Mother Forgives Son’s Killer

Stories of forgiveness are literally extraordinary—outside of the ordinary. One took place in a Grand Rapids courtroom last week. As reported by the Grand Rapids Press, Javika Wallace-Hawkins faced the man who murdered her son Andre last year, and told him, “I have forgiven you from the bottom of my heart.”

Andre was just 17 when he was killed last year by Vicente Rodriguez-Ortiz. Apparently Vicente thought Andre was romantically involved with Vicente’s ex-girlfriend. One night last January while Andre was sitting in his car with a friend in a residential neighborhood, Vicente approached and fired his gun at Andre. Andre died later that night in a hospital from multiple gunshot wounds. A jury convicted Vicente of first-degree murder last month. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is 23.

At the sentencing hearing last week, Ms. Wallace-Hawkins said she had to forgive Vicente. “As a mother, you’re a child to me, and in my heart, I have no anger or bitterness toward you. As a mom, I just want to hug you because I know there is something that’s not connected, that made you feel so angry for a person you didn’t know,” she said through tears.

In her statement, Ms. Wallace-Hawkins managed to get past her grief and pain to empathize with her son’s murderer. It sounds like she recognized that something inside him was broken – “not connected” – and that realization touched the part of her heart that is a loving mother. It’s a beautiful lesson in how to forgive. We honor this grieving mother who did the hard work of moving her heart to a place where she could express forgiveness like this.