MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- In February, 1993, Mary Johnson's 20-year-old son Laramiun Byrd, was shot to death after an argument at a party. His killer was 16-year-old Oshea Israel. Mary believed Oshea was an animal and wanted him caged. He was tried as an adult and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He served 17 years before being released, and he now lives back in his old neighborhood, next to Mary.
Mary hated Oshea for 12 years, until the pastor at her church asked her to lead a meeting on forgiveness. After a struggle, she told herself that she forgave Oshea for killing her son, but knew she had to do more. She had to live her forgiveness by going to Stillwater State Prison and visiting Oshea. When they met, she told him she forgave him, and he asked to hug her. She remembers, "He had to hold me up until I felt this 'thing' leave me. And I instantly knew that all the hatred, the bitterness, the animosity, all that junk I had inside for 12 years, I knew it was over with. Instantly, it was gone." They began visiting often. When he was released in 2010, Mary arranged his homecoming party. She introduced him to her landlord, and with her blessing, he moved into the apartment next to hers. Strengthened by Mary's mercy, Oshea works at a recycling plant and goes to college at night. Mary admits she never got to see her son graduate from college, but she looks forward to attending Oshea's graduation. "Mary has turned into one of my biggest supporters," says Oshea. She worries about me even when I'm not worried about myself. And that is something a mother does." He loves her like a mother, and she loves him like a son. That's forgiveness.