Our Opinion: Lessons about love and act of forgiveness

After the earthly remains of John and Celeste Kordana are laid to rest today, their families and their community will be left to deal with their grief and loss, but one issue they will not have to face, at least, is the meaninglessness of it all. The lives of this loving couple — snuffed out in the bloom of their journey together in what appears to be a murder/suicide — may have ended in tragedy, but thanks to the almost unimaginable faith of those who cherish them and their memory, the Kordanas will not have died in vain.

Rare are the moments when human beings rise above the base impulse to seek revenge and retribution when someone dear has been taken from them by another, but such an event has occurred in the Kordanas' case. Amid their loss, Celeste's family, the Wibbys, have demonstrated a level of forgiveness and compassion that should serve as a lesson to everyone (Letter to the editor, Eagle, August 2.) Even though it appears that both John and Celeste died at John's hands, the Wibbys have not ceased to love John unreservedly and unconditionally as one of their own. They have embraced John's family, bearing no animus, as all join together in their sorrow. One funeral service has been planned for both victims.

While we ought to stand in awe of the Wibbys for so selflessly fulfilling one of the central doctrines of their faith — that being to conduct their lives as an example to others — their supreme act of forgiveness also prompts us to re-examine our attitudes toward a problem that continues to perplex our society: mental illness. It appears that John Kordana, a gentle, caring and fun-loving man, was overtaken in the last months of his life by a mental dysfunction that ultimately caused his and his wife's demise. John's mother- and father-in-law, Stella and Robert Wibby, ascribe his affliction not to his character, but to organic and biochemical causes.

That they should do so, rather than blame some kind of moral deficiency or inherent evil in John's makeup, displays an intelligent and enlightened approach toward mental illness that is still struggling to take hold in our society. For whatever reason — be it the strain of Puritanism that survives as part of the American psyche, or maybe the deep-seated fear many of us secretly live with that there is something "not quite right" in us that we attempt to deny and distance ourselves from — mental illness carries a stigma that makes it distinct in our public consciousness from other, more physical ailments. Further complicating matters are concepts of justice, culpability and responsibility for one's actions, all of which exist in opposition to the idea that mental illness is capable of robbing the individual of free will — and yet whose demands must be taken into account in a society ruled by laws.

There are many positive lessons to be derived from this, among them that love can, in fact, surmount seemingly unconquerable obstacles. That the act of forgiveness is a liberating one, capable of lifting the most onerous of burdens. That loss, when viewed through the lens of faith, can be converted into a gift that enriches everyone.

And that illness is illness — unasked for, suffered through and deserving of compassion.


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