Sometimes our lives are changed in a moment. This was true of Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène. She decided to attend a concert at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris on November 13, 2015. This was a concert no one would forget as terrorists opened fire in the concert killing 89 innocent people.
I have always loved France and Paris. It’s my mothers native land. I served my mission there. Much of my family still lives there. On my sweet sixteen I walked the streets of the Champs-Elysées. I have lived over two years of my life in that country. To use the verb love doesn’t quite do justice for my sentiments of that place.
I was horrified over the attacks as many others. It was interesting to see peoples reactions. Forever in my mind will be the actions of Hélène’s husband Antoine Leiris. Three days after his wife’s death he composed a letter to his wifes’s killers. I find great comfort, strength and wisdom in his words.
“On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional being, the love of my life, the mother of my son, but you will not have my hatred. He went on to say, “You’re asking for it, but responding with hatred and anger is falling victim to the ignorance that has made you who you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security? – you lost…We are only two, my son and I, but we are more powerful than all the world’s armies… every day of his life this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom … Because you don’t have his hatred either.”
– ANTOINE LEIRIS
I love the strength, passion and love that is read through out the letter. I hear the encouraging echos of forgiveness. I hear a greater Teacher using a grief stricken father, husband and friend to teach us how to react to cruel acts of hatred.
When people acclaimed Antoine as a hero, I loved his response. “I am not, who knows if tomorrow all this will change and I look at people untrustingly or I’ll feel hatred but I wrote this to stop me remind me. What’s happened happened. We will be sad- for the rest of our lives.”
I think it profound to write down a reflection of how you always hope to act. Is there something that pausing and evaluating a situation that allows us to see an experience for what it truly is? Can we “be still” in extreme grief for significant reflection? Perhaps when we deny the natural man immediate reaction and thoughtfully contemplate how we can choose to react we have greater clarity and control. The Spirit can whisper gently possible outcomes that may not come if we are otherwise consumed. I am touched by Antoine’s example as many others were too and I hope I can apply it.
Many reached out to him and his son with sympathy and kindness. Antoine exclaims “Some of the letters I received were beautiful. They made me understand I was not alone – it is important to know that deeply. One said: ‘I want to respond to blind hate with blind love.’” Another, signed simply, “Philippe”, startled him with its post-script: “You are the one who was hurt and yet it is you who gives us courage.”
Perhaps we are a reminded of a greater Example. One who was acquainted with ultimate grief and sorrow and who reaches out in compassion to lift all those who suffer seriously. Perhaps the reason so many of us are in awe is because it reminds us of One who always acted with grace, reflection, patience and courage.
This next part I quote right from the article. “There are two support groups for those affected by the terrorist attacks: “Life for Paris” and “13/11/15 Fraternity and Truth”. Antoine belongs to neither. His default position used to be that he did not want to meet anyone who had suffered comparably. But he recently twisted his own arm into taking part in a French documentary and found it a revelation: “Sometimes, you have to go beyond yourself because you don’t know everything, you have to be humble. I learned that this was not a mosaic of stories, it was one story. Whether you lost a friend, a son, a love, a leg – or just innocence – it is the same story and it is about absence. Those people will not come back and you have to live with it, live with the loss.”
I hope you have enjoyed this mans story. My sister was the first to tell me it. At the music awards of that year one man discussed it. When I heard this story I was compelled to know more. I used it in my gospel doctrine class and I am glad to be reminded of human courage. I think it is part of what the enabling power of the atonement can do.
Since then Antoine has written a book about his experience. Here is the review on Amazon. I have not read it yet but look forward to one day.
Here is the overview on Amazon.
“[Antoine] Leiris tells the full story of his grief and struggle. You Will Not Have My Hate is a remarkable, heartbreaking, and, indeed, beautiful memoir of how he and his baby son, Melvil, endured in the days and weeks after Hélène’s murder. With absolute emotional courage and openness, he somehow finds a way to answer that impossible question: how can I go on? He visits Hélène’s body at the morgue, has to tell Melvil that Mommy will not be coming home, and buries the woman he had planned to spend the rest of his life with.
Leiris’s grief is terrible, but his love for his family is indomitable. This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor and a universal message of hope and resilience. Leiris confronts an incomprehensible pain with a humbling generosity and grandeur of spirit. He is a guiding star for us all in these perilous times. His message—hate will be vanquished by love—is eternal.”
Let me know if you have read it and what you think.
Here is a website where I got the most of the quotes.
When interviewed recently by Kate Kellaway of the Guardian Weekly about his new book, You Will Not Have My Hate, Leiris said, “When you are plunged into shadow you have to find some light in yourself. It is an instinct.”
I just loved this thought and didn’t know where to use it… but I thought here worked…