KENTWOOD, Mich. — The mother of Connor Verkerke is sharing more about her son who was killed on a Kentwood playground in 2014.
The 9-year-old was innocently playing when he was stabbed and killed by then 12-year-old Jamarion Lawhorn.
FOX 17 spoke with Connor's mother, Dani Potts, who wanted to share this statement:
"I wish everyone could have met him. He was an incredible young boy. He was funny and sweet and had a flare for theatrics. He used to dress up & put on skits with his brothers. It never gets touched on but he was gender fluid."
Potts's statement continues:
"He was genuinely compassionate. He wanted to be a music teacher & join the Peace Corps & he loved to dance. He took ballet, tap & jazz.
"When he was stabbed, I was afraid someone had hurt him because maybe they had seen him outside before that day playing in one of his dresses. I always worked so hard to protect him while allowing him to express himself. There is some comfort in knowing that it was not a hate crime against him for being a part of the LGBTQ community.
"I feel I have made my peace with Jamarion by letting go of any intentions or wishes about his future. His life is his."
Potts also penned a lengthy Facebook post about forgiveness the day Lawhorn was released from custody on March 1, 2021.
It seems to be the theme of what most people have to say.
But, what exactly does forgiveness mean to you? How do you define it for yourself and how do you determine who you give it to?
In my experience, for most, what they call forgiveness is a shallow creature.
They try giving it strings.
"Well because of xyz circumstance I forgive".
"I forgive as long as no transgression ever occurs again".
"I forgive as long as you do exactly as I say and live up to every expectation I project on to you until the day you inevitably disappoint me for not conforming to the person I turned you into in my mind".
Or forgiveness gets tossed around as a masquerade for "this situation makes me uncomfortable and I don't want to put any more thought into it".
Forgiveness is intimate.
Everyone also loves to line up to try selling you aphorisms about forgiveness like it's just some simple thing...I have news for you, it's not.
Forgiveness. Is. Intimate.
Forgiving ourselves for shortcomings while he was alive..
Experiences we planned on giving him but hadn't gotten to..
For telling him no to a snack because I was in the middle of making dinner just moments before he died..
Forgiving. Connor. For. Dying.
All those forms of forgiveness I would agree are necessary for healing.
However, no one - and I mean absolutely no one - is required to forgive their perpetrator.
It is incredible to me how many of those in my life tried impressing upon me that I "HAVE TO" forgive him, that found it perfectly acceptable to mount on the pressure and make me feel like if I didn't do this "small thing" then I wasn't doing enough - and it taught me to find solace with those who didn't make such ridiculous demands. I was never under any obligation - not to Connor, and not to myself - to forgive him.
No one is required to forgive their perpetrator.
It is also absurd to me how many people want to preach forgiveness about a tragedy that never directly impacted them.
People whose life-highway is likely littered with others they no longer speak to for borrowing a measuring cup and not returning it, for accidentally breaking something of value, for spilling something on their new carpet, for not repaying them that $20 they were owed...or any other slight and yet they would demand it of someone else for a situation far more serious.
Forgiving Jamarion, to me, meant letting go of all expectations of him. It is saying "your life is yours and I will not get in your way". It is freeing him of all ill-wishes, and not harboring any secret hopes of failure. It is accepting that he is accountable for what he did but not taking time or energy to continue punishing him for it in my mind or reality. It is saying if he succeeds, he succeeds, and if he fails, he fails and not waiting around, watching intently, for either one to happen. His life is just that - it's his life.
Forgiveness does not involve making excuses for him.
Forgiveness is NOT martyring my dead son to give Jamarion's life meaning.
Forgiveness does not require you insert yourself into their outcome.
And it certainly is not slapping a superficial bandaid on the life that was lost for the sake of moving on.
Forgiveness for trauma is not a shallow creature.
Forgiveness is intimate.
Potts added that she is in the process of launching a soap company and making a soap in Connor's honor.
She plans to use the proceeds from that soap to fund a dance scholarship in his memory.