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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

10-03 Messenger

Forgiveness --- the power to set free fear, anger, and pain
By: Marueen O’Hara Riehemann

    Last Monday, Sept. 29, Kristy Smith spoke about healing and forgiveness at St. Walburg Monastery, Villa Hills.  Mrs. Smith brings an unusual perspective to these issues --- her father was murdered when she was 18.  She belongs to Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (MVRF).  Composed of people who’ve lost a family member to homicide and capital punishment, MVRF is a national organization working to abolish the death penalty.
    Currently, Mrs. Smith and other MVRF members are traveling around Ohio.  “The Ohio Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing” is a 17-day speaking tour intended to educate Ohioans about capital punishment.  Begun by family members of murder victims, Journey of Hope has been traveling in America, Europe and the Philippines since 1993.
    The Messenger interviewed Mrs. Smith by phone Sept. 23.  A prisoner who had escaped from a mental hospital murdered her father, James K. Edwards.  It was December 1978, in Wichita, Kansas.  Glendale Riber, prisoner, and Billy Lemmons, accomplice, had just robbed a pharmacy.  They were trespassing on a neighbor’s property and Mr. Edwards tried to stop them.  In April 1994, Mrs. Smith met with Billy Lemmons.
    Mrs. Smith lives with her husband and four daughters in Kansas.
    Q: How old were you when your dad (James Edwards) was murdered?
    A: 18. I wasn’t born yet when my parents separated.  They divorced when I was born… When I was growing up, my mom said I was so much like my dad.  She said when I turned 18 I could go meet my dad.  I turned 18 in January and moved to Wichita, [Kansas] in March to find my dad.
    Q: So growing up, you never knew your dad.
    A: I had absolutely no contact at all.  I didn’t even know about him until I was nine, after my step-dad passed away.
    Q: What happened in Wichita?
    A: I found my grandmother [parental] by finding my aunt’s house… I had met my aunt before… I went to the house and walked up to the door and I was scared.  What will they think of me?  This little old lady came to the door and I introduced myself.  That was my grandma.
    Q: Did she welcome you?
    A: She said, “Hang on just a second” --- she had to put the dog up.  I waited there and when the door opened, there was this man.  It was my dad, I knew immediately who he was.  He looked so much different than what I expected.  He had a huge walrus mustache, dark wavy hair and blue eyes.
    Q: You met your dad when you were 18, but he was murdered when you were 18.  About how much time did you have?
    A: About eight months.  I met Dad in April, we had until December [1978].
    Q: How did you feel when your dad was murdered?
    A: I was in shock.  I couldn’t believe this had happened.  Here I just met him.  I felt robbed at first.  As I thought about it, I really wasn’t robbed as much as I thought.  I was really blessed because I could have not met Dad.  All God’s timing.  I met Dad when I met him.  God knew this was going to happen.  There were some very important things I needed to learn from Dad like love, integrity, how to treat people.  I never saw anyone love people the way my Dad did.
    Q: Did you get counseling?
    A: I did, but I didn’t have to pay anything.  Because his name was God.
    Q: Can you talk about the process of reconciliation?
    A: When it first happened, I was angry --- how could someone do this to someone who was so precious and love people so much? … My grandparents taught me that you hate the action, you don’t hate people.  God did not give me the ability to decide when someone should live or die.
    When Glendale Riber [her father’s murderer] came up for parole, it just overwhelmed me.  The emotions were so strong, it was like living through everything all over again.  Lot of fear, nightmares he would come and hurt my family.
    I talked to a lady at church.  She asked, “Have you ever considered meeting him face to face? … Next year was Billy’s [Lemmons] parole hearing.  I met Billy in prison in April 1994.  [It was] one of the most powerful things that happened in my life… Billy told me how sorry he was… very, very ashamed.  He had two little girls, four and two, when he went to prison.  He thought about me without my dad.
    I told him I forgave him … I had no idea of the impact it would have on me.  I thought the impact would be on Billy.  I got rid of years of anger and pain … I have not had nightmares since then … I walked out of that room feeling free … The power of forgiveness, I can’t speak enough of it … I’m so thankful God allowed me to have it.
    Q: Anything else you want to say?
    A: It’s so painful you don’t know what to do with yourself.  Really only one way, that’s through a spiritual life of some means.  I would never have made it through like I have without God.  It was be 25 years without [Dad] in December.