On August 28, 1996, high school senior Zachary Snarr was killed in an act of senseless violence. His mother, Sy Snarr, was in shock for the first few days but was quickly filled with a burning anger she would come to know all too well.
“[The Comforter] got me through those first hard days that got me through the funeral,” Sy says. “But I knew the second the Comforter left me. I knew it. And I hit rock bottom. I was in such a dark, dark place. I was devastated, to say the least. The reality that he really wasn’t coming home set in, and I was so depressed and grieving that I just had so much anger in me that it had even happened. I was angry at Jorge, obviously, for doing it. I was angry at God because I knew he could have stopped it.”
After years of hatred and resentment, however, Sy realized she couldn’t keep living in a state of poisonous anger. Through the remarkable power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, she came not only to forgive but to love Jorge Benevenuto, the man who had ended her son’s life.
Sy says she couldn’t even count the number of times she told the world that she hated Jorge. It consumed her interactions with others, with her family, and with God.
“There was no light in my life. I wasn’t allowing the light in, and that was on me,” Sy says. “I didn’t turn to God because I was angry at him and the whole world. I was angry at other mothers who had their 18-year-old sons, and I know it’s totally irrational. But … it’s hard to describe the depths of my hatred and anger at that time.”
Sy’s hatred weighed like an anchor on her soul for the next fifteen years as she grappled with wanting to be happy again but being unwilling to forgive. She began praying for help through the Atonement of Christ but struggled as everyday interactions reminded her of Zach.
“I had become an angry, bitter person. And I didn’t like it… I’ve always been a happy person and I love doing fun things with people. I love my family being with them, spreading joy, and I wasn’t doing that. And I just thought ‘I want to be that person again.’ That’s when I had to drag myself out of that dark hole and search for the light and I found the light,” Sy says.
Part of what sparked Sy’s desire to return to the light and forgive was a talk given at church. A friend in her ward called her on Sunday morning to let Sy know that she was giving a talk on forgiveness and that she didn’t want to upset Sy. That sweet act of consideration helped Sy prepare to hear about forgiveness and recognize how badly she needed it in her life.
“I think it was meant for me to hear that talk because it touched my soul. It touched me and I thought ‘This is what I want. I want to let this go, and I want to … truly forgive him,’” Sy says.
She acknowledged though that she wasn’t able to change until she truly wanted to. “You have to want to [forgive]… for yourself. … Nobody can tell you how you should feel.” With a newfound desire to forgive and the Savior on her side, Sy made progress and was able to change who she was. “People can change. I changed myself from that horrible, angry, ugly person that I was for so long to … feeling joy and happiness and love for everybody. And it’s a wonderful thing.”
Merely wanting to change wouldn’t have been enough. Sy learned to rely on the Savior to help transform her desires into new, faithful actions. “The Atonement makes it possible that’s for sure. I give full credit to my Savior for that,” she says.
The process of forgiveness helped Sy come to know Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in a close, personal manner that she hadn’t felt before. Before Zach’s death, she says, “I can’t say that I had a personal relationship [with God.] I didn’t feel like I did with Heavenly Father or the Savior. But I feel like I do now. I feel like I know them because I've allowed myself to know them. And what a blessing that’s been.”
Years after she had forgiven him, Jorge reached out to apologize for what he did. Sy let him know that she’d forgiven him, and the two of them began a rich friendship. Jorge calls Sy just about every week from prison and they both look forward to hearing from each other. Sy collects every letter she gets from Jorge and saves them in an ever-growing stack. She even visits him in prison when she can. Jorge’s family visits Sy’s family for events and get-togethers, and both families have been blessed by their relationship.
Sy doesn’t know why she had to go through as much grief as she did, but she trusts that God has a plan, and everything has a purpose. She prays for all those afflicted with death or despair, and for those seeking to forgive, she advises, “The way you [forgive] is you fight back, you turn to God, you turn to the Savior, you pray a lot and let Them guide you.”