Thank You

In my office at work is a “thank you” card that I have kept for the last twenty or so years from a woman named Debbie who is my age.

On the front, a verse reads:

. . . some things we will own forever – the memory of the just, the remembrance of a good act, the good remembrance of someone fair . . . this will never be taken from us . . . this we will never give away . . .

Debbie’s card included a photograph of her as a young mother sitting on a living room couch holding her three-year-old, blond-haired boy on her lap. Debbie is smiling beautifully while her son, Roger, Jr., looks somewhat placidly at the camera.

A few weeks after that photo was taken, Roger’s “Daddy” took his little boy’s life.

More than forty years ago, the boy’s father, Roger, Sr., was addicted to methamphetamine. His young wife begged her husband and prayed for him to get help getting off this powerfully evil drug. When he did not do so, Debbie sought a legal separation so that their son would not grow up in that environment.

For some reason, the young father was permitted unsupervised custodial visits with his son over Debbie’s objections, and on one of those he took his boy out to the desert and shot-gunned him to death.

According to his later statements to police, Roger, Sr., had intended to also kill himself, but he lost his nerve after murdering his son.

Incomprehensibly to me, the prosecutor who tried the case back then permitted a guilty plea for only Second Degree Murder. And after only twenty years in prison, the guilty man was seeking early release.

In my job as a prosecuting attorney, I wrote a letter to the parole board opposing the murderer’s release from prison, offering that the boy’s murder was obviously aimed at destroying the little boy’s mother.

Debbie wrote me her card a few weeks later.

For a subsequent parole board hearing, I drove three hours and personally appeared before the parole board representing our state to oppose any early release, and Debbie flew in from out of state to do likewise.

She and I had talked a lot on the telephone in the preceding months, and during our conversations our shared faith in Jesus Christ came up. How could it not under such circumstances. Debbie also told me that she was now happily re-married and the mother of “three more precious boys,” a tender mercy for this woman for which I was glad.

Debbie flew in alone to Phoenix. Her former husband, Roger, Sr., again declined his opportunity to appear telephonically at his own clemency hearing.

After the hearing, the parole board again denied early release, and the chairman informed us that the prisoner had a legal right to request early release every six months. However, the chairman advised us not to bother making the trip to Phoenix next time because the board would never authorize an early release, but the murderer would be out in a couple of years, the chairman told us, a little sooner than his original sentence was due to expire because of the “good time” credits he had earned during his many years in prison.

Sitting on a bench in the hallway after the hearing, Debbie and I discussed the information we’d just been given by the parole board chairman. We both agreed that neither of us would appear at any subsequent hearings.

For some reason at the end of our conversation, I felt that I should ask Debbie if she had ever prayed for her former husband.

When I did so, Debbie stiffened slightly, almost as if she been struck in the face by some cold, invisible splash of water. She mumbled something and then abruptly told me that she had to leave to catch her plane home. I thought her change of demeanor kind of odd, but I didn’t have time to ask her about it.

Six months later, Debbie called my office and we both affirmed that neither one of us would travel to Phoenix for the new clemency request that had been filed as expected.

Toward the end of the phone call, Debbie asked me if I remembered the conversation we’d had in the hallway after the last hearing. I told her that I did, and she said to me, “Mark, I was SO mad at you!” When I began to apologize for anything I’d said that had upset her, Debbie said, “No, DON’T!”

This woman who had suffered so much then told me how when she had returned home, the Holy Spirit of God had continually impressed on her the thought that she must pray for her first husband, the man who had murdered their only child. Debbie told me that when she finally prayed for the man who had killer their son and destroyed her life, she was freed from the horrible nightmares she’d experienced regularly for over twenty years.

She also said that she no longer felt any fear of what her former husband might do when he was finally out of prison, a terror she had lived with ever since the murder had occurred.

“I’m not afraid of him anymore,” she said simply.

When she was finished telling me about these miracles, I asked Debbie if I could share her story with anyone who may need to hear it.

“Mark, you can tell my story to anyone you want to show just how great is our God!” Debbie said.

In the card she sent me, Debbie wrote about little Roger, Jr., “My son, who is in Heaven I know, is proud of how together we fight for justice.”

I’m sure that this is true . . . but more than that I am certain that Debbie’s son who now beholds the Face of Jesus Christ is mostly proud of the good woman he once called, “Mommy.”

4 responses to “Thank You”

  1. Thank you for sharing thisexperience

    1. You’re welcome, Bro. It’s one of those times that made me feel that “my possibly imaginary Friend” is NOT imaginary.

  2. What a beautiful story, not only of justice but of mercy.

    1. I only wish it had never happened though, Sis.

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