21 years ago Lynette Grace was attacked by her friend’s son, Johnny. In the same attack Johnny killed his own mother. 20 years later Lynette has met and formed a close bond with him.
When my mother died suddenly I flew into town to attend her funeral and stayed the night with a friend from my old church who had been like a mother to me. Around 6am the following morning I was woken by an argument she was having with her 16-year-old son, Johnny. I heard her scream his name; then there was silence. I got up out of bed to investigate what was going on and finally found my friend covered in blood lying face down on the floor. Her son was standing nearby and I demanded to know what had happened. He said he didn’t know and then suddenly he began stabbing me. The first hit I took was to the side of my face. And then something happened that I have never experienced before.
While Johnny was stabbing me a voice was telling me what to do next. When he stabbed me on the side of my face and my glasses fell off, I was told to make him think you can see him. When he stabbed me in the chest (which later needed 14 stitches), I was told to calm him down so I began to comfort him in a quiet soothing voice saying ‘Johnny, everything is going to be okay’. With his arms raised about to strike me again, the last instruction I received was to go. When I heard the last of the three instructions, I turned around, unlocked the back door and started running down the street in my pajamas, barefoot and bleeding.
20 years later, in 2010, I discovered that Johnny was going to be paroled. For years I had wanted to talk to him about why he stabbed his mother that day, and why, without provocation, he stabbed me. I knew that a month prior to the attack he had been under house arrest for stealing cars but there was so much I didn’t know and I wanted those questions answered. I needed to talk to him before he left prison, so I wrote a letter asking if I could visit him and he agreed.
It had been two decades since I had last seen him. The round faced chubby little 16-year-old teenager had grown into a tall, slender, well groomed man who had obtained facial hair along the way. What was I going to say to him after all these years? When I went into the visiting room and found him amongst all the inmates, I sat down across from him, with a little square wooden table separating us, and extended my hand. ‘Hi, do you remember me?’ I said. He said ‘yes, you still look the same,’ and started telling me about prison life. Initially we evaded the conversation about what had happened on that fateful morning, but eventually I got up the courage and asked, ‘why did you stab your mother?’ Johnny then explained that he had been talking to his girlfriend off and on throughout the night but his mother did not want him on the phone because he was under house arrest. Early that morning he had disobeyed her request and she’d caught him on the phone again. They began to argue and the argument escalated into him killing her. When I asked him why he stabbed me without provocation he simply said because he was scared.
In visiting and talking to Johnny I discovered he wasn’t the monster I thought he was going to be. He cried more than I did and asked for my forgiveness. I didn’t hesitate to forgive him. But why did I forgive him? Simply because he asked for my forgiveness. He said my visiting him had caused him finally to be able to forgive himself and to heal as well.
There have been times when I have been asked “how is it that I can forgive Johnny?” My response to the question is I cannot do anything less for him than the second chance at life that was given to me.
Ever since then I have been searching for my purpose for surviving the attack.