I wanted to share with everyone a most amazing event that took place in my life over the weekend. These stories are like jewels upon our crown of victory of leaving death row. I say OUR, because there is no me without WE!
I’ve already expressed how i plan to take advantage of EVERY opportunity available to me. If they offer it, i’m going to try to be a part of it. I have a lot of catching up to do with Life.
I found out about a program that is offered where they allow your child(ren) to come inside the Unit and spend the whole day with you. It’s sponsored by several different christian organizations. This program has only been done a few times on McConnell Unit. As soon as i learned about the program, i applied for it. That was about a year ago. Well, i ended up getting chosen for the program around January and it just took place this passed weekend (March 13th). I don’t think i can fully explain what all just happened to me this weekend. It was an event full of love, compassion and togetherness (something not exhibited much in TDC – amongst prisoners and guards and prisoners and prisoners). IT was a day about uniting child and father and promoting parenthood. It was beyond words. I want to share some of the things that took place.
The event began Thursday night (March 11th) with a brief orientation of the event. How the program came into existance was talked about and we began to meet the sponsors of this event. This event was started by a woman named Scotti Barnes whom is an amazing woman of God. She has a ministry called Forgiven Ministries and the story behind it is powerful. I encourage all of you to go to her web-site and read about her work. She brought us in and told us about what was to come. To start the event off she showed us a video called the Heart of Texas ( I believe this video can be accessed under this name on the web too.) This video set the tone of the weekend. It was about a man who was all about love to his fellow man. HE was from a small town in Texas (in other words gre up around a lot of racism and division amongst people.) And he had grew to have a strong relationship with a black family there in that town. The Black family was deep in poverty and were just struggling to live. This man extended much love to this family and would assist in bringing clothes to the home, food and other things. The relationship was one definately made by and through God’s love.
The story takes a powerful turn. One night this man’s family was coming back from a baseball game and for whatever reason the family had to make a pitstop. During the pitstop one of the man’s children got out of the van and ran into the highway. Sadly, the child was hit by a vehicle driving along. The driver didn’t stop. The child was killed instantly. In the wake of this tragedy the town was in uproar. They wanted to find out who had done this and deliver “justice” to that person. A search was carried out for who this person could be. People were watched and vehicles were searched for. And eventually, a vehicle was found that matched the crime scene situation. To everyone’s suprise the vehicle matched the man who was receiving the help from the childs father. I think that pierced every man in the room’s heart. But, what happened next shook the room even more. Never once did the man show any hate towards the man who hit his daughter. Infact, he did the opposite. He showed supreme compassion and reached out to that man. Not only that, but he asked that man’s family to join him at the funeral (on the FRONT row) and even provided half the clothes for that family to wear to the funeral. IT was beyond belief.
When the case was brought to court he plead with the Grand Jury to not indict this man, because he knew this was a God fearing man and that if he knew what he had hit, he would of never drove off. And that’s exactly what happened – the Grand Jury did not indict this man. How a man could take this position after his child was killed ONLY GOD CAN KNOW.
This video told the entire story – this is just a brief outline. I gave that very brief outline, because when the video went off the man came into the room to meet us all. WOW! That was amazing! This man came in and told his his story and gave testimony to forgiveness. Once he spoke he greeted everyone in the crowd and i think everyone knows that i had to share my own story with him. And i did. I told him about my years on Death Row and how his story resonated to me, because being a death row inmate i know something about forgiveness. I know that if people would have never forgave me for my bad decisions then i wouldn’t be where i am today. If people hadn’t granted me supreme compassion i wouldn’t be alive. We had a very good talk and they convened the meeting with preperations for the next day. The next day we would meet with more people and they would prepare us for our Saturday Day With Dad.
Friday came with much anticipation and we walked into an event beyond imagination. The day was all about us and all about showing us (With Love) how to be better men and better Fathers. It was almost like a seminar teaching us to work with our kids, talk to them and make a bridge over these walls. I am thankful to say that i have a beautiful bond with my child, but nevertheless i still learned much about Fatherhood. There were men in that room (13 of us in total) that hadn’t seen their children for years. I was joined to their pains. There was many tears and testimonies, all of which touched my heart. Through their pains i realized how even in here, i am richly blessed and i know God has a specific purpose for me.
