Having worked death row inside a prison since 1985 and as recent as April, 2010, it was a most intriguing place to work since it was for sole designed to imprison and contain those souls incarcerated there and awaiting their execution the end of the road. Pending successful appeals or an executive commutation of their death sentence, these men and women are subject to a long and torturous journey that will climax in the inner chambers of the death house when their time on earth has come to an end. Never forgetting that most who sit here are guilty [so we must believe for they were giving their due process by society] and no longer judged to be fit to coexist among those in our living world, we have to wonder how this impacts their last days on earth and if there are comparisons that can be drawn from those mortals not sitting on death row and those free in society.
Commonalities can be found in both the free world and death row. In our communities we have multitudes of people seeking relief from the despair of loneliness and being forgotten by men and family. Although one may be innocent of crimes and the other pictured to be a beast or monster for the pain and harm imposed on their victim and their families, the both share the common goal of death. They also share the despair of solitude as many of us age and become older in their lives separate from others as well within their social circles once practices and enjoyed. One does not need to be placed on death row to experience solitude nor do they have to be physically alone to experience the feelings of such coldness. Throughout our lives “we learn to prepare ourselves for a better life. We prepare for a better education, we prepare ourselves for a better career, we prepare ourselves for marriage and retirement but we never prepare ourselves for death.”
Whether you are living in a house full of people, an elder community home for the disposed family member or the frozen wastelands of our prisons, the fact remains, loneliness and solitude go hand in hand with death for many persons at the end of their lives. Preserving our sanity with attempts to be still useful to a society that has already cast us in the wind of death, we struggle to maintain a sense of dignity and self-respect as we are nearing our ultimate fate, death.
Our fate is filled with human emotions that capture the essence of death and separation of life. Our fate is loneliness, periods of solitude, silenced suffering and unavoidable sorrow. It is also fate that determines how we die and where we die. Persons young and old may die in an unforeseen automobile accident or an injury on the job without warning. Prior to death, one may lay there in a hospital room in pain, suffering and wondering if death is staring them right there in their faces as the grim reaper approaches their presence and warns them of the eventual event after birth…… death.
Our lives have been extended with science and better living but nothing has prevented the moment of death from knocking on your door. Society, riddled with the cancer, other fatal diseases as well as crime within our streets, has mandated death to be the ultimate price to be paid for birth, no exceptions. This lifelong episode of struggling to remain alive whether fighting a in a war or battling the cancer or other life threatening events began the moment you born from within your mother’s womb and fighting hard to possess any weaknesses that may cause you to die prematurely as your destiny has not yet been filled as a child or young person. Seeking better healthcare and trying to beat the human race to the finish line still results in a most undesired result…. Death.
The reason many men and women become Christians while on death row is because they know one thing is certain. They will die whether by lethal injection or electrocution or other legal means to execute, they will die. There preparation for death is no different than those mortals in the free world who also recognize the fact that one day, they will certainly die.
Death is without a class or without a title. Death is death. Whether free or incarcerated, rich or poor, middle class or living in poverty forever, when you are dead, you become a victim of the very essence of life – death. A time when the body becomes numb of all feelings and becomes equal to all those other mortal men and women who have died before you and share the eternal mystery of what happens after death.
Billy Graham – Book – Peace with God – the Billy Graham Library Selection -ISBN 1-59328-027-0