Would you have the courage to offer grace and forgiveness to someone who killed your father, or killed your husband? Would I? As a Christian I am told that by grace I am saved, and by offering grace I am a reflection of God’s grace. But could I forgive a man who senselessly killed my dad? I would hope that I would. I have doubts that I could.
I recently read a moving article on ESPN about grace and forgiveness. The Reid and Bellatti families were ripped apart through tragedy, and brought together through grace. Thirteen years ago Andrew Bellatti had been a star pitcher for Steele Canyon High School in San Diego. Bellatti had signed a contract to play pro baseball for the Tampa Bay Rays. One of the first things he did with his signing bonus was to buy a brand-new red Mustang.
Garrett Reid was also a Steele Canyon High School student, but he wasn’t an athlete. He was a drama kid. Andrew and Garrett may have passed each other in hallways a hundred times, but because they ran in different circles they didn’t know each other. On January 22, 2010, that all changed. As San Miguel firefighter Leonard Villareal said: “In the fraction of a second, life changed for two families.”
Bellatti was driving his brand new red Mustang “fast,” headed east down Campo Road, hurrying to get his then-girlfriend to her basketball game, because she was late. A minivan driven by Garrett Reid’s dad, David Reid, was headed west on Campo. Garrett was a passenger. Bellatti’s attempt to avoid a car that pulled out in front of him to make a left-hand turn onto the highway brought him into the lane occupied by the minivan. Bellatti lost control and crashed into the minivan, killing David and severely injuring Garrett. Bellatti escaped with minor injuries.
David’s wife, Lyn, was devastated. They had been happily married for 25 years, and now David was gone. She wondered how she would raise her two children without the love of her life. She processed her grief and pain in a way that shows remarkable grace and dignity. Lyn said she “could never find the right words to explain how she felt; she just knew she needed to forgive Bellatti so she could move forward. Lyn added that she didn’t want to “sleep with rage.”
Bellatti was charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. It carried a potential sentence of multiple years in prison. But Lyn didn’t want that for Bellatti. She resolved to let go of the rage and ask the judge presiding over Bellatti’s case for leniency. The judge listened. Bellatti was sentenced to 240 days in jail, plus five years of probation. He served just 90 days.
While Bellatti was in his cell he wrote a letter to Lyn Reid:
Dear Mrs. Reid, Garrett Reid and Katy Reid,
I’m writing you to tell you how very deeply sorry I am that you are going through all this pain due to my actions. My intentions that day and every other day of my life was not to cause pain to anyone.
I made a horrible mistake, and I’ve learned from this more than anything else in my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t recall that night and cry alone. I can’t stop. I cry myself to sleep. This horrible situation will live with me for the rest of my life.
I’m sorry to Garrett and Katy, because I couldn’t imagine what they are going through, losing their father. I am so very sorry, Garrett and Katy. I’m very sorry to you, Mrs. Reid. You do not deserve this at all, and I can’t imagine how my mom would feel if my dad was gone. It’s so hard to write this letter, but I just thought that you should know how I felt and to say how sorry I truly am.
With the upmost [sic] sincerity,
Lyn kept the letter but never read it. Neither did Garrett. Twelve years passed. Bellatti had ups and downs in the minors, a “cup of coffee” in the majors, but was out of baseball after five years. In 2021 he got another shot in the majors with the Marlins, finally landing with the Phillies in 2022. He pitched “lights out” for the Phillies in the playoffs. That year, Lyn was contacted by a Philadelphia newspaper that published an article about Bellatti and the accident 12 years before. Lyn learned of Bellatti’s long hard march to the majors. She finally read Bellatti’s letter and she decided that she needed to reach out to the man who took her husband from her.
They finally met when Bellatti, his wife, and his young daughter drove to Lyn’s home. It was a gut-wrenching meeting for Bellatti. He apologized for the pain he caused the Reid family. Garrett wasn’t convinced at first, but after he hugged Bellatti and saw the tears rolling down his face and listened to him, Garrett knew that it was time to move on. Time to forgive.
Lyn and Garrett did most of the talking. Bellatti was grateful for their understanding and grace. Lyn said:
“I’m so proud of you because it’s really easy to just lay down and play dead, and it’s really hard to come back around and create a life…You did it. Accidents happen, and the one who would’ve been the most forgiving is Dave. It was just a bad time and a bad day in the wrong place.”
It is easier to understand and accept because Bellatti will never forgive himself. Others did that for him.
Where do people get the strength to forgive the man who killed their husband? Killed their dad? I think if my dad had been killed in an accident he wouldn’t have wanted another life ruined. Happily, I will never know if I would have the courage to forgive.
Something Lyn said is perhaps the best salve.
“Dave had a very generous spirit. Even when I couldn’t explain what I wanted to do to anyone else, it’s what Dave would have wanted. He would have wanted us to move on. He would have wanted us not to throw the book at a dumb kid. He understood that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a second chance.”
Watch the full ESPN report below.