Forgiveness was something Elane Crosby was able to muster from her hospital bed after surviving a kidnapping, threats of rape and several stab wounds, including a slashed throat and punctured lung.
For her youngest daughter, Carissa “CC” Miller, forgiveness took a couple of decades as she rambled through tumultuous teen years and eventually was inspired to write a young adult fiction book.
Miller and her husband, Mike, own a Tulsa lifestyle company called CC and Mike, with a popular website and social media featuring photos, tips and blogs on topics such as home projects and parenting perspectives. It’s hip, it’s original, it’s cool.
Then, it got serious on Sept. 16, when Miller wrote a blog titled “An Open Letter to the Man Who Tried to Kill My Mom — 9/16/90.” Three words sum up the theme: “I forgive you.”
Forgiveness is an easy virtue to speak of, but it’s one of the hardest to put into practice.
“If you don’t forgive, you are in a prison of your own, and the person who hurt you has power over you,” Miller said. “You are meant to be free of that, and freedom is found in the forgiveness.
“As long as you don’t give it, it’s really you who is suffering. It takes courage to forgive.”
Mother and daughter spoke one afternoon with me about their forgiveness journeys. They did so hoping that others can find hope and seek peace in struggles they are facing.
“We have a happy ending, and that’s because we choose forgiveness,” Miller said.
‘This was it’: The Crosbys lived in McAlester, a minister’s family of three daughters. Elane went to get eggs and milk on a Sunday evening when her husband was out of town for a revival.
“What you learn is you have your life before that date and your life after that date,” Crosby said.
She noticed two men in a car watching people enter the store but didn’t think much of it. She got back into her van and was driving home when one of the men popped up from the back seat.
“I have flashes at this point. It all happened so fast,” Crosby said. “The next memory I have is taking my van into a side street into a ditch, and this man was trying to control me with a hunting knife at my throat.”
The man had already stabbed into her lung; he was cursing and telling her he’d sexually assault her with his buddy. She fought.
The man cut her throat, missing the jugular vein by half an inch. She was in and out of consciousness but threw herself out of the vehicle to hide in a wooded area.
“The angels got me on my feet and onto the road. Once I got to the ditch, that was it. I couldn’t move anymore,” Crosby said. “There was a realization that unless God was going to bring me somebody, this was it.”
Someone who lived nearby found her. She was only four blocks from home.
“The forgiveness journey for me started in the hospital,” Crosby said. “It starts with a decision. That’s your beginning place. It’s a choice.”
For Crosby, her faith was a guide as she recalled a vision of Jesus Christ on a cross with her and the attacker looking on.
“Then, it was taking it one day at a time,” Crosby said. “I was called to prison ministry.”
Crosby and her husband spent three years offering a chapel service at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester.
After moving to Tulsa, she got involved with Stand in the Gap Ministries mentoring incarcerated women. She is moved to tears when talking about sharing her story with them.
“My attacker was somebody I didn’t know. But these women have had these terrible, terrible experiences with people they should have been able to trust and who should have protected them,” she said. “It was so humbling.”
The attacker was never apprehended. That makes it harder to forgive — when you can’t face the offender.
But Crosby says people can find inner peace without confrontation.
“It ceases to have power over you. It’s no longer a part of your life,” she said. “It’s been the core and all the time comes back. Then, you’ll go days and not think of it.”
Trauma in the family: That night, 10-year-old Miller knew it wasn’t right. She remembers telling her teenage sisters they ought to look for their mother.
After that, she recalls feelings of isolation and unease — not knowing if her mom would live, seeing her 6-foot-4 father sob and knowing a bad man was still on the loose. Even when her mom came home, she cried alone in her bedroom at night.
“I was a child, but I knew she was traumatized physically and emotionally,” Miller said. “I didn’t have the maturity to deal with things, and I just wanted to fix it. I saw her struggling, and I didn’t want to burden her.
“I was a victim of him, too, in a way. Our family was a victim. That’s the way I look at it. I was traumatized.”
About age 13, she started being rebellious, sometimes lashing out at her mother. She didn’t want to hear her mom speak about forgiveness or peace. She didn’t want to talk about the attack at all.
“I was angry,” Miller said. “Part of my healing was running from it.”
Eventually, Miller told her parents she needed to leave McAlester. They listened and had her live with an aunt.
“I could have ended up in prison. A girl I hung out with at that age has,” Miller said. “But I came to a crossroads and said ‘Get me out of here.’ I feel for kids who can’t say that.”
Life changed drastically then. She went to Union High School, where she met her future husband. They attended Oklahoma State University, returned to Tulsa, had three children and built a thriving business.
“From the outside looking in, a kid would think I had it all,” Miller said. “I want them to know even if you are headed down that wrong road, you can turn it around. It’s not too late.”
Therapeutic project: It was a fall day when Miller’s son was getting off the bus and something triggered a reaction. He was 10, had a bad day and clearly needed his mom.
“Becoming a mother and my children becoming the age I was (at the time of the attack) made me go on my forgiveness journey,” Miller said. “I realized I had not worked it through. It’s different to talk about it at this age. As an adult, I saw my son and felt anger and the power (the attacker) had over me.”
She started writing that day. What came out was a fictional story about an adolescent girl dealing with an unsolved crime. She finished it in two months.
Her family encouraged her to polish it into a finished product. She worked another 1½ years in editing and self-published “Magnetic,” available on her website and Amazon.
“I found forgiveness is through writing,” Miller said. “It was therapeutic. The whole entire thing for me was finding my journey. Part of that forgiveness journey was writing this book. In writing it, I’m saying, ‘I’m at peace with my journey. I forgive you. I know you meant this for harm, but it turned into something beautiful. I’m happy the way my life worked out.’”
The mother and daughter don’t mention a desire to reopen the case. Officials years ago said the attacker likely had been incarcerated or left the state.
Miller said if he were to be caught, all she would say to him is “I’ve forgiven you.”
“He doesn’t hold power over us,” she said.