organizations did to me or didn’t do was wrong and hurtful in various ways. I had a right to be angry at them for what they did to me. What I didn’t have was the right to stay that way, because the anger and the stress from it would have eventually destroyed me. When I forgave them it broke the cycle of evil that held me prisoner in my own mind and started the healing process for me. A process that is ongoing because I have had to get professional help to work through the trauma. The hurtful memories will come and go and yes they will be as bothersome as walking with a pebble in my shoe—but that doesn’t bother me that much, because I am learning to walk regardless of the pebble. Because you see, the forgiveness was not so much for them as it was for me.