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How to Forgive the Person Who Murders Your Sister

This week has a significant anniversary. My sister Becky was murdered 35 years ago this week. My hope in sharing this very personal story is to encourage and inspire forgiveness.

True Story Ahead

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. I think I agree. This is one of the few pictures I have of Becky and I love it. She was full of life, spunk, and humor. She lit up every room she entered. She was light-hearted and smart. I’m sure her love language was gifts because she was always gifting people. She thoroughly enjoyed Christmas. She always brought some funky item from Fredericks of Hollywood as a gag gift to one of my other sisters. They had to open it in front of everyone including our parents. Given I’m much younger than my sisters, I was never the one who had to open her “surprise” gift. I loved watching my sisters turn bright red. I found this whole tradition incredibly fun.

 

Becky hated boxelder bugs, and I don’t blame her. They are disgusting. Sometimes during my freshman year in college, I would stay with her and her husband on weekends. One time while I was there, she saw one boxelder bug crawling on the outside of her patio window. I personally would have left it be, but not Becky. She wanted that red-striped bug gone. She grabbed an oven mitt, wrapped an entire roll of paper towels around her mitt, then charged outside, snuck up on that unsuspecting bug and squished it. I can still see her dancing, screaming, and scrunching her face. I enjoyed her dramatic entertainment. She was hilarious! Note: I didn’t offer to help her because I hate box elder bugs too. She was a lone soldier on that quest, but she was a conqueror.

I wish I could say the same when it came to that November day. Oh, she was a lone soldier, but she didn’t conquer that day. Domestic abuse is real. It starts with verbal and emotional abuse and can escalate into physical abuse before you know it. Far too many people think that abuse is just physical. I disagree. Verbal and emotional abuse is just as damaging and always precede physical abuse. In my sister’s case, her life ended at the hands of her husband. She was 32 years old.

To Forgive or Not to Forgive

Becky’s death has forever changed my life and my family’s life (and by family, I mean my parents and my siblings). We miss her. We miss her a lot. And this week every year, we remember her life and death. There is no way not to remember.

Significant difficult trials in our lives require something significant from us. We have a choice to make. How are we going to deal with them? Both myself and my family chose forgiveness.

Sometimes I’m concerned when people see me, read my writings, or talk to me, they think I’m shallow because I have lots of positivity and joy, and like my sister Becky, light-heartedness. They may think I’ve never endured hardship. They’d be wrong. Today, I stand firm to share, I’ve endured numerous difficult and extremely painful hardships throughout my life. My sister’s death is one of them.

You may be wondering how can someone forgive the person who murdered his/her sister. My answer: only with the help of Jesus.

There’s a supernatural power within followers of Jesus. That power is the Holy Spirit. Through this amazing power of our Lord, we can forgive even the most heinous acts. I know because I have forgiven my brother-in-law and so has the rest of my family.

Here’s what I know, God has used sorrow in my life to produce joy. Forgiveness is a key element to having a joyful life. If we don’t forgive, we become bitter. When bitterness takes root in our soul, it produces an ugly person. I don’t desire to be an ugly person. I want to be what Jesus wants me to be. I know He wants me to be joyful.

Grieving vs Forgiveness

Forgiving my brother-in-law doesn’t mean I didn’t grieve. I did. We all did. Each one of us grieved and each one of us has experienced our own journey to forgiveness. I didn’t realize in the first few hours after my sister’s death that Jesus had already begun helping me forgive.

I look back now and know by my behavior what was happening in my soul. I was knocked down. Tears, sobs, and sadness at the loss of Becky consumed me. I could barely believe it was true.

I lived alone in an apartment in the Twin Cities and the rest of my family lived in South Dakota. It was a lonely evening for me even though my boyfriend (now husband) was with me. There was an emptiness inside of me. A piece of me was gone.

I remember clearly asking my Mom how “he” was doing. She told me he was the one who called the police after it happened. He was arrested. He was suicidal. Do you know what I did? I prayed for him! Who does that? I did. I prayed God would protect him, comfort him, and help him. Even in my own grief, I prayed for the one who murdered my sister. Only Jesus could enable me to do that. I know that now, but I didn’t understand it in those first few hours how incomprehensible that was.

I forgave my brother-in-law that very evening. I can’t explain it other than it was Jesus who helped me forgive. I remember “hearing” a whisper as I lay on a couch. “Michelle, forgive him. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

Years later I saw for the first time in Luke 23:34, as Jesus was hanging on the cross He said similar words to the Heavenly Father. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Michelle Barringer
Michelle Barringer
Michelle is positive, joyful, and passionate about Jesus. She’s a writer and speaker, holds a Master’s degree in Communication, and is a Gallup-certified Strengths Coach. Michelle and her husband of 32 years have three adult children, one daughter-in-law, one grandson, and a soon-to-be son-in-law. You can find her lending her faith, encouraging hearts, and inspiring grit on her blog, Instagram, and Facebook.

12-Year-Old Girl Dies by Suicide After Being Relentlessly Bullied and Harassed at School

After facing relentless bullying and harassment over the past school year, 12-year-old Flora Martinez ended her life on May 7. Now, her parents are demanding change from schools and administrators after the bullying persisted, even once she was gone.

One Year After 26-Year-Old Wife Dies of Cancer, Husband Finds Redeeming Love After Loss With Young Widow

After his wife Maddy died of cancer at just 26 years old, Chandler David Smith was left grieving an unimaginable loss and navigating what it looked like to be a single dad. In his grief, he found new and beautiful love with a young widow and mother of three.

Florida ‘Safe Haven’ Baby Graduates High School, Reunites With Firefighters Who Received Her 18 Years Ago

Eighteen years ago, when she was just one day old, a baby named Colleen was surrendered at a “Safe Haven” box in Clermont, Florida. Now, as she successfully graduates high school, Colleen is reuniting with the firefighters who were with her on that fateful day 18 years ago.