Forgiving Your Son's Killer
By Audra Smith Haney
The 700 Club
CBN.com -“That was it. Laramiun was gone,” Mary Johnson said. “I’ll never see him graduate, I’ll never see him married, him have children. It seems unnatural for a parent to have to bury her child.”
On February 12th, 1993 Mary Johnson’s only son Laramiun was killed by four gunshots, during a gang related altercation. With the help of eye witnesses, detectives found a prime suspect two days later.
“I think began hatred set in right then,” Mary said.
During a police investigation, 16 year old Oshea Isreal, confessed to killing Laramiun. After two years of hearing and appeals, he was tried as an adult and convicted of 2nd degree murder. Mary addressed him during her impact statement in court.
“I said, ‘You know what, if my son had taken your life, I would expect him to have to pay the cost,’ Mary said. “And then I ended up telling him that I forgave him. The Word says in order to be forgiven, you must forgive. So I said, ‘Okay, I have to tell him.’ But I wanted him locked up, caged, because he was an animal and that is what he deserved.”
Oshea was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“The grieving process, I think it began for me, after the trial,” Mary said, “wave after wave after wave--the tsunami--of just ‘stuff.’ Hatred. Here I am a Christian woman and I hated this 16 year old boy. And I never ever thought I would be put back together.”
After the trial, Mary went through the motions of life. She visited friends and stayed active in her church. But it would be ten long years before her emotional turmoil would end. In 2004, her pastor asked her to teach a class on forgiveness. As the studied the class book, Mary says she took a hard look at her heart.
“I’m hearing, ‘Mary, you need to repent. You need to repent for all these things that you’ve said about this young man. All these feelings that you’ve had for him,’ And, I’m like [puffs] ‘I have a right to have these feelings.’”
“Then I heard, ‘Mary, pray for him like you pray for yourself,’ I’m praying for him!
‘Okay,’ so I prayed for him like I pray for myself. Then I heard, ‘Every time his name comes up, every time you hear it within yourself, say, ‘I choose to forgive.’ So, I repented and I really believe it was a true repentance. It was for real. It was for real.”
As Mary started to change, so did the person she was praying for.
“I started coming into myself,” Oshea Isreal said. “I started maturing. With maturity, I decided that I wanted to hold myself accountable and be responsible for my actions”
In 2005, Mary took another courageous step toward healing. She contacted the department of corrections and requested a face to face meeting with Oshea.
“I have to make sure I have truly forgiven him, that I don’t have all that hatred,” Mary said.
“I can honestly say that from the moment I walked in the room, the energy level was like, peaceful,” Oshea said.
“We had a conversation; he admitted what he had done. He told me that if he could have communicated that night, things would have been different,” Mary said.
“She asked a lot of questions about myself and my life and it showed that she was interested in getting to know the person,” Oshea said.
“I said ‘Look, I told you in court that I forgave you. But today, from the bottom of my heart I want you to know that I forgive you,’ Mary said. “And he was like, ‘Ma’am how can you do that?’ I said, ‘Because of Who is in me.’”
“I felt like it was a very powerful and moving meeting,” Oshea said. “I felt extremely compelled to ask her, ‘May I give you a hug?’ to show her my genuineness.”
Mary said, “I do remember falling, and he had to hold me. He had to hold me up, until I felt this ‘thing’ leave me. And I instantly knew that all that hatred, the bitterness, the animosity, all that junk I had inside me for 12 years, I knew it was over with. It was done. Instantly, it was gone.”
Mary and Oshea continued to meet and they eventually began speaking in prisons about forgiveness and reconciliation. “The more and more we spoke, the more and more our bond started to grow,” Oshea said. “And, Mary has turned into one of my biggest supporters. She worries about me even when I’m not worried about myself. And that is something a mother does.”
Oshea was released from prison in 2010, and Mary arranged his homecoming party. “I walked in and saw all of these people that I didn’t know, w ho only knew of me because of the pain and the hurt I caused. But I walk in and get hugs. I walk in and get smiles,” Oshea said. “That is another part of the forgiveness, the community forgave me, her friends were able to forgive me.”
Today, Oshea and Mary are next door neighbors. They speak all over the country about the power of forgiveness. “I am so grateful for who I am today in God, that I am not that person that I used to be, full of all that junk,” Mary said.
“Being on the other side of forgiveness is important in my life because it made me free enough to be myself,” Oshea said. “I can really live and enjoy life. I can enjoy people. I can enjoy being home, I can enjoy laughing. Outside of that, I’ve got a huge family now.”
“Unforgiveness is a dangerous thing and I tell you when you allow the Holy Spirit to release you…oh my! What freedom! What freedom there is!” Mary said. “You’ll be amazed at where you’ll be in your life.”
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