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.
Ake's death seemed to add emphasis to that mindset, Douglass said.
“I talk about forgiveness — whatever it is you're going to do, you need to do it now. You never know when that opportunity to forgive or be forgiven will be gone,” he said.
“That seems to resonate with people.”
Too often, people have a tendency to hold onto what happens, holding grudges that ultimately hurt them more than the other person, he said.
“Ultimately, we have to move on — not forgetting our loved ones or forgetting what happened — and live our lives to the fullest. This is what I had to do.”
Film shares messages
Douglass said he has continued to attend private screenings of “Heaven's Rain” since the movie premiered last year.
He said he spoke at a recent screening of the faith-themed film for more than 1,000 people at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
In April, he was presented the Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award by the U.S. Department of Justice at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Douglass said the film also has been screened by several criminal justice groups including district attorney associations. He said many of the organizations screening the film these days are interested in his legacy as author of victims' rights legislation. He said one screening will be for employees at the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Washington, D.C., headquarters.
“I had one period in April where I was in 11 states in 13 days,” he said
Churches, too, continue to express interest in hosting “Heaven's Rain” screenings because of its theme of forgiveness and the fact that Richard Douglass was a Southern Baptist senior pastor at the time of his death. Before that, the Douglasses were Baptist missionaries to Brazil.
Brooks Douglass said he planned to speak at Asbury United Methodist Church in Tulsa on Friday, May 20. He said he is looking forward to speaking at Putnam City Baptist Church, where his father was senior pastor, in July.
Douglass said the public has been very responsive to the “Heaven's Rain” DVD sale now under way on the movie's website, www.heavensrainmovie.com. He said DVDs that are purchased will be shipped beginning June 1.
Dateline NBC is set to re-air a segment featuring Brooks Doug
• “Heaven's Rain” becomes available on DVD June 1.
• Douglass is scheduled to speak July 17 at Putnam City Baptist Church, 11401 N Rockwell.
For more information or to order the “Heaven's Rain” DVD, go to www.
I talk about forgiveness — whatever it is you're going to do, you need to do it now. You never know when that opportunity to forgive or be forgiven will be gone.”