The epilogue begins: “Walter died on September 11, 2013.” Stevenson describes Walter’s kindness despite his disorientation during his last two years. His dementia weakened his health, and he died one night in his family’s home. Stevenson returns to the church in Monroeville where he’d given his speech about “stonecatching” twenty years before. He considers the “mostly poor, rural black” crowd and remembers how the “ungrieved suffering” he’d witnessed during Walter’s case still continues to plague them. A screen projects pictures of Walter, many from the day he was released. Stevenson marvels at “how happy” he and Walter “both seemed.” Stevenson remembers Walter asking him once about his own views of death. Walter reflected that “dying on some court schedule” was unnatural, and he explained: “People are supposed to die on God’s schedule.”
By beginning with plainly announcing Walter’s death, Stevenson makes it clear that the Epilogue is about losing Walter. Stevenson’s reflections on the crowd speak to the book’s focus on the oppression of an entire community. The images of Walter’s release stir Stevenson because they reflect only part of their stories. Stevenson’s memory adds ambiguous meaning to Walter’s death, which is both “on God’s schedule” and not, because it was caused by complications from his time on death row.
In his funeral speech, Stevenson explains that “Walter had become like a brother” to him. He remarks on how Walter “came out with dignity” despite the suffering and injustice he faced. Walter’s struggle and resilience paved the way for justice for everyone, he says, and constituted a “triumph worth celebrating, an accomplishment to be remembered.” Stevenson describes the lessons he learned from Walter about the need to continue fighting against unjust and unequal systems. Above all, Walter’s willingness to forgive “the people who had judged him unworthy of mercy” and to move on and find joy in life taught Stevenson the power of mercy toward people who don’t deserve it. After the service, Stevenson gives his number to several people requesting legal help. While he isn’t sure he’ll be able to help most of them, he writes: “it made the journey home less sad to hope that maybe we could.”
Stevenson’s choice to dedicate the Epilogue to Walter’s funeral and to the lessons he learned from him re-establishes Walter’s story as the central plot of the book. By emphasizing how Walter’s forgiveness taught Stevenson about mercy, he reiterates one of the book’s central concepts: true justice isn’t about due punishment, but about undue compassion. The last line about how the “hope” of helping more people makes the “journey home less sad” is a metaphor for how helping others has made Stevenson’s own life journey easier.