The Painful Work of Forgiveness

Saundra and Chancellor Lee Adams

I’d highly recommend that you wait until you have some time alone before reading Thomas Lake’s recent Sports Illustrated piece “The Boy They Couldn’t Kill.” Because trust me, unless you have a heart of stone, you will get emotional while reading Lake’s account of a horrible act of cruelty and a beautiful act of forgiveness.

In 2001, Rae Carruth was a promising wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers. And then he hired men to kill his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, and his unborn son when she refused to get an abortion. Adams barely survived the shooting, and due to her severe blood loss, her son suffered oxygen deprivation.

Sadly, Adams didn’t recover from her wounds — though she lived long enough to provide evidence and statements to police to help convict Carruth. But her son, Chancellor Lee Adams, did. He didn’t survive unscathed though: The oxygen deprivation caused him to be born was cerebral palsy. After his mother’s death, Chancellor Lee was taken in by his grandmother Saundra Adams, who then had to fight Carruth’s lawyers and family for custody.

And despite everything — despite losing her daughter and nearly losing her grandson, despite Carruth’s decided lack of repentance – Saundra Adams has chosen to forgive Rae Carruth. I’d love to quote every other paragraph from Lake’s article, but you really need to read the entire thing. That being said, I’ll quote this portion from the end of the article, when Saundra discusses her feelings toward Carruth:

“I’m not gonna have anything negative to say about him,” she says. “I thank him for my grandson. I thank him for my grandson.”

There is a long silence.

“After what you’ve lost,” you say.

“Like I say,” she says, “you can focus on what you’ve lost or what you have left. So I didn’t lose. I have my grandson. I have my daughter with me in my heart, always. I have her with me through Lee. So I don’t focus on loss. I mean, I think she’s in Heaven, with God, so that’s definitely not a loss. So I’ve got a lot left, and a lot of hope left, and a lot to live for, and to be able to help my grandson to become the wonderful man he’s meant to be. I haven’t lost anything.”

Words like those are simply incredible, even unthinkable. One can only imagine the pain, frustration, anger, and sadness that Saundra experienced during this whole tragic affair. What is also amazing is that Saundra has done what she can to ensure that none of that pain is passed on to her grandson, even as she knows that she has to tell him the truth about his mother and can’t prevent Carruth from seeing him after being released from prison.

In a sidebar, Lake discusses writing the article and his own personal impressions of Saundra and Chancellor Lee.

On the surface, it’s hard to imagine a set of life circumstances much worse than this. Which is why I was so astonished when I saw the boy. It’s my job to put things into words, but I still can’t find the right words to describe him. None of them say it strongly enough. He is the happiest person I’ve ever met. There’s a light inside him that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I’ve talked to several other people about his effect on me, and they say it happened to them too. Wherever he goes — to church, to physical therapy, to the Special Olympics — he makes people feel better by his mere presence. When he looks into your eyes and says hello, the whole thing feels almost spiritual. And then, of course, you have to ask yourself: If a kid like this can be so happy, what right do I have to complain?

How did a brain-damaged infant become a young man of such mesmerizing power? It has something to do with the power of love.

Again, an amazing story that is well worth your time… and tears.

About Jason Morehead

Jason Morehead lives in the lovely state of Nebraska with his wife, three children, zero pets, and a large collection of CDs, DVDs, books, and video games. He's a fan of Arcade Fire and Arvo Pärt, Jackie Chan and Andrei Tarkovsky, "Doctor Who" and "Community," and C.S. Lewis and Haruki Murakami. He's also a web development geek, which pays the bills — and buys new music and movies. Twitter: @jasonopus. Web: http://opus.fm.


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