Home > Death, Love, Parenting > Beyond prison walls

Beyond prison walls

When I close my eyes, I see Rara’s trembling arms as we stand and talk at her husband’s memorial.

I feel the Correctional Officer’s presence over my shoulder. The officer is quiet and soft spoken, and I thank her twice for her kindness, but I feel her eyes absorbing everything. I regret that she has to be there at all.

And I come back to Rara’s trembling arms, which reveal things that words couldn’t possibly: all the sadness, all the loss, all the anxiety at a life suddenly nothing like What Came Before.

I’ve felt ill at ease in my own life the last few months. It’s felt pretty all consuming, honestly.

I try to find a silver lining in most things. I’m good at it from decades of practice. This insistence on searching is part of how I first pulled myself, muddy and bruised, out of depression’s grip about two decades ago.

So I’ve tried finding the silver lining, but it’s been an effort. I’ve thought it but mostly haven’t felt it, until I drove home after the memorial Saturday and thought about how much I have.

There’s doubt and sadness and uncertainty among “all I have,” to be sure.

But there’s a lot of goodness I can count on, day in and day out, for now.

Thinking about Rara’s trembling arms, I am overwhelmed by a physical longing to take away her suffering. To take away the suffering of all whose questions about life are greater than, “Why does my commute suck so bad? Why did I make this probably less than optimal move?”

Sometimes I look at my boys and am overwhelmed by love for them. And then, just as quickly, I’m overwhelmed by sadness: sadness that at the very moment of my thinking that, hundreds or thousands of children are being abused or neglected. I was once one of those children. I know there can be coming back from those horrors. But I also know I was lucky to have the mom I did, whose hope for better helped shaped my own hope for better.

And I know the coming back doesn’t take away the the having been there, which haunts you always.

Which makes you wish, always, you could justfortheloveofgod stop the hurt.

I have perspective now I didn’t have this time last week.

I don’t mean to say I looked at someone else’s sadness and thought, “Phew, so glad that’s not mine!” I never, ever want the measure of my own suffering to be the deeper well of someone else’s, as if I could condense someone else down to the misery of their current experience and know them for only that.

I mean I looked at Rara’s sadness and thought, “She could be me, with one person’s yearning for pointless revenge, another driver’s poor split-second decision, one earthquake, or one broken light fixture. The difference in where we are now is superficial, the consequence of some factors chosen and many factors unchosen.

“She could be me.” It feels so dehumanizing to see it any other way; to paint Rara, who is even now seeking her own silver linings, as an object of pity. Pity, no.

Empathy, love and understanding how much can change without warning or weigh-in, yes.

Tonight I thought about the post I was going to write tonight as my five-year-old son wrote Rara a letter.

That other post will happen, some other night. But tonight I thought about Rara, and my son, and figured those words about how I see my future can wait for another day. Maybe even another week or month.

Tonight, now, I want to say the things that felt like lead around my ankles aren’t much more than silver threads leading up to helium balloons.

I know where I’m headed. I do. I don’t know the exact path. But I don’t need to know every footfall to know where I’m going.

I’m pretty darn sure I know where Rara is headed, too.

She doesn’t know. Not right now.

And I wonder, what do we do, together, to show that she is enveloped in a wide and expansive love, a network of arms reached out to hold her up? I know many of us are writing her letters individually, but I wonder what do we do to show the totality of us together for her, so that she knows she is uplifted though Dave’s arms will never again hold her up?

All my thoughts seem extraordinarily silly: sparkly messages of love by many hands on a shirt, or a quilt; an enormous poster board gathering picture messages of love in one place; an outpouring of vlog words of love and support timed to publish at the moment of her release from prison, so she has a hill of love to climb along with hills of uncertainty, trepidation, missing.

I don’t know.

As my sweet older boy fell asleep tonight, he wondered if there was something he could send Rara to make her feel better.

“But what do I send?” he wanted to know.

“I don’t know. Do you want me to ask her?” I replied.

