The Associated Press reported that 16-year-old Caleb Gordley of Sterling, Va. was fatally shot early Sunday morning when he mistakenly entered a neighbor’s home through an open back window. Shawn and Jennea Gordley, his parents, said they forgive their neighbor who lived two doors down in a home with a similar backyard and window.
The Gordleys said Caleb had been grounded but sneaked out of the house Saturday night to go drinking with some friends. After about two hours, he returned early Sunday morning and mistakenly climbed through a back window of the wrong house, which looks very similar to his own.
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office reported that the homeowner called 911 to report an intruder that he had confronted and fatally shot.
It is believed that the shooting was an accident, and investigators have no reason to believe that Caleb entered the home with any intent to commit a crime. Sheriff Chapman indicated that the teenager’s presence in the home was itself a crime, however. The case is still under investigation.
Shawn Gordley acknowledged that at first, he was angry and wanted answers to questions about his son's death.
"But the more I looked for answers, the more it hurt," He said. "All the answers in the world are not going to bring him back."
"I don't even blame the gentleman," Jennea Gordley said. "I don't know what I would have done."
"I just want you to know I forgive you. I understand this was an accident," the teen's mother told reporters.
On Tuesday, the Gordleys recalled the harrowing circumstances of Caleb's birth, when complications threatened the life of both mother and baby. They focused on the time they had with their son, rather than the time they have lost.
"We got 16½ awesome years out of this young man," Shawn Gordley said. "We could have had none."
The unfortunate circumstances surrounding the Gordleys occurred about two weeks before Easter or Resurrection Sunday, another event that demonstrated the power of forgiveness. Jesus Christ, of course, provides the quintessential example of forgiveness. As he is dying on the cross, having been brutalized and humiliated beyond any atrocious behavior ever inflicted upon any mortal, Jesus Christ speaks these unforgettable last words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What does it mean to forgive?
To forgive means: to send away, dismiss, set free; to acquit by a verdict; to give no punishment to the guilty person and to view the guilty person as if he is innocent. Another definition means to let loose or set at liberty (a debtor). Someone has said, “I forgive when I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me.”
Simply put, to forgive is to love, and to love is to forgive. Literally to forgive means to “give for.” You give to those who choose not to give. This anonymous poem expresses a profound truth about love and giving:
Love ever lives, outlives forgives,
And while it stands with open hands it lives,
For this is love’s prerogative:
To give and give and give.
You actually could keep adding “and give” to last line ad infinitum. For such love expresses endless giving.
Shawn and Jennea Gordley demonstrated such love when they said that they did not blame the neighbor who mistakenly killed their son but instead they chose to forgive.
Click here to read a related article: Forgive?: What do you mean?