In the suburbs: The quality of Mercy

Every so often, the suburbs yields a moment that sets the bar high for mercy and compassion. Take Thursday, for instance.

In a Montgomery County courtroom, Judge Joseph A. Smyth did some legal razzle dazzle that allowed 75-year-old Patricia Maurer to avoid serving the one-year mandatory jail term for anyone convicted of leaving the scene of an accident in which a person dies.

Kristy Bender, 26

The merciful disposition came at the request of Kathy and Frank Bender, whose daughter, Kristy, 26, Maurer fatally struck with her Camry on April 27, 2011 in Upper Providence Township.

Maurer, who is too frail to drive, thought she heard a bump but kept on going. She didn’t know she had killed anyone until relatives told her.

Kristy was remembered Thursday as a smiling, brown-haired young lady who graduated from high-school with the help of a special-education plan.

She worked at Kohl’s, loved animals and hoped to work with them someday. She lived with the Benders in an upstairs bedroom because she needed their protection. She was loving, loved life and was the apple of her parents’ eye.

Imagine how you would feel if your precious daughter was left like Kristy to “die by the side of the road like a fox or squirrel,” as her mother told the court.

Not the sort of thing that breeds compassion, is it? Somehow, though, the Benders found their way back from the black hole of recrimination.

Looking straight at Maurer, Kathy Bender delivered her own sentence, and the District Attorney’s office had the good sense not to meddle with it:

“I talk to an urn on the table that has my daughter’s ashes. Her room is the same, almost as if she will be back, and will need her things, but she never will.

“Our wish is that you never drive a vehicle again and that you remember every day what happened on that fateful day.”

In his play ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ the bard William Shakespeare wrote about the quality of mercy, and it has never been better put:

“The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”

The Benders understood instinctively what he was getting at, and applied it to Maurer’s case.

What an inspiration they are to all of us.