When my friend Terrell Ross first introduced me to his wife, I struggled to stifle a chuckle.
Diana Ross? C'mon!
Her famous name seemed even more ironic as I came to know her. Quite in contrast to her brash diva namesake, this Diana Ross was soft-spoken, kind, and demure. Only recently did I learn that her outward modesty belied an extraordinary inner fortitude.
In October 2006, her beloved husband of more than three decades died after a much-too-quick battle with cancer.
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And then just three years later, her youngest daughter, Amanda Ross, 28, was murdered by her ex-fiancé. The emotional toll on Diana Ross, expectedly, was extraordinary. The touching article illuminated the turmoil of her personal 9/11, as she revealed in court documents: "Amanda's murder has affected every aspect of my life ... I was paralyzed to the point of not being able to function on a daily basis. I remain impaired by the loss. Despite my desire to prevent it, the murder has changed me. The void that remains cannot be filled. I can't escape the reality that the life we enjoyed will never return."
And yet, quite unexpectedly, the shy and grieving woman soldiered on, ensuring that her daughter had not died in vain. Diana Ross understood that with the public's short attention span, there was only a narrow window to seek larger justice in Amanda's name.
So when state House leaders introduced and then passed legislation, called Amanda's Law, that would dramatically expand the use of GPS monitoring technology to protect victims of domestic violence, Diana Ross appeared resolutely at nearly every news conference and rally. And when the GOP-controlled state Senate stripped the bill of some of its most critical provisions — and continued to reject reform that would have finally placed dating partners under the protection of domestic violence laws — Ross weathered the law's official signing ceremonies, knowing that some new protections were better than none at all.
But perhaps most remarkably, she publicly forgave her daughter's murderer. She wrote to the court: "My faith compels me to forgive Steve Nunn. Refusal to do so would harm only me."
I can't imagine finding the same measure of strength to forgive someone who had harmed one of my precious daughters.
Ross recognizes that forgiveness is critical to one's own self-interest. As the proverb declares, holding onto a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.
But to forgive does not mean to forget. Ross did not rest until Nunn was sentenced to life in prison without parole. It is her prayer that the case "will send a message that acts of domestic violence will be met with accountability and just punishment."
So it's up to the rest of us to carry that message to courthouses, capitols and community centers across America. Urge legislators to pass tough laws that crack down on perpetrators of domestic violence and protect its victims.
Insist that dating partners and live-in lovers receive the same protections as their married counterparts. And if you or someone you know is being victimized by domestic violence, report it immediately.
The singer Diana Ross has been an inspiration to millions of girls worldwide. Amanda Ross's mother, Diana, will never be as famous, but she is no less deserving of our respect and emulation.
When confronted with an unspeakable tragedy, she provided a model for forgiveness, as well as a compelling case for justice.