In Marriage, A Bond Of Love, Loss And Light

Jan 27, 2017
Originally published on January 27, 2017 11:31 am

You may remember Mary Johnson from a 2011 StoryCorps conversation with a man that could have easily been her enemy.

She spoke with Oshea Israel, the man who murdered her son, Laramiun Byrd. Mary met Oshea while he was serving time in prison for the crime. After his release, they became close and sparked a remarkable relationship.

"My natural son is no longer here. I didn't see him graduate. Now, you're going to college," she said to Oshea back then. "I'll have the opportunity to see you graduate. I didn't see him get married. Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to experience that with you."

"Just to hear you say those things and to be in my life in the manner that which you are, is my motivation," Oshea said. "You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it, despite how much pain I caused you, it's amazing."

Since that interview she has been telling her story in local churches. She also fell in love and in 2015, married a man named Ed Roy. He had served time in prison, and later, also lost a son, Mandel.

"We met when my first born and my one and only son was murdered," Ed tells Mary in a recent StoryCorps conversation. "And a couple of my daughters had asked me to go to the church to hear you speak."

He says he wasn't ready to forgive, but he was at a loss.

"Like I shared with you, I thought God took my boy and was punishing me for my own crimes. I had joined the gangs early and pulled my first armed robbery at 11 years old. With you being there, I saw hope. You took me under your wing. That's why I called you my angel," he says.

Just before they got married, Ed says he had a dream.

"Your son was saying, 'Yeah, Mom! Alright!' You know, 'Right on!' And my son was saying, 'Yeah, Dad! 'Bout time you got it right!' Ed says.

Oshea served as a groomsman at their wedding. "He is my spiritual son," Mary says.

The anniversary of Laramiun's murder is Feb. 12.

"That empty hole's always going to be there in our hearts," Ed says. "But I feel like when we together and we able to listen to one another's heartbeats. It says a lot."

"I'm thankful, I really am," Mary says. "You're a good man."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher Morris and Liyna Anwar.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. Back in 2011, this series of conversations featured a talk between two people who could have been enemies but instead became friends.

Mary Johnson met Oshea Israel while he was serving time in prison for murdering her son. After his release, they became close and recorded a conversation together.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MARY JOHNSON-ROY: My natural son is no longer here. I didn't see him graduate. Now you're going to college. I'll have the opportunity to see you graduate. I didn't see him get married. Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to experience that with you.

OSHEA ISRAEL: And just to hear you say those things and to be in my life in the manner that which you are is my motivation. You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it despite how much pain I caused you, it's amazing. I love you, lady.

JOHNSON-ROY: I love you, too, son.

INSKEEP: Now, Mary's story doesn't end there. Since that first interview, she's been telling her story in local churches. And she fell in love and married a man named Ed Roy. He'd served time in prison and later also lost a son.

JOHNSON-ROY: How did you and I meet?

ED ROY: We met when my first born and my one and only son was murdered. And a couple of my daughters had asked me to go to the church to hear you speak. I wasn't ready for the forgiveness part, but I was at a loss. Like I shared with you, I thought God took my boy and was punishing me for my own crimes - when I had joined the gangs early and pulled my first armed robbery at 11 years old. But with you be being there, I saw hope. You took me under your wing. That's why I called you my angel.

Then I remember I had that dream that was just before our wedding. And your son was saying - yeah, Mom, all right, you know, right on. And my son was saying - yeah, Dad, 'bout time you got it right.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNSON-ROY: We also had Oshea in our wedding because he is my spiritual son.

ROY: That was beautiful. As the years and time goes by, you know where I've been. You know where I hurt.

JOHNSON-ROY: And I know you take care of me when I'm not doing well. And I'm grateful to have someone there that has experienced the same thing that I have. The anniversary's coming up of my son's murder, February 12.

ROY: That empty hole's always going to be there in our hearts. But I feel like when we're together and we're able to listen to one another's heartbeats, it says a lot.

JOHNSON-ROY: I'm thankful. I really am. You're a good man.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETER RUDENKO'S "INHALE, PART 2")

INSKEEP: That's Mary Johnson-Roy with her husband Ed Roy for StoryCorps in Minneapolis. Mary and Ed's conversation is archived with all the others at the Library of Congress. And an animated short of Mary's original story can be found at npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETER RUDENKO'S "INHALE, PART 2") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.