Star Journal, Rhinelander, WI – For many parents, losing a child in a car crash caused by a drunken driver would set up a lifetime of anger and resentment. For Patty Bonack, that was never a thought.
“Even when I learned she (Jenny) was killed by a drunk driver I had a powerful feeling of forgiveness come over me,” Patty said. “I attribute that to the Holy Spirit working in my heart. I don’t think I could have felt that way on my own.”
Jenny was on her way home from work in Madison on Aug. 31, 2009, when her car was T-boned by a car driven by Jesse Ruegsegger. His blood alcohol level was .24. The 29-year-old Ruegsegger eventually received an eight year prison sentence with nine years probation and Patty was glad for that.
“Even though I had forgiven him, I still wanted him to pay for what he did,” she said. “I wanted him to know how much harm he had done to our family.”
Since then, Patty has not only forgiven Ruegsegger, but made him a part of her life. That journey to embrace the man who killed her daughter has resulted in a book, The Man Who Killed My Daughter: A Story of Tragedy and Triumph that was just recently released.
“I wrote a children’s book a long time ago that I never published,” she said. “But this time I felt a strong pull to write this book. I wanted to write about the power of forgiveness and how it has affected my life.”
After reaching out to Ruegsegger’s family, Patty was contacted by a production company that had been commissioned by the military to film an educational video about drinking among military personnel. The film’s producer wanted Patty to be featured along with Jesse Ruegsegger.
“I figured something good was coming from Jenny’s death,” said Patty. “Maybe someone watching this film would think twice about drinking and driving and save someone else the pain we were going through. I think it will make a big impact on soldiers.”
Read the full story: “The power of forgiveness after a tragedy”