The Book That Started It All

Here I was, starting to read a book I had previously abandoned to the basement. Little did I know how it would change my life! What book could possible do something like that? Dead Man Walking by Sister Helen Prejean.

I live in a northern state that doesn't have the death penalty. That's not to say we don't hear or read about it in the news. We will get an occasional story-- the one that made the "headlines" or the execution didn't go quite as planned. I have read other books about the death penalty, but nothing like this: a personal account of someone who befriended death row inmates and then was with them at their moment of execution. And so, I opened up the book and began the journey.

I finished the book over the weekend. In fact, I think I read it twice! It is an easy read and not too long. It left me thinking about people on death row. What was it like? How did they "live" knowing this was how they were going to die. I could not imagine! To give up everything... It saddened me.

At the end of the book was a small paragraph with the address of Sr. Helen's organization. I decided to write and ask for a name of an inmate. I don't even know if they do that anymore. It took about month before I received a postcard back. I had a name and a note which said "May 7th is his birthday. You might want to start with a card. Good luck!"

I looked at and reread that card for a few days, thinking about what to do. Did I want to even start something like this? More than likely he will be dead in a few years, I reasoned. How hard would it be to write a few letters and give the guy a smile once in a while?

So I took the advice I was given and bought a birthday card. I mulled over what to write for a few days. Not coming up with anything...oh, really? What do you say? Happy birthday and oh, by the way, I'm sorry? I decided to just write a short note, mail it and see what happens.

I waited 2 weeks and heard nothing back. Surely, he got the card by now! Why wasn't he writing back? I was getting angry! I went out of my way to be nice. I gave attention to the "worst of the worst". Someone society has forgotten. And he was ignoring me! That didn't sit too well with me so I wrote again. This time it was a long letter. I told him about myself, my kids, my husband, my town, my state. I told him about snow. I finished the letter by saying I wanted to be his penpal, but if he wasn't interested in writing to me, I would understand. I mailed this letter and began the waiting game again.

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