“A member of a gang of racists, who shot to death an Asian American law student at the University of Washington, was sentenced to death by lethal injection yesterday. Seattle police say, Sean Nakamura was chosen at random and murdered as part of an initiation rite of passage. Nakamura is survived by his wife and two young daughters…”
Leaning her head against the cool window on the passenger’s side of the SUV Suburban, Leah Nakamura reflected on that fateful day, when she saw her husband for the last time.
“We were planning our trip to Japan to visit his parents who had moved back to their hometown of Toyonaka, once Sean began college. He was going buy the tickets that evening when he returned from his classes” she recalled.
“We’ll be arriving in Walla Walla in about 15 minutes Leah.”
The voice of Jack Anderson, an incredibly compassionate mediator with the Victim Offender Mediation Association (VOMA), brought Leah out of her deep thought.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Jack, you have been wonderful in preparing me for this day. I’m more nervous than I expected, but I feel ready.”
Leah Nakamura remembered the day five months ago when she realized there was something in her life that had to be resolved. Grief had rooted itself deep into her heart, leaving her bitter, and angry. Her religious upbringing had taught her to “forgive those who trespass against you” and she believed she had done so. Why then, was she still so angry?
It was August 24th and would have been hers and Sean’s tenth wedding anniversary. Leah drove to the Still Waters Cemetery where Sean had been laid to rest. Placing flowers in the ceramic pot that adorned his grave, she then spread her embroidered shawl near his tombstone. Kicking off her sandals, Leah knelt down and began clearing away the weeds surrounding the marble marker.
Tears began trickling down her soft cheeks, as Leah lifted her face to heaven. “Lord you promised to give me peace that passes all understanding. Sometimes the pain in my heart is more than I can bear.”
Reaching into her handbag for her hanky, Leah felt the small leather Bible she had brought along with her. Allowing the Holy Spirit to guide her, Leah opened her Bible and began to read the book of Luke. Before long, she had reached the account of Jesus’ crucifixion. Once again the tears welled up into her eyes, not for herself, but for the agony of her Lord and Savior. As the tears fell onto the page, Leah forced herself to continue to read “…there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on the right, one on the left. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:33-34)
“Oh God” Leah wailed. “I understand now! Forgive me Lord!”
Stopping at the entrance of the Washington State Penitentiary, brought Leah back to the present.
Jack Anderson spoke to the guard at the gate. After showing identification and receiving directions, they arrived at the building that held the men on death row.
Reaching the facility just in time for their appointment Leah and Jack were ushered into the visiting room. Leah was directed to sit at the cold metal table facing the empty chair that within minutes would seat the man who killed her husband.
With a click of the lock, there in the doorway stood the pencil thin young man, in his jail issued clothes.
Once seated, Leah studied his dark, sunken eyes. Drawing from the compassion Jesus showed his persecutors, Leah began to speak.
“When Sean died, I felt my life had ended. I didn’t want to live without him, but I knew for the children, I must. My husband was a loving father, and a devoted son, but because he was different, you determined to end his life. I hated you for that.”
“Head bowed the young man muttered “Ma’am I am truly sorry.” Then he lifted his head, to meet her straight in the eyes, “honest I am.”
Leah reached into her bag and brought out a brand-new copy of the Bible, and slid it across the table towards him.
“And I believe you are, and I forgive you.”
Standing, Leah leaned closer to speak softly and directly to him.
Jesus said, “I am the way.” Seek him. My prayers are with you."
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