Saturday, 4 August 2007

Finding heroism in forgiveness

Kim Crespi doesn't think of herself as a hero.
But on Sunday night in Mill Valley, Calif., Crespi will be honored as a Hero of Forgiveness.

She forgave her husband, David Crespi, after he killed their 5-year-old twin daughters -- Samantha and Tessara -- on Jan. 20, 2006, in the family's southeast Mecklenburg home.

He stabbed the girls during a game of hide and seek, while their mother was getting her hair done.

Some will never understand how she could forgive him. "It's hard because the tragedy is so great," she said Friday from Sacramento, Calif.

As we spoke on the phone, and I heard her three other children in the background, I understood.

Jessica is 19 now. Dylan is 15. Joshua is 11.

"They deserve to have a good life," said Crespi, who still lives in Mecklenburg. "They look for humor, where it's offered."

Crespi, who has called her husband "my soulmate," visits him for two hours every Saturday at the Alexander Correctional Center, near Taylorsville, where he is serving life in prison without parole for murder. Today, friends will visit him in her place.

"It was an easy choice to forgive Dave. I knew he couldn't do it, and yet he had."

She said he's seeing a psychologist, and is now on the proper medication for his bipolar condition. "He feels better mentally than he has in years," she said.

"He will spend the rest of his life trying to forgive himself." His dreams, he tells his wife, are filled with thoughts of Sam and Tess.

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance, a nonprofit educational foundation, chose Crespi for the award.

She will use her 15-minute speech on Sunday to focus on the why -- a question she believes was not asked often enough after "the tragedy," as she calls it.

For her, it's been hardest to forgive the criminal justice system. "I can't believe that David is in prison and not in a mental hospital," she said. "North Carolina wanted to execute David. I don't believe in it. I take it personally."

The death penalty is against everything Crespi believes as a Catholic Christian, she said, which preaches giving pardon even in the face of unimaginable acts. Her faith is reinforced by daily Mass and the support of the Catholic community. "That's what saved us," she said.

"God is awesome -- all the time." She says that a lot.

The award has given her a chance to return home to Northern California, to visit relatives and the Bay area artist friends who painted portraits of Sam and Tess. It's the first time the family has been back since the twins were buried.

"I think of them every day," said Crespi, who's 46. "I feel like they're so close."

For the first time, she saw the granite marker placed on their graves, with a picture of Sam on one side and a picture of Tess on the other. In the middle picture, they are together.

"Forever 5, side by side," it reads.

And then, a lyric from musician Chris Rice:

"And with your final heartbeat/Kiss the world goodbye/Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and/Fly to Jesus/Fly to Jesus and live."

"There is so much sadness," Crespi said. "If we could just focus on forgiveness, that's a good thing."

Other Heroes of Forgiveness

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance, a nonprofit foundation, celebrates Forgiveness Day the first Sunday of every August. The nondenominational group has chosen heroes of forgiveness every year since 1999. They include:

• Saundra Adams. She forgave former Carolina Panthers player Rae Carruth for his involvement in the 1999 slaying of her pregnant daughter, Cherica Adams. She forgave him in open court.

• Michael Berg. He forgave terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who beheaded Berg's son on videotape. Instead of celebrating when Zarqawi was killed by U.S. military forces in Iraq, Berg told reporters he had forgiven al-Zarqawi and mourned his death.

• Kai Lee Harriot. She forgave Anthony Warren, who shot her in Boston in 2003 when she was singing songs on her front porch with her older sister. The bullets paralyzed the 3-year-old from the waist down. In court two years later, the 5-year-old confronted Warren for the first time. "What you done to me was wrong," she said to the man seated just a few feet away. "But I still forgive him."

No comments: