Parents, cars can be replaced but kids can’t—one father’s story about forgiveness.

Yesterday, an 18-year old girl, her mother, older sister and brother-in-law came to my office. The girl had just rear-ended another vehicle.

When I asked if everyone was okay, they all politely smiled and said yes. But I sensed otherwise.

As an insurance agent, I spelled out the steps to file a claim, then came back to the girl.

I told her it was okay. Everyone makes mistakes and she needed to learn from it and let it go.

Her eyes welled up, she said, “My mom and dad will NEVER let this go.”

She said never through gritted teeth, and I sensed she’d already been given quite a bit over it.

I said, “I want to tell you a story.” 

“On my 26th wedding anniversary, my son came home from his drive to school almost as soon as he’d left. His face showed anguish like yours does now. Behind him I could see his car hood standing up like a tent, his grill and headlights smashed.

For some reason, I felt calm. And I never feel calm. I told him it was okay, we all make mistakes and I was just glad he wasn’t hurt. It was probably one of a handful of things I did right as a parent in his eyes.

He later thanked me for the way I handled that morning. And 58 days later, he was gone.”

My gaze turned to the mother who, until then, had been silently seething. “We can replace cars and houses and boats and ATVs. But we can’t replace people. How this situation today is handled will always be remembered.”

There wasn’t a dry eye. Even macho brother-in-law was sobbing. Mom and daughter embraced.

When someone asks my advice about getting into my business, I tell them what an older, wiser agent told me—it’s a tough job. But there are payoff days that make it worth the ride. Yesterday was such a day.

And parents, cars can be replaced. Children can’t. Learn from it, forgive, and give thanks they live to make other mistakes.

SCOTT SMITH, Jake’s dad

Grief Diaries