"But for Bernard, forgiveness comes hard. It requires peeling back the layers of a life, tracing the arc of relationships, recasting a narrative over and over to worry some telling detail. Sometimes it means going right to the source, confronting the offender in a quest for answers. And, as Bernard has come to realize, it also requires forgiving yourself.
But it begins with vengeance."
from The Truth About Forgiveness, by Karen Houppert
I only met Bernard briefly, on a sunny afternoon in February when I arrived at his home in Baltimore to take some photos. Afterward, we drove to the place where, fourteen years ago, he had heard shots and found his 17-year-old son Vernon, dying on the road.
The houses where Bernard had lived and where his son's killer stood had both been torn down to make room for a new housing development. Spray-painted symbols on the dirt marked the ongoing construction, and a patch of white salt leftover from a recent ice storm covered the spot where Vernon's body lay on that May evening just past midnight in 1994. Nearby was a phone pole where Bernard used to post photos of Vernon to "let people know what happened here."
It was cold, and we didn't stay long before driving across town to the cemetery where Vernon was buried. Bernard hadn't visited for awhile and spent some time tearing away the grass that had encroached on the edges of the metal plaque bearing his son's name.
But all of these glimpses of his story that I photographed were small compared to the weight and immensity of Bernard's transformation. After years of anger, pain and hatred, he made a personal choice to no longer hate. He not only forgave his son's killer, he took action- speaking on his behalf at a parole hearing that led to the board granting an early release.
I hope you'll take the time to read Karen's story about Bernard here.