The best way i can say it is these people treated us like men and Kings. We met other volunteers who had great testimonies. They all provided pieces to the puzzle about how we can overcome our hate and negative behaviours. Some of these volunteers had faced their own dark moments (like Jack King). They topped that day off with fried chicken, dinner rolls, green beans, potato wedges and every goodie you could think of (cake, chips, candy bars). It flowed like a river and they werne’thappy until we were stuffed until we couldn’t move. I, of course, felt guilty after eating 3 pieces and enough goodies to feed a third world nation. But, i enjoyed myself and even more enjoyed what was being relayed to us. WE spent the rest of the day making gifts for our children and preparing things for our children that would be given to them on Saturday.
And so the day ended with a lot of prayer and mental preparation for what the next day would be like.
Saturday arrived with all of them dressed in their best whites and smiles glowing everywhere. They started the day off with a nice quick breakfast of sausage bisquits. And when i tell you everything they served us was mouth watering it’s not an exaggeration. This makes even the best prison food seem like dog food. And i’m not ashamed to say that i ENJOYED what was offered (haha).
The morning began with a lot of mingling with the volunteers that came in for the event (which was maybe 20 or 25). And i had a suprise. I had been sharing my story with as many people as possible and had also shared some newspaper articles about my plight that talked about me and Nydesha. As my story spread i ended up meeting a volunteer that knew about my case. He was an older man from Houston and he told me his story. HE said back in 2007 when he heard aobut my case, he was upset with the Governor for commuting my case. He sid that he felt like if i was there i should have been executed too. Thats not a foreign expression to me, you know. But, he said he had some life changing events that allowed him to release those feelings and got him involved in prison ministry and after reading some of those newspaper articles about how i went to death row he said he began to question the death penalty in itself. So, that was a very powerful thing to see the corcle of growth moving like that.
Around 10am our children entered the Unit. Sadly, 2 of the guys children did not make it and one man’s daughter came late, but she came. We all comforted each other and rejoiced in what was talking place. Our kids came in and the event was launched.
We played games, had a country singer there, magic shows and even 2 clowns came in. After playing these games they served us some treats to hold us over until lunch which consisted of grapes, bananas, straberries, chocolate milk, danish and other goodies. On and on the day went with singing and playing games.
Lunch was served around 12.30 and we feasted on hamburgers and chilli dogs followed by cake. There was a time in the program where we were allowed to find a quiet spot on the Rec yard and talk to our children. IT was a beautiful sight to see guys hugged up with their children, there was a lot of joyful tears. We gave our kids the gifts that had been prepared for them, we signed the t-shirts that we wore and just exchanged as many thoughts and words as possible.
After everything was done there was a traditional ceremony that was done and that was a balloon release. Every child and father had a balloon to release to the sky – symbolically representing whatever they wanted to release to the sky. I mention this because there are a few people reading this who knows about a story i told regarding the releae of a balloon. This story i told was about me releasing a balloon that was symbolic to a person in my life. That balloon, though staying in my sights for a while, would eventually go so far to where i couldn’t see them anymore. And on that day, March 13th, when i released that balloon i realeased that person fully from my heart. This event ended up being more powerful for me in many ways.
To top off the event pictures were taken. I’m posting the one my daughter and i took. And for the record i can’t count how many persons told us that my baby looks JUST LIKE ME (thankyouvery much!) And of course our matching smiles took the show. Nydesha has grown to be a beautiful young lady and is very eloegant and mature for her age. I couldn’t be more proud, though i know i’m going to be.
It was hard to close the day, but we did with a lot of hugs and kisses. My heart perhaps did a littlebetter than others because i know i will see my daughter again soon, though each time she leaves it makes me just a little bit sore. And i was sore in the heart for those that may not see their children for a long time.
We all were very thankful for this program and for those people that came in to do this for they don’t judge us and treat us the way you would think people in society would want us to act – like good, wholesome citizens.
It’s been an amazing weekend and this short journal doesn’t even encompass everything that took place, but i had to share with you what i was able to experience. From my understanding there will be a Day with Dad Reunion sometime later this year, so hopefully that will happen and i’ll habe a nice story about that.
Try to take out the time to look up:
I’m greatly blessed to be where i am today and i thank all of you that helped me get to this point, because without your support, teachings and love i wouldn’t be where i am.
I’ll talk to you soon!