In Marriage, A Bond Of Love, Loss And Light

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Ed Roy, 63, and Mary Johnson-Roy, 64, were married in 2015. Both had sons die. "I'm grateful to have someone there that has experienced the same thing I have," Mary tells Ed at StoryCorps in Minneapolis.

You may remember Mary Johnson from a 2011 StoryCorps conversation with a man that could have easily been her enemy.

She spoke with Oshea Israel, the man who murdered her son, Laramiun Byrd. Mary met Oshea while he was serving time in prison for the crime. After his release, they became close and sparked a remarkable relationship.

"My natural son is no longer here. I didn't see him graduate. Now, you're going to college," she said to Oshea back then. "I'll have the opportunity to see you graduate. I didn't see him get married. Hopefully, one day, I'll be able to experience that with you."

"Just to hear you say those things and to be in my life in the manner that which you are, is my motivation," Oshea said. "You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it, despite how much pain I caused you, it's amazing."

Since that interview she has been telling her story in local churches. She also fell in love and in 2015, married a man named Ed Roy. He had served time in prison, and later, also lost a son, Mandel.

"We met when my first born and my one and only son was murdered," Ed tells Mary in a recent StoryCorps conversation. "And a couple of my daughters had asked me to go to the church to hear you speak."

He says he wasn't ready to forgive, but he was at a loss.

"Like I shared with you, I thought God took my boy and was punishing me for my own crimes. I had joined the gangs early and pulled my first armed robbery at 11 years old. With you being there, I saw hope. You took me under your wing. That's why I called you my angel," he says.

Just before they got married, Ed says he had a dream.

"Your son was saying, 'Yeah, Mom! Alright!' You know, 'Right on!' And my son was saying, 'Yeah, Dad! 'Bout time you got it right!' Ed says.

Oshea served as a groomsman at their wedding. "He is my spiritual son," Mary says.

The anniversary of Laramiun's murder is Feb. 12.

"That empty hole's always going to be there in our hearts," Ed says. "But I feel like when we together and we able to listen to one another's heartbeats. It says a lot."

"I'm thankful, I really am," Mary says. "You're a good man."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Jasmyn Belcher Morris and Liyna Anwar.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

An earlier Web version of this story spelled Oshea Israel's last name as Isreal.