Finding meaning

  • Patty O'Reilly dabs tears as she meets with inmate Mike Albertson in a conference room at the state prison at Folsom. Through her sorrow, she has become a believer in restorative justice. To heal, she says, survivors of crime need something beyond the punishments the courts dispense. Illustrates CALIF-JUSTICE (category a) by Jenifer Warren (c) 2007, Los Angeles Times. Moved Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007. (MUST CREDIT: Los Angeles Times photo by Robert Durell.)

Edwards, attempting to sum up the day?s journey, offers a bit of wisdom. The goal, she says, is to make some meaning out of the catastrophe that united these lives ? ?not sense, but meaning.?

A week passes. O?Reilly says she feels lighter, unburdened. The encounter has also left her feeling empowered, which she did not expect.

What happened in that room, she says, was true justice, ?participatory justice.? It may sound petty, she adds, but she drew strength from watching her husband?s killer sit at that table and witness the devastation he caused.

?If I have to feel this horrible and struggle to find meaning in this loss, I want to make sure he is struggling ? and working on problems he used to deny,? she says.

Albertson?s feelings in the aftermath, he confides, are ?up and down and sideways.? He is emotionally drained, frequently depressed.

But he feels uplifted by O?Reilly?s willingness to meet him, and calls her forgiveness ?an incredible, humbling gift.?

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