I wrote about the night that changed my life in "My personal Chaos" chapter 14 and "The Epiphany in the Crane" chapter 15.
By keeping two simple keys I have been on a long and exciting Journey. Two simple keys!!!
November 2, 1986 was the night that changed my life and I will never forget it. I share with you from my book, The Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing. That night I felt like a miracle had taken place.
What do you think?
My Personal Chaos
Why did our family, a good family, have to go through the suffering and the pain, especially my father who still has scars that will never go away? Why, Why?
Then I thought about someone with many more problems than I had. I thought about Paula Cooper. I pictured Paula on her bed, slunk against the wall of her death row cell. I pictured her looking upward, to no place in particular. Tears were coming out of her eyes. She was saying, "What have I done, what have I done?"
She had ruined her life. For what?
I pictured Paula being very much alone. I knew her parents had not come to her sentencing hearing and doubted if they were supporting her now.
My mind flashed back to the day of the sentencing hearing when Paula was condemned to die. I thought about her grandfather being kicked out of the courtroom for wailing, "They’re going to kill my baby; they’re going to kill my baby."
I recalled seeing him led past me on his way out of the courtroom, with tears streaming down his cheeks.
Then I recalled Paula in the courtroom being led off to death row. Tears were streaming out of her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. And I remembered seeing Paula wearing a light blue prison that had dark blue blotches on because of her tears.
The Epiphany in the Crane
I knew that Nana would not have wanted the grandfather who wept, "They’re going to kill my baby!" to suffer through having his granddaughter strapped into the electric chair and electricity running through her until she was dead. I didn’t think Nana would want Paula killed for killing her—Nana had let Paula into her in the house to talk about Jesus.
I began to think about Nana’s faith in Jesus, and I immediately thought of three things that Jesus had said about forgiveness. The first was His words from the Sermon on the Mount. If you want your Father in heaven to forgive you, you must forgive others.
Then I thought about Jesus talking to the disciples and Peter asking Him about the number of times that we should forgive someone. Jesus answered, "Seventy times seven."
I knew that Jesus was not telling Peter that we should forgive four hundred and ninety times and then cease to forgive, but that Jesus was telling us that forgiveness should be a way of life.
And as I sat in the crane, I pictured an image of Jesus crucified on the cross. I pictured the crown of thorns dug into his brow. I envisioned His bloody hands and feet and the nails driven through them. I recalled what He said just before they killed him. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing."
I began to think that Paula Cooper didn’t know what she was doing when she killed Nana. Someone that knows what they are doing does not take a twelve-inch butcher knife and stab someone thirty-three times. It was a crazy, crazy, crazy senseless act. I thought maybe the right thing for me to do is to forgive Paula. I told myself that I should try to forgive her.
Once again I pictured the image of Nana, tears rolling down her cheeks. There was no doubt in my mind that her tears were tears of love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family. I felt Nana wanted someone in our family to have that same love and compassion. I felt the responsibility fell on me.
Even though I now realized that forgiveness was the right thing to do, I didn’t have a bit of love and compassion. I thought how brutal Nana’s death was, and I could see no way to come up with any love and compassion at all. But the tears I pictured in Nana’s eyes affected me greatly. I felt that if I didn’t try to generate some sort of love and compassion, then in the future, whenever I would think about Nana, I would feel guilty.
Not knowing what else to do, as I sat in the crane cab, I started praying again. By now my tears were flowing like a river. I begged God, "Please, please, please give me love and compassion for Paula Cooper and her family and to do it for Nana’s sake."
I started thinking about Paula. I could write a letter and tell her the kind of person Nana was and I could tell her about Nana’s faith in God and her love for Jesus. I thought I could tell her about God’s love and His forgiveness. I could also tell her that Jesus loved her and died on the cross for her.
At this point, things began to sink in. My prayer for love and compassion for Paula was being answered! And at that moment, I knew I no longer wanted Paula to die; I wanted to do whatever I could do to help her.
That night in the crane, I learned the most important lesson of my life: I learned the healing power of forgiveness. When God answered my prayer for love and compassion, the forgiveness was automatic. I knew I no longer had to try to forgive Paula, because the forgiveness had already miraculously happened. Forgiveness brought a tremendous healing.
