An Excerpt from Choosing Mercy: A Mother of Murder Victims Pleads to End the Death Penalty by Antoinette Bosco

In her morally stimulating book opposing capital punishment, Antoinette Bosco writes convincingly about the spiritual practice of forgiveness.

"We need all the help we can get when it comes to holding on to forgiveness. It brings you to a place that's riddled with traps and setbacks. Forgiveness becomes fragile when birthdays and anniversaries of murdered loved ones come around, or when you hear a song unexpectedly on the radio that raises a memory. I was driving on a highway a few days before my son John's birthday, April 17, thinking of him, when suddenly the radio was playing the "Waltz" from Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. The tears came suddenly. My son John had also played the violin, and I remembered the pride I had when he was with the Boulder Symphony one season, playing among other pieces that beautiful waltz. I cried and screamed at Shadow Clark before I was able to let him go, forgive him, and pray again, thanking God that I had had the gift of my son. Forgiveness is a tough call.

"I find it hard to forgive the criminal justice system when I hear people say that we now kill most murderers 'humanely,' because we do it by lethal injection. With this kind of convoluted focus we can obscure the real issue of what we're doing — killing — by concentrating on methods, labeling them on some kind of scale, from 'least humane' to 'most humane.' I still remember a New York Times editorial after the then New Jersey governor, William Kean, signed the death penalty back into law for his state. Commenting that the governor wanted to 'civilize execution,' the Times quoted him saying, 'If ever I've seen a calm, pleasant death, it's an anesthetic death.' Truly, hearing this unthinkable comment, you'd have to say, 'Father, forgive him for he knows not what he's saying!'

"I have concluded that forgiveness is a paradox: we cannot heal ourselves if we do not forgive others, but if we do forgive, it is we ourselves who benefit the most. If we let feelings of hatred and revenge consume us when we are devastatingly hurt, we cease to be the human being we were created to be. We condemn ourselves to live in anguish.

"I think that's what Jesus meant when he told us we must overcome evil with good — that if we did not, we would erode our humanity, lessen the possibility of being able to love, and thus, sadly, alienate ourselves from the life-Source who loves us.

"Good advice has come down from the ages: 'Don't let the sun go down on your anger.' We must forgive if we are to rise."