The recent death of an Oklahoma prison inmate may have escaped some people's notice, but not that of Brooks Douglass.
The former state senator got a phone call Easter Sunday telling him that Glen Burton Ake, one of the two men convicted of killing his parents, had died April 23 at a prison hospital.
Douglass said his reaction was twofold.
“There was a lot of emotion,” he said during a recent telephone interview from his California home.
“It was a combination of surprise and a feeling of ‘I'm glad it's over — it's really over.'”
And immediately after that Douglass said he felt grateful.
“I'm really, really, really glad that I met with him when I did,” Douglass said.
The meeting Douglass referred to is depicted in his feature film “Heaven's Rain,” which becomes available on DVD in June. “Heaven's Rain” chronicles the night Douglass' parents were murdered and the lives of Brooks Douglass and his sister in the tragedy's aftermath.
Ake, 55, died of natural causes, a heart attack, his attorney, Irven Box, told The Oklahoman. Ake was serving two life sentences for fatally shooting the Rev. Richard Douglass and wife Marilyn at their Okarche home in October 1979. Brooks Douglass, who was then 16, and his sister Leslie, then 12, also were shot but survived.
Ake had once been on death row, but the jury at a retrial chose the life terms instead. His accomplice, Steven Keith Hatch, who waited in a car outside the family's house during the murder, was executed in 1996 for the slayings.
A poignant scene in “Heaven's Rain” re-cerates the true-life meeting between Ake and Brooks Douglass in a room at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester. Douglass was a state senator at the time.
Douglass said he wanted to meet face-to-face with the man who murdered his parents and did not expect to forgive him. He said through the grace of God, he did forgive Ake and told the man so at the end of their meeting.
Douglass said he is grateful that forgiveness came.
He said when he talks about the power of forgiveness at the numerous presentations he has conducted at “Heaven's Rain” screenings, he always mentions that it is best to seize the opportunity to forgive someone or ask for forgiveness when one can.