They say ev’rything can be replaced . . .

-Bob Dylan, “I Shall Be Released”

Twenty-five years ago, Rick Abath, a hippie Berklee College of Music dropout, was working the night shift at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Two men dressed as Boston Police officers asked Abath to let them in. When Abath did, they informed Abath that it was a robbery, covered his eyes and mouth in duct tape, and handcuffed him to an electrical box. During the next seven hours, the thieves stole 13 objects from the Museum worth around $500 million. Abath passed the time by singing Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”

Twenty-five years later, none of the 13 objects stolen from the Museum have been recovered. Two of the objects—paintings by Rembrandt, one of which is Storm on the Sea of Galilee—were cut out of the frames and, even if they could be found, could never be restored to their original condition. Because of restrictions in Isabella Stewart Gardner’s will, the objects that were stolen cannot be replaced by other objects. Instead, for the last twenty-five years, empty frames have hung on the wall.

While Abath was released from the electrical box, he remains confined. Even though Abath refused every interview about the heist for twenty-five years, every story about the heist begins with him, and, every time Google is searched for his name, the first result is about the heist. Abath is forever linked with his mistake.

This morning, NPR posted an interview with Abath, the first he has given since the heist. Abath confesses that he is still angry about his unintended connection with the crime:

“I don’t want to be remembered for this alone,” Abath said. “I’d like to be remembered for the good things I’ve done. I’m a husband, a father of two really cool kids. But they’re saying it’s half a billion worth of artwork. And ultimately I’m the one who made the decision to buzz them in. It’s the kind of thing most people don’t have to learn to cope with. It’s like doing penance. It’s always there.”

Abath wants to exercise his right to be forgotten, but he can’t. His mistake is always there. But his reference to penance, even if misguided, at least gives us hope for him.

Abath cannot wash away his own sins. But there is a light that’s shining, from the west unto the east. Any day now, any day now, he shall be released.