It had been a year and a half since Nana’s death, and whenever I had thought about Nana, it had been very painful, because I always pictured how Nana had died. I pictured her butchered on the dining room floor. This was the same dining room where our family gathered every year for Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, birthdays and other special occasions. Picturing Nana’s death had always caused me great pain and sorrow. But I knew that from that moment on, whenever I would think about Nana, I would no longer picture how she died. I would picture how she had lived, what she stood for, what she believed in and the beautiful, wonderful person that she was. I knew a miracle had happened to me and I knew that I would never forget how it came about. God gave me a tremendous peace, a peace that passes all understanding.
As I sat in the crane, I began to wonder why the change in me was taking place. I thought about the media involvement in Paula’s case. I thought I might do an interview with a journalist some time about forgiveness. I also thought I might write an article about forgiveness or that maybe someday, a Sunday school teacher would tell her class about the grandson who forgave his grandmother’s killer.
I even thought about how Oprah Winfrey might be interested in a white man who forgave the black girl who killed his grandmother. I thought I might even write a book someday and it could be made into a movie to help support my grandmother’s issue of Christian education.
I began to think about family, friends and coworkers. I knew many would not understand the change I had just gone through. Yet, it was very important to me for my family to understand what had just taken place. I felt that it might take awhile, but since they were all Christians, I hoped they would eventually understand and agree. I knew my family had suffered greatly over Nana’s death and I knew Nana loved everyone in the family. I knew that whatever I would do on behalf of Paula that I would have to be careful and try not to hurt anyone more than they had already been hurt. I knew Nana would have wanted it that way.
Before I left the crane that night, I made God two promises. The first promise was that any success that would come into my life as a result of forgiving Paula Cooper; that I would give God the honor and the glory. It wasn’t anything I had done—it was because God had touched my heart.
The second promise I made was that any door that opened as a result of my forgiving Paula, I would walk through it. I had no idea what doors God might open as a result of my night in the crane, but I knew if one did, I would walk through it. I would deliver God’s message of love and compassion. I would talk about forgiveness. I would talk about healing. God would give me the words to say. He had promised me that in the Bible.
I had spent about forty-five minutes in the crane that night. The mechanics never did show up for their lifts. I walked down the fifty feet of stairs to the floor below. When I had gone up at the start of the shift, I was a defeated man. When I came down those same stairs forty-five minutes later, I felt victorious. I felt like a man with a mission! Xlibris Corporation
November 2, 1986 changed my life.
God has opened the doors for me to speak to well over 5,000 audiences. I have never said no when asked to speak.
God has honored me in countless ways, but the organization Journey of Hope...from Violence to Healing is a direct result of November 2, 1986. Someday history will reveal the Journey of Hope’s role in the world wide abolition of the death penalty.
The Journey of Hope is led by murder victim members who promote forgiveness and restorative justice. We reject the death penalty as immoral and inhumane. Death row family members, death row exonerees and other activists join our traveling Journey tours as we strive to put a human face on the issue of the death penalty. The Journey of Hope has gone through all the doors that have been opened to it always proudly carries the message of love and compassion for all of humanity
Please Google or Bing the Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing and see what God has done.
Giving the honor and glory to God and going through the doors that God has opened are the keys to any success that I have had.
The Journey of Hope is going to Kenya and Uganda November 5-24. In Uganda we will help our dear friend Edward Mpagi launch UGANDANS AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY. I believe this will be our most successful Journey to date
I just booked airline reservations were booked today for Bill Babbitt, SueZann Bosler and myself for 5 days in Kenya. We are going as missionaries to spread the seed of love and compassion for all of humanity in Kenya to a base of supporters we met on our initial visit in 2011. All three of us are murder victim family members. We will then go to Uganda where we will be joined by others for the Ugandan Journey of Hope. God has blessed the Journey of Hope with lots of love and understanding. When we get together it is like a family reunion. In Uganda we are planning to be joined by Scott Langley who is a professional photographer. Death row family members Terri Steinberg, Delia Meyers and Anne Stendall are planning to come. Curtis McCarty, a death row exoneree will be joining us along with Randy Gardner. Randy and Bill Babbitt (Babu) both lost their brothers to state sanctioned homicide. Marietta Jaeger lost her daughter to murder and Kristi Smith’s father was killed. Colleen Cunningham is taking vacation from her job at EJUSA to help keep us organized. Ron Carlson and his wife would like to come too.
And it is very clear we are coming to Africa with the message of love and compassion for all of humanity. This time we can take cameras on death row. We will be showing the human face of the death penalty and hope that the desire for love and compassion is stronger than the desire for revenge.
We will help Edward abolish the death penalty in Uganda.
Thank you God for November 2, 1986, it was truly the night of a miracle.