“Yes,” he said, scanning over his bedroom with his eyes. “I’ll give her some of my toys. Ask if she wants a fuzzy one. Or a puzzle. I bet she wants a puzzle,” he mumbled as he drifted into slumber.

My eyes shone as I stroked his head of stubble. I don’t know that any of his toys could lighten Rara’s load right now, but I hope his willingness to offer will shine as one more ray of light for her what’s-ahead.

As one more reminder there is more than sadness awaiting her out beyond prison walls.

fyyl sad

  1. May 27, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Smiles are all I have tonight… smiles and a sore hand, in anticipation of all the letter writing to come. But, that eventual pain is secondary to the smile your words have given me right now. So, thank you.
    You know you can count me in for whatever gets settled on as the grand gesture for her release. I’ll keep thinking on it too.

    • May 27, 2015 at 9:26 pm

      I’m smiling in turn, reading your words. I love that you can picture my Li’l D as he mumbles those sleepy words. I see your smile as you entice Littler J with chap stick and I think, believe, anything is possible with time and patience. Thank you. ♥

  2. May 27, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    His caring, and willingness to share, and your caring are the biggest, the best, the shiniest gifts that any bruised and hurting heart can hope for.

  3. May 28, 2015 at 3:26 am

    I love that he loves, that he cares to sacrifice what he loves to take away someone else’s pain. You are doing such a good job with him. ((Hugs))

    • May 28, 2015 at 5:16 am

      You just brought tears to my eyes. When I was last up in Oregon, I told my youngest sister, “You are doing a great job” because (a) she is and (b) I remember so many people telling our mom what a crap job she was doing. Both speaking and hearing these words are gifts to ease the heart, so I send you thanks from the bottom of mine … with one quick but well felt addendum: “Ditto.” ♥

  4. May 28, 2015 at 5:34 am

    You are raising a sweet man, there Deb.

  5. Deb
    May 28, 2015 at 6:11 am

    It’s not what we say to our kids as much as what we show them is right. You are showing your boys how to be human, both flawed and perfect, and how each of those attributes makes their presence in the world important, and special and needed.

  6. May 28, 2015 at 6:37 am

    “I never, ever want the measure of my own suffering to be the deeper well of someone else’s, as if I could condense someone else down to the misery of their current experience and know them for only that.” Wow. Your compassion is palpable. I don’t know your dear friend or her situation, but I am sending thoughts of hope out to her.

  7. May 28, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    When I started your post, I wasn’t quite sure who Rara was and needed to read some of your previous posts to catch up….I have no words. I have no explanations. I have only tears of a sadness that permeates my body and prayers for Rara in a “just God” and universe that imprisoned her. I’m angry, sad and so, so utterly feeling helpless….Big Hug, Deborah…Big Hug……

  8. May 29, 2015 at 3:19 am

    Somedays are hard. Hard because we feel hopeless in the face of all that is before us. Then we see hope, then we see miracles, then we see empathy and compassion and are reminded we are not without hope is within our grasp. You are doing such a wonderful and loving job, raising children who are hopeful and compassionate, who will bring light to those they touch, just as you do.

    I only know Rara and her story through you. I wish there was something that could be done to help her beyond wishing her peace and uplifting her to the light where she can find healing.

  9. May 29, 2015 at 11:25 am

    I don’t know Rara. I didn’t learn about her until after she went to prison, so I’ve hesitated to write to her. But I’ll support whatever you and others who love her dream up to celebrate her release from prison … although my gut feel is that she won’t need a huge sparkly production so much as sustained support and loving when she returns to a very empty home.

  10. Paul
    June 2, 2015 at 2:34 pm

    I remember when Rara was free and spent all her time helping others and spreading love. How someone of her character could ever be even considered as being guilty of a crime is beyond me. It is so wonderful that your son is showing an interest in people who have been unjustly imprisoned Deborah. You’ve done a good job.

  1. June 2, 2015 at 6:41 pm
  2. July 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm

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