BY RYAN WELLICOME
Katy Hutchison’s was a road less travelled. This is but a portion of the point she made in her presentation at Burman University last Sunday.
“In this life, stuff is going to happen to all of us and thankfully, most often, that means wonderful stuff but, unfortunately, sometimes that means bad stuff. When something bad happens, quite often, a mess gets left behind but I believe that because we share this beautiful earth with one another – by living in community – that we have a moral responsibility when we come across a mess to do everything we can to clean it up – roll up our sleeves and get busy,” said Hutchison.
“Sometimes in the process of cleaning up the mess we are going to look up and we are going to realize we are standing right beside the person that caused it. It is in that precise moment that there exists an extraordinary amount of power and possibility.”
She spoke to a full house of about 250 in the Administration Building Auditorium. The lecture was part of Burman University’s Herr Lectures series. The series features a list of speakers whose stories and insight regard the humanities and are placed within a modern context. The series is named after retired professors Dr. Denise Herr and Dr. Larry Herr.
Hutchison’s story is one of loss and justice and how forgiveness affected her experience with those concepts. A story she tells in her book Walking After Midnight: One Woman’s Journey Through Murder, Justice and Forgiveness; a book that The Dalai Lama gave a solid review to.
Her story began with her husband, Bob. Bob and Katy had a young family together while living in the town of Squamish, B.C. He had a group of close-knit friends who would stop the earth’s rotation just for him and he was well-liked by many.
On New Year’s Eve of 1997, while attempting to shut down a party being held by a neighbour’s son, Bob was severely beaten by Ryan Aldridge, a boy who had attended the party.
That same night, Katy stood by her husband’s side as paramedics, nurses and doctors attempted to resuscitate him. But it was to no avail. Bob died that night.
“I’ll never forget standing in the emergency room,” she said. “I knew as I stood there that somehow I was going to have to find a way to live with whatever just happened, and more importantly I was going to have to find a way to move forward with my life in a positive way.”
The story of Bob’s death was national news. It was printed in every large publication and told on every news broadcast around the country. After four years of silence, Aldridge was arrested by police during an undercover investigation. Eighteen hours later, Katy was meeting him face-to-face.
“What I have come to understand about trauma is that the only way to the other side is through. You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t avoid it. You’ve got to go through it,” she said. “The only way I knew to get to that other side was to understand how this could have ever happened.
“I needed to understand what on earth was going on in his life to put him in a place where he was capable of taking Bob’s life. I needed him to know what this has been like for me and my children.”
Katy said she felt like she was going to meet a monster, not a human being who was someone’s son, brother or friend.
When she met Aldridge, he was uncontrollably sobbing. Her first instinct, she said, was to embrace him. She asked him to plead guilty to his crime to spare her family and his the pain of going through a trial.
“I promised him, if he would plead guilty, that I would be there and I would stand behind him,” she said. “I would support him 110 per cent.”
Aldridge did plead guilty and spent five years in a medium security prison in the Fraser Valley. Katy kept her promise.
She looked into how the justice system would help rehabilitate Aldridge. She got to know the system well. It wasn’t to her liking. She became familiar with the concept of restorative justice.
“The idea behind restorative justice is we ask a completely different<span class="Apple-converted-s