A few years ago, I was looking for an inspirational speaker for a business event. My wife suggested Wilma Derksen. She told me that Wilma’s daughter Candace had been murdered in 1984 and Wilma had a powerful story to share about dealing with terrible loss through forgiveness. I met Wilma and she subsequently did the talk. She was inspiring.
I have since spoken with Wilma many times, watched her TEDx talk, read her book on forgiveness, The Way of Letting Go, and read the chapter about her in Malcom Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath. But most importantly, I have watched Wilma and her husband Cliff navigate life with grace. Their example is inspirational to me and has changed my outlook on the world. The most recent and perhaps most powerful example they have provided was their reaction to the release of the man accused of killing Candace after he was found not guilty in October 2017 following a re-trial. They have made no secret of the fact that they think he is guilty, yet they have chosen to move on. They have made public their desire for the process to end; they have expressed the hope that the accused offender would take this as a second chance, whether he committed the crime or not; and they have chosen to focus on what is good and right in their lives instead of on what is dark. They have done all of this while also reminding us all that Candace was murdered and expressing their hope that her legacy would live on.
Candace’s legacy does live on in so many ways. For me, her legacy is the forgiveness I have in my heart where there was so little before. These last few years I have learned to forgive easily based on the Derksens’ example. Nothing anyone has ever done to me even remotely approaches what was done to the Derksen family. If good can come from the Derksens’ experience, then I can certainly make good from anything in my life. I am a better husband, father, leader, friend, son, brother, and person than I ever would have been without knowing the Derksens’ story. Others I know have found similar power in knowing about Candace, and generations more will feel her legacy in the example of kindness and forgiveness set by those of us who were inspired directly to change our outlook.
Candace’s legacy does live on.
If you too would like to help keep Candace’s legacy alive please consider one of the following: