It’s taken years of painful self-searching to understand my incarceration was necessary. I choked on the idea that a rude awakening in prison was the only thing capable of penetrating my sense of entitlement to freedom. With no meaningful standard for loss or any idea of grief I felt indomitable in my rebellious youth. Considering the impact of my choices on others seemed ridiculous because my life was mine. A discovery is worthless if it doesn’t change you.
My death sentence changed how I think. Not overnight. Not without struggle. The evolution in thought was gradual, with each step a little tougher than the next. Eventually, I realized that yes, my life is mine. Mine to be responsible for. Mine to suffer in if that is the purpose. Mine to engage in worthy endeavors and goals. A real understanding of the value of freedom came with the realization that choosing to do the right thing over everything else is the greatest sign of independence.
In every game there is a goal. When it’s reached, we exult in our success over the opposition and are rewarded. Life is no different. I see this now. When failing becomes all you know it’s all there is to expect. It stands to reason that if I set my mind to great things and work hard to achieve them, then my life--wherever it is--will be successful.
It has taken a lot of time, grief and struggle but I have found a purpose. My life can serve as an example to others that even on death row, in this pit of pits, there is hope. Not because I’ve been promised legal aid. Not because I am comfortable with the idea of my execution. There is hope because I realize this is only an end – not the end. With this thought firmly in mind I am free to help others. In essence it’s a death of sorts, and as Dorothy Day writes, “We must give up our lives to gain them; we must die to live; we must be pruned to bear fruit.”