But what about this matter of moving on, and the healing and forgiveness it implies? There's a lot of grand-sounding mumbo jumbo in circulation, but I've never read book or seen a talk show that can explain the mystery of a person making a conscious decision not to be defined by a Bad Thing, and simply living life from that point on, day-by-day. Then the Bad Thing becomes just a part of a life, and when we look around at other people we discover that most of them have experienced bad things too, and have made similar decisions. Survival is the rule, not the exception, and I can't understand the "why" of it any more than I can understand why a cut heals over.
The idea of forgiveness is a greater mystery still — one I'll spend the rest of my life attempting to unravel. As it happens, I've got a helper in this endeavor, a strange sort of sidekick. His name is Wayne Lo and he's the man who murdered my son.
Wayne writes to me a few times a year, usually with a small check, which I deposit in the Galen Gibson Scholarship Trust. He earns the money by selling his artwork on the internet. This made the news for a moment in the spring of 2007 when a zealous fellow down in Houston realized that murderers were cashing in on their crimes. He coined the term "murderabilia" and decided to put an end to this practice.
Media people contacted me for an opinion, expecting some juicy murdered-son outrage. I opined that donating money to a scholarship fund in Galen's name was one of the ways that Wayne Lo, locked in prison for the rest of his life, could try to atone for what he'd done. Society, I told them, has been very efficient about punishment, but backward about reconciliation and rehabilitation. This was not the answer they wanted to hear, so it didn't make the news...
...There are endless branches on this journey, and no two people's experiences are ever the same. I hear a lot about what I "ought" to be doing and feeling and, as was the case with the "murderabilia" issue, I am often confronted by people who expect me to feel a certain way when, in fact, I do not feel that way at all.
Much of the time, I realize that what I'm really dealing with are people's own fears or their overwhelming desire to normalize what for them must be an unthinkable situation. What is there to do but try to be honest with them, and keep on moving? If I've learned anything since Galen's death, it is simply to follow my heart, regardless of the expectations that surround me.
That, as much as anything else, is what this book is about.
From Gone Boy by Gregory Gibson. Published by North Atlantic Books,
copyright 2011 by Gregory Gibson. Reprinted by permission of publisher.