Sitting in her house in Gastonia, North Carolina, Mary Elizabeth Bailey – who as a child was directed by her mother to shoot her abusive stepfather to death – espouses forgiveness as key to a fulfilled life.
“Forgiveness is the absolute,” says Mary, whose book My Mother’s Soldier describes the darkness of her life when she should have been a carefree schoolchild.
“You cannot move on with your life if you do not forgive the people in your past,” says Mary, whose faith has helped her through the unimaginable terror that occurred when she was 11 and the after-effects that exiled her to a life as a rootless foster child.
“What happened to me, I can’t continue to blame people,” she says. “As I move through life, I try to keep that in mind: Jesus forgave people. I’m not perfect, but I try and offer grace. That’s why I’ve forgiven my mother.”
Her mother — who she refers to as “Veronica” in the book, because she never viewed the woman, who birthed her after an affair with a married man, as “Mom” — put the murder weapon in Mary’s little hands and ordered her to go kill her stepfather.
“Willard” was violent and abusive to Veronica as well as to his small children and especially to his stepdaughter.
Veronica put the gun in Mary’s hands three times. The first two times, she had forgotten to release the safety before dispatching her daughter to kill Willard, who was passed out.
“I remember every detail,” says Mary, now 44. “I remember the shock because it took three times for the weapon to fire. I remember when the fire came out of the end of it.”