She was twenty-five years old and three months pregnant. She and her husband Richard were ordered into the basement and shot to death, Rich in the back of the head, execution-style, and Nancy, with two gunshots to her pregnant belly.
The killer was a sixteen-year-old. He took no responsibility and expressed no remorse. When he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, I was glad.
I forgave him, but never told him that; my forgiveness then was not for him. It was for God, for Nancy, and for me. I wanted to obey God and honor Nancy and free myself from the burden of hate, but I wanted nothing to do with the killer. I wiped him off my hands like dirt.
Then my heart changed. It started with the gift of a book, from law professor Mark Osler, an advocate for mercy. Osler’s colleague Randall O’Brien, a pastor and academic, had written in his book that each of us is obligated to work to reconcile with those who have harmed us.
I was indignant. I called O’Brien, demanding to know what reconciling with a remorseless killer would look like.
It would look like Jesus on the cross, O’Brien responded. What did he do about the people who put him there? He prayed for them. Father, forgive them…
I had never prayed for the young man who killed Nancy. I had never even said his name.
So I began. I spoke his name: David Biro. I prayed for him in the quiet garden where Nancy and Rich are buried, just outside the church where they were married. I wrote to David in prison. He wrote back, confessing to the murders for the first time and saying how sorry he was. I went to the prison to visit him. We talked. We are talking still.
This is not from me. This is from God, whose love and mercy always, always overcome evil and death. It is from Jesus Christ, who, at the moment he was dying on a cross, prayed forgiveness for the very people who were killing him. It is from the Holy Spirit, who moves in our hearts and blows like the wind and changes things, who opens us—even me--to love and forgive.