Some of you might remember when the Whitaker family was shot in their own Sugar Land home after returning from dinner one night in December 2003.
Mom Tricia and son Kevin were killed; father Kent was shot and injured but lived.
Son Bart, determined to be the mastermind behind the murder plot, briefly fled to Mexico but was apprehended, tried and convicted. He is sentenced to die by lethal injection on Texas Death Row next month. The shooter is serving life in prison, and the driver of the getaway car was sentenced to 15 years.
What does any of this have to do with a book review? Well, the dad, Kent Whitaker, wrote a book called “Murder by Family,” which really isn’t a book about murder or about his son’s mental illness or drug addiction or whatever motivated him to take the lives of those closest to him. It’s a book about forgiveness.
Published in 2008, the book caught my eye in a discount store and I’ve not only read it more than once; I’ve passed it on to others. It’s that good.
You see, Kent wrestled with anger. His son took away his wife and his other son, presumably to inherit the family fortune. At the family dinner on the night of the murder, his parents presented him with a Rolex watch to commemorate his college graduation. It was a lie; he hadn’t actually graduated – but it shines a light on the fact that if only Bart had asked for the money he needed, his parents quite likely would have given it to him.
“For years I have told people that faith is not a feeling but a conscious act of will,” states the book penned by family patriarch Kent Whitaker. “You have to choose to trust and believe, especially when circumstances and your feelings are screaming that you can't trust God. The Bible says that God can take everything and work it for good for those who love him and are called to his service; well, Tricia and Kevin loved him, and so did I. We were all called to his service, but how could these murders possibly be worked for good? I could imagine no such scenario. And if that verse of the Bible was untrustworthy, what other verses might not apply when I needed them? I might as well throw it all away.”
I guess it comes as no surprise that this devout Christian man forgave the only remaining member of his immediate family and is now pleading for clemency as the execution is looming. It won’t happen; the conviction and sentence were within the law, and there’s no reasonable doubt that Bart was behind the murders.
There’s no happy ending, but it’s an encouraging read to those who are struggling to forgive. Hopefully most of us aren’t harboring resentment toward someone who executed our family members, but the words ring true even on a small scale.
“I had to choose to either go with my feelings and slip into bitterness and despair, or follow my own advice and stand on God’s promises even when they don’t make sense.”
This book is powerful. I highly recommend it.
What’s on your bookshelf? Share your recommendations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.