Forgiving the Unthinkable
A Catholic attorney working in Palau became very close friends with Ruimar de Paiva and his family. The de Paiva family had been serving as missionaries in Palau and were making a powerful impact on many people in that North Pacific island republic. The attorney wrote his account of the funeral service held in December 2003 for the de Paiva family, three of whom were murdered. Only their daughter Melissa, survived, herself badly injured in the attack. Excerpts from the attorneys account follow, with minimal editing to preserve its flavor.
A memorial service was held at four in the afternoon for Ruimar, his wife Margaret, and their son. In attendance were Ruimars father and mother, Elder Itamar and Ruth de Paiva, along with Itamars two brothers, Emerson and Hernan. The family of Mrs. Ruimar (Margaret) de Paiva was unable to attend.
The service was long but occasioned a truly life-changing experience. After four hours, the attorney was ready to stand up and shout, "Enough, already!" when Ruimars mother did something so intensely selfless that the attorney broke down and wept.
Ruth de Paiva, the closest relative of the murdered family, took the microphone without warning or announcement, and proceeded to demonstrate a level of unsurpassed forgiveness. In the week that she had been in Palau, she had met Justin Hirosi, the man who had murdered her son, daughter-in-law, and only grandson. She prayed with him and let him know that she had already forgiven him. He cried.
Now having just learned that Justins mother was at the memorial service, Mrs. de Paiva asked Mrs. Hirosi to join her onstage. Mrs. Hirosi was unable to walk alone and was aided to the stage by her brother and several neighbors. Ruimars mother hugged her so warmly that the casual observer would have believed the two were long-lost friends. Together they stepped to the microphone, and Mrs. de Paiva announced that they were "both mothers grieving for lost sons." You could hear a pin drop; there was absolute silence. Then tears began to flow.
Mrs. de Paiva continued. She implored the Palauan community to remove any shroud of blame that might cover Justins family. She said that the de Paivas did not blame Justins family for the tragedy. No one else should either, she said. "We raise our children, we educate them, we teach them right and wrong. That is all we as mothers can do."
This display of kindness and forgiveness was amazing. The high chief of the island on which the tragedy occurred came to the microphone and announced, "If we follow Palauan tradition to its fullest extent, Melissa is now the daughter of Mrs. Hirosi, and Mrs. de Paiva is a mother to Justin." He expressed shame, regret, and sorrow on behalf of Justins family, his clan, and his entire tribe.
Then Justins uncle, the most senior male member of the family, stepped forward. The high chief explained that Justins family and clan, though of meager means, had sold many of their belongings and now desired to deliver $10,000 in cash to Melissa for her college education. The whole congregation was emotionally moved, and many tears were shed.
Ten-year-old Melissa had been strong throughout the service. When asked where she would like to live, she answered, "Id like to stay here in Palau." When told that her extended family was waiting for her in Texas, she said, "But I will be back someday; Ill come back as a missionary." Soon thereafter the entire de Paiva family boarded a plane bound for Dallas, where the family of the late Margaret de Paiva was waiting.
The de Paiva family accomplished more in their death than they ever could have in life. They taught that it is best to forgive and forget. "Love your neighbor as yourself."