Recently I had the unanticipated honor of being seated at a table with a great lady named Thelma Soares and her son Paul. Thelma is the mother of Lori Hacking, whose life was taken in 2004 by her husband Mark Hacking in a very public murder, investigation and trial. Although I was interested, I had no intention of asking Thelma about the story, or how she was doing; Somehow it came up anyway. Thelma did not hesitate on this topic. She told me the tragic story in some detail, along with her feelings about the loss of her only daughter. There was no bitterness in her voice. Paul sat quietly by and supported his mother. She told me about her daughter without pain or anguish in her face. She told me that she has frankly forgiven Mark for what he did. She told me that she even corresponds with him occasionally, and is very close to his wonderful family. I asked her how she could accomplish such a difficult feat. She looked straight into me with her piercing blue eyes and testified that by the gift of God's help she was able to forgive. She referred to a talk by James E. Faust about forgiveness that was given a short time after the tragedy. She quoted him with conviction as talking about having anguish but not anger, and hurt but not hate. She told me about three scriptures that have been her lifeline. (1) ”All flesh is in my hand; be still and know that I am God,” (2) Helaman 5:12 in which she inserted her name for “my sons” and (3)” . . . my peace I leave with you; not as the world giveth give I unto you; let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
She told me that although her heart is still broken, she is not troubled nor afraid. She told me, "I don't think you ever 'get over' the tragic loss of a child." She talked about how forgiveness has been a gift from God to her, and has made her life peaceful despite hardship.
Thelma is a strong woman. I could see it in her eyes. She told me about the letters and support that had come pouring in from all over the world after Lori's murder. She described money sent to her in all amounts and forms. She described a child who had made a personal sacrifice to send her a crumpled dollar bill and a dime. She told me many such stories. She decided to set up a scholarship at the University of Utah in Lori's name. Lori had graduated from the U of U just a year or two before her death. Because of the high profile of the case, Thelma was able to gain the support of many famous names to help spread her cause. The scholarship was set up and designed to lend aid to someone who had experienced hardship in their life. Thelma has the great privilege to help choose the scholarship recipient each year.
I was impressed with the passion with which she spoke, and the conviction and absence of sorrow and mourning in her eyes. Somehow she has been able to heal. Somehow she has let go of a bitter and tragic past and was looking forward. I found myself wanting the peace that she has.
I have things in my past that still bring me pain and tears. I have been unable to fully forgive some wrongs done to me. I was struck with amazement at this great lady who has been more wronged than I have ever dreamed of being, and whose life has been more altered by someone else's horrific actions than mine will probably ever be, and yet there she sat - calm, peaceful, eyes clear and full of what...love. They were full of love.
I reluctantly left her presence with a feeling of humility and the desire to forgive the pettiness of my heart that was holding me back.
Especially at this special time of the year, may we all invoke the healing power that comes as we follow the example and counsel of the Savior of the world "to forgive all men".