The group gathered for their weekly prayer time in the pastor’s study. An added blessing was that all the members had shown up this time, with no one missing. They began by sharing news of the church, events coming up soon, lists of who was sick or needed financial help and other problems. The young man looked in the doorway and was motioned in by those inside. They were curious as to why a white man would want to join them, but they welcomed him with smiles. He seemed nervous. Perhaps this was the first time he had visited a black church, but soon settled down and listened as various names and concerns were brought forth, and scripture passages were read by some of the group. As they began to discuss the verses read and joined in prayers for those named, violent sounds ripped around the room. Bodies fell over, hit by bullets from the gun carried by the visitor. He continued shooting until all seemed dead and then walked out. One member managed to crawl away, leaving the others lifeless, staring at nothing.
Later, when the horror of that moment was announced, shock destroyed all joy. Yet not long after that, families began to voice their grief in unexpected responses: that of forgiveness for the killer, who had been arrested and stood defiantly before a judge. He claimed his action was for the purpose of beginning a race riot. When he was told that he had been forgiven by the victim’s families, he sneered. But there in that courtroom someone stood up and faced him directly. Those in attendance recognized the speaker as Mark Twain, who made a solemn statement and disappeared: “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
In his cell, alone, the killer noticed a sweet odor permeating his surroundings but could find no source for it. It engulfed him despite his efforts to wave it away. It remained permanently with him during the trials and sentencing and long afterwards until the fragrance joined him in the grave.