December 9, 2013

"'None of us needs to live the saddest part of our lives 24/7"

The forgiveness of the Amish was an amazing story in 2006 and it continues today with the example of the mother of the mass murderer

Mother of Amish schoolhouse shooter shares her story of forgiveness

Once a week, Terri Roberts spends time with a 13-year-old Amish girl named Rosanna who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. She can only guess what's going on inside Rosanna's mind because the girl can't talk.

Roberts' son did this to her.    Seven years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide as police closed in.
The Amish responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer - even attending his funeral - and embracing his family.

    Terri Roberts Amish Grieving
Terri Roberts forgave, too, and now she is sharing her experience with others, saying the world needs more stories about the power of forgiveness and the importance of seeking joy through adversity.

'I realized if I didn't forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone,' Roberts said. 'We are called to forgive.'

One of her sons is making a documentary - called Hope - about her remarkable journey from heartbroken mother to inspirational speaker.  Zachary Roberts originally conceived the film to help his mother. But it's also proving to be cathartic for him.

'It was like a step toward getting this off my shoulders and being able to speak about it,' said Roberts, 35, who lives in Sweden.'I have a kid now, and I don't want this to be one of those dark family secrets that nobody talks about. I want to be OK with it, and I want my daughter to be OK with it.'

Roberts appears in the trailer and doesn't mince words about the challenge that faced his mother after his 32-year-old brother's rampage: 'How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward in life?'

Terri Roberts' path toward healing and reconciliation began, surprisingly enough, that very first afternoon.  Her husband, Chuck, had wiped away so many tears that he'd rubbed his skin raw. The retired police officer hung his head, inconsolable.

'I will never face my Amish friends again,' he said, over and over.

An Amish neighbor named Henry told him otherwise. 'Roberts, we love you. We don't hold anything against you or your son,' Terri Roberts recalled Henry saying as he massaged Roberts' slumped shoulders. 'We're a forgiving people.'

It was an extraordinary gesture, one that gave Terri Roberts her first glimmer of hope. She calls Henry her 'angel in black'. That same day, a counselor helped her realize that 'we do not need to live in our sorrow'.

'I can't tell you what that did for me. That was just so helpful for me, and I feel now that it's helped many other people,' Roberts said.

Rosanna wasn't expected to survive after being shot in the head. She laughs, cries and responds to stimuli, and King said she is mentally alert. But she requires constant care.

Terri Roberts' weekly visits with Rosanna force her to confront the damage her son caused. But Roberts also finds peace as she spends time with Rosanna and provides some relief to the teen's family, if only for a few hours.

'Beautiful young woman, but life is not as it should've been for this little girl. So my mind will never forget the hardship that day has caused in many people's lives,' Roberts said.

'And yet,' she said, 'none of us needs to live in the saddest part of our lives 24/7.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at December 9, 2013 4:04 PM | Permalink