Tuesday, June 26, 2007

final letter--finally!

Yes, it is finally here. No more waiting for me to get on the internet, since you can call and email Tina yourself! I talked to her on Saturday and she is working on the big transition back home. It is certainly a blessing that she has the summer to just be with family. Being with her on this journey from crossing the line, to trial, and now through prison has been quite an experience and continued prayers and support will be most appreciated. Coming back to the "free world" is certainly no walk in the park. Thank you for you patience and support of me these past two months as I sometimes struggled to get messages out.


June 11, 2007

Dear Friends,

This will be most likely my last letter from prison. I honestly never thought these days would come, EVER. My sisters here have asked me if my time has gone slowly or quickly. In all honesty days felt like months and months felt, especially in the beginning, like years. But now I am down to 3 days and an overnight as they say here.

It is a bittersweet leaving for me. I am SO ready to see my kids and family and my dog. I am missing all my friends on the outside as well. The bitter part is that I have come to love my sisters on the “inside.” Leaving them behind is not easy. I need to go. It is my time to go. I have come to question a lot and find very few answers. Often times I have this experience of seeing SOMEthing out on the horizon but I am not sure what it is I see. It’s like a distant vision. I have this now as I try to understand the impact of these two months. I don’t do too well with blatant injustice but it is such an everyday occurrence here…I just question again and again, I have no answers…I go over it with God all these questions in my heart. Why? Why? Why are such innocent folk here? Why the elderly? Why are people psychologically tortured here over and over? Why don’t we have simple things like toilet paper and hand soap? Why are we treated like dirt? Why do I make $5.25 a month for over 40 hours a week of work? Why are families torn apart? I could go on and on. Sometimes as I listen to story after story, esp. these last days, it takes everything inside me not to throw my apple or curse loudly. The only thing I know to do is to pray and write, pray and write, pray and write. Sometimes I talk with a couple of friends, a woman from Arkansas and one friend from Kansas. They listen and we talk. It helps. Not that I understand any better but the gauge inside me that is overflowing comes back within more normal ranges.

Please continue to shower people with prayers. I feel so…how to say, powerless in one sense to make any change or heal any pain and yet I know all I have really to offer anyone is my prayer. It is a powerful commitment to pray for someone, to lift them to God and hold their concerns and spirit up to the Light. When I am not hearing such horrific stories, believing in the power of prayer comes easier. But now I am leaving these women I have come to so love and respect to an atmosphere and system that is so brutal and terroristic. It is so much harder to believe in prayer now when I have to believe with all my heart. