A memoir and an act of forgiveness
Kim Range, a Cape Cod Hospital IV nurse, bumped into fellow nurse Christina Howell in the main entrance of the hospital recently and asked if she had read “the book.”
“I was crying the first two chapters,” was Howell’s reply.
The book they were talking about was “The Greater Weight of Glory: A Memoir” by Robin Farnsworth, who is also a nurse at the hospital. The memoir tells the story of her oldest son, Spencer MacLeod, who was brutally murdered in 2002.
Farnsworth said many people have been intrigued by the story and the fact that she was on duty in the emergency room at Cape Cod Hospital the night MacLeod was brought in, seriously wounded.
“But not a lot of people know all of it,” she said. “And there is the forgiveness piece, too,” she said. “I should be a mess. When I look at what I could be, if it were not for the grace and mercy of God.”
Eight years after her son’s death, Farnsworth felt some healing had taken place and that she was able to look back and tell the story. Although it took many years to complete, most of the book was written and edited in 2016-2017. She also created a website, Spencersmom.com, where she writes a blog that includes small stories about loss, life and redemption. The blog helped her craft her skill as a writer.
MacLeod was not the intended target of the violence. He died saving his friend’s life, who was seriously injured in the attack. MacLeod was upstairs asleep when the front door of the apartment was broken down and six young men invaded, armed with a knife, golf club, crowbar and a bat. The men were after another man who had initiated a fight earlier in a party at a house in West Dennis. He had stopped by the apartment earlier, but had already left by the time of the invasion. MacLeod was called a hero by many for saving his friend’s life.
Zane Rasmusen was one of the six men involved in the attack and was charged with MacLeod’s murder. At his 2003 trial at the Barnstable Superior Court, Robin declared for all to hear – including Rasmusen – that she forgave him.
“One thing that God dealt with me immediately (after Spencer’s death) was ‘will you forgive?’ And I think he understood that if I even began to let the magnitude of that type of violation take root in my heart… you can’t make it, that thing is going to chew you up, it’s going to devour you; your marriage, your children, and reach into everything in your life.”
Rasmusen was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder. Five other men were convicted, including David Mayland, whom Farnsworth has forgiven and befriended.
Farnsworth is a woman who practices her faith. She gives talks about her story and the power of forgiveness. She also runs “Higher Ground,” a ministry for incarcerated women at the Barnstable House of Correction.
Eighteen months after MacLeod’s death, Farnsworth and her husband, Calvin Farnsworth, left the Cape to be pastors in a small church in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It was there that she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which, in face of the enormity of what she had endured already was, in her words, an “annoyance.”
Farnsworth’s memoir covers some of her own childhood; her family and the loss of her oldest brother when he was still a child, which triggered her mother’s mental illness and her father’s alcoholism. She tells of her own past struggles with addiction and ultimate redemption through faith.
She also recounts MacLeod’s walk of faith. He loved to write and compose Christian rap, and performed at Victory Chapel in Hyannis. He also performed in several high schools in South Africa, where he was involved in missionary work. Frequently he had flyers in his pockets to hand out to friends, inviting them to church.
“The book is very powerful. Working in the nursing profession, I can’t imagine seeing my child in such circumstances,” said Howell, who did not know Farnsworth’s story before reading the book. She has recommended the book to friends both at Cape Cod Hospital and elsewhere.
Range is also enthusiastic about the book. She read it in one night and offered to promote it.
“I believe in it. I feel everybody I know should read it,” she said.
Range has sold about 300 copies so far and has presented the book to publishers and to a movie director. She is Farnsworth’s voluntary agent.
“This story is so important. I love its message of hope.”
Range remembers going to work the morning after MacLeod’s death and, to this day, does not know how people got through the day.
“People were quiet, nobody was talking. It was awful.”
In his online review of the book, Nathan Rudman, MD, an emergency room physician at Cape Cod Hospital, said it was “impossible to put down.” He said before he read the book, he could never understand how Farnsworth survived her son’s murder.
“Now I do,” he said.
The book is important to both Christians a non-Christians alike, he said.
At the end of the book, Farnsworth tells readers she had plans to meet Rasmusen last fall. On December 11, 2017, she visited him at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Norfolk, where he is serving his sentence. It was the first time she had seen her son’s killer since his trial in 2003. She sat down with him for three hours.
She was not after answers or explanations.
“I wanted to explain to him the best way I could about the power of forgiveness.” She believes God has a plan for Zane’s life.
Farnsworth said she misses her son every day.
“It’s (the pain) always there,” she said. But for her, the Spencer that is in heaven becomes bigger and the Spencer she will never see again diminishes.
On a chilly January night in the winter before he died, Farnsworth invited her son over for dinner. At her kitchen, while preparing a beef stew, she told him she hadn’t always been a good mother to him. When she looked up at him she noticed he was not sad or mad. What she saw, she said, was compassion.
“Mom, you have been the best mom in the whole world,” was his reply. They held hands, Farnsworth writes in the memoir, and Spencer prayed over the food. It was the last time she saw her son alive.
“The Greater Weight of Glory: A Memoir” 272 pages, is available at Amazon.com and bookstores on Cape Cod.