by Ken Gardner

He killed their son. After work one evening, he “drunk himself into a stupor”—his blood alcohol content was .28 percent, nearly three times over the legal limit. He then tried to drive. His car veered across the centerline and hit another car head-on. He killed Ted Morris, an 18-year-old college kid returning home from a summer job. There was no way Ted could have avoided the accident. He died a few hours later, on Christmas Eve, 1982, not long after his parents arrived at the hospital.

Of course, as you might expect, the drunk, the killer, Tommy Pigage, only had a cut on his forehead and remembered nothing of the accident. He was sorrowful, at least at first. When told that he had killed someone, he buried his head in his mother’s lap and sobbed, “Why couldn’t it have been me?” But when he went to trial, he pleaded not guilty.

Ted’s parents, Frank and Elizabeth Morris, were beside themselves with grief and anger. “If I ever see Tommy Pigage on the sidewalk, I’ll run over him with my car,” Elizabeth told her husband. “That won’t solve anything,” Frank replied. Frank hoped that Tommy would be tried, found guilty, and executed. The thought of Pigage in the electric chair pleased Elizabeth. “I’d gladly throw the switch myself,” she said solemnly.

The grief was over-whelming for Frank and Elizabeth. Elizabeth almost committed suicide. She put a loaded .22 pistol to her head but let it fall away and wept with shame. Tommy, on the other hand, after staying sober for two weeks, returned to drinking.

To make matters worse, the court case dragged on for nearly two years. Finally Tommy was given a suspended 10-year sentence, but he had to meet certain conditions, such as spending every other weekend in jail and talking to young people about what he had done.

He first spoke to the high school Ted had attended, accepting responsibility for what he had done and admitting that he was to blame. Elizabeth was there, and she could see that Tommy was genuinely penitent. She went up to speak to him afterwards and was shocked to smell liquor on his breath. When she confronted him again the next day, he had also been drinking. But Elizabeth began to see that Tommy was drinking because he was so ashamed of what he’d done. He, too, could see that she was genuinely concerned about him, and he agreed to study the Bible with Frank.

Not long afterward, Tommy was jailed for drinking. No one came to visit him. No one but Elizabeth. In time, because of Tommy’s penitent attitude, Elizabeth forgave him. But Frank didn’t. He was too angry.

But then one night, when Frank and Elizabeth were driving Tommy back to jail after one of his speaking engagements, Tommy asked to be baptized. Frank stopped at the Little River Church of Christ, where he and Elizabeth were members, and Frank baptized Tommy. Emerging from the water, Tommy put his arms around Frank and begged his forgiveness. “Yes,” said Frank tearfully, “I forgive you.”

Tommy now fills his time speaking to young people and going to Bible studies and worship services. He’s training to be a supervisor where he works. He calls Elizabeth daily and visits often.

As for Frank and Elizabeth—why did they do it? Why did they forgive their son’s killer? Because they’re Christians. And that’s what Christians do. Elizabeth told Tommy, “You know that when someone asks forgiveness it must be given.”

And she was 100% correct. It was our Lord Himself Who said, in the Sermon on the Mount, “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15).

When someone asks you to forgive them, you must forgive them.
If you don’t forgive them…then God’s not going to forgive you.