Mother Forgives Drunken Driver Who Killed Her Son

timesfreepress.com, Chattanooga, TN – Even before her 25-year-old son died from horrendous auto crash injuries, Tiki Finlayson had already decided to forgive the wrong-way drunken driver who killed him.

That was what she felt like God needed her to do, to make her son’s death mean something. She said forgiving the woman driver was almost an impulse.

“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die,” she said. “Holding anything against her doesn’t change the fact that Kevin isn’t here. I chose to take control.”

Finlayson met Latisa Stephens, the driver who killed Kevin, three days before the woman’s court sentencing. She made Stephens an offer: she would agree to push for a lower sentence if Stephens promised to dedicate part of her life to 1N3, the organization created in Kevin’s honor.

She would have to stand before crowds with Finlayson and say over and over again what she did and why she did it. Finlayson said she wanted to mentor her, to help her get her life in order. Stephens agreed. She promised to help the organization weekly.

“I forgive you,” Finlayson said. “But I want you to understand what you’ve done.” The two held each other for a long time.

Tiki Finlayson; her son, Derek Yates; and her husband, Tom Finlayson, stand in front the crushed van in which Tiki’s other son, Kevin Yates, died after being hit by a drunken driver. Tiki Finlayson uses the van in the program she founded, 1IN3, to raise awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving.

Stephens was sentenced to eight years in prison for vehicular homicide by intoxication and 6 years supervised probation.

Since then, Finlayson says she thinks of all the good that has come from losing Kevin. A man in Memphis got Kevin’s heart. His liver went to save a 72-year-old man. Both his kidneys were used, too.

And 1N3 has provided grief counseling, addiction counseling, and awareness at schools. It is named 1N3 for a sobering statistic: One in three people are affected by drunk driving. The group has taken off and now reaches people across the nation and around the globe.

Read the full story: “The loss of a son sends a family on a journey into the depths of their own hearts.”

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