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I just finished Change of Heart by Jeanne Bishop, where she tells not only of the heart-wrenching tragedy of her sister, brother-in-law, and unborn niece/nephews story, but also on the path to forgiveness, mercy, and personal restorative justice.
The way Jeanne Bishop writes, with such passion, yet kindness and humility, detailed but not over the top, will immediately keep you reading. I finished the book in one sitting. Granted my guys were napping and the book itself isn’t long, but the story kept me reading. At first, I wondered about the tragedy she’d endured. Then, I wanted to know more about her path of forgiveness. Eventually, I yearned to know if she really had come to a place of deeper forgiveness, of mercy to the person who’d caused her such personal tragedy.
I loved the way she spoke about her faith and how that faith led her to continue forgiving, but later also how it led to her telling the person who’d murdered her precious family members about her forgiveness.
Throughout the book, I was drawn to my own introspection. See, I have a family member in prison for murder. We’d grown up together, to some degree for years, as they’re only a couple years my senior. Then, one day when I was a budding teen, it was determined that family member killed someone. I don’t know the story. I’ve never ventured to discover the story for myself. Being younger at the time, I only knew that it’d happened. I haven’t visited this family member in years, not so much as written a letter. I don’t speak to this person during family gatherings at holidays when they call. In fact, not so long ago I had to answer the phone and that was the first time I’d even heard this family members’ voice in over 10 years.
I harbor my own contempt for people that severely harm another, especially murder. To me, senselessly killing someone is one of The most heinous things you can do. Not valuing another human life is beyond my understanding.
Although I don’t readily subscribe to supporting the death penalty, I don’t shy away from life in prison or the like sentences. My general opinion is that people who commit heinous crimes need to just “go away”. I don’t believe in killing someone else as a form of vindication or vengeance or even justice. However, I don’t want anything to do with them. I want them to no longer be part of society. I want them out of sight and out of mind.
These opinions I have are merely that, opinions. I, fortunately, haven’t had any personal tragedy at the hands of someone else happen in my life. I hope I never do and I’ve long since realized that if I were, my opinions might change. My beliefs will be challenged, whatever they may be. See, in ascribing to this “go away” idea, I don’t have to confront my own failings. I don’t have to challenge whatever my belief system may be. I don’t have to answer the complicated questions or even confront my “non-beliefs”, the actual questions surrounding faith and human life.
Jeanne Bishop’s book, Change of Heart, though puts those questions in my mind. In reading this book, reading through her very personal story, I wonder if it isn’t time I ask the questions. I wonder if it isn’t time I confront this family member. Maybe I should attempt to at least learn their story. I wonder if it isn’t time I faced what Jeanne points out in her book, a fear.
Although I understand many aspects of what may lead someone to commit crimes, especially those like murder, I still can’t fathom the acts themselves. This likely points to my not-quite-suburban upbringing where my parents worked to cushion us from as much as they could. Thankfully, I didn’t grow up wondering if walking down the street may result in something really terrible happening to me or my siblings. I didn’t hear gunshots or have a real fear of robbery in my neighborhood. I knew some people who did and I’ve had both sympathy and empathy for them. I’ve worked alongside people who both grew up more cushy than I and less. I’ve worked with others just the same. Nonetheless, murder, in my mind, especially senseless murder has no excuse.
Change of Heart brings all this to light though, at least for me. And, whatever I choose to or not do regarding my family member, this is a compelling book. Whether you know what you believe about justice or the death penalty, I encourage you to read this book. I’m sure it will challenge or provoke you all the same.
*Disclaimer: NetGalley provided me with a free copy of this book for purposes of review. The opinions and thoughts regarding the book are all mine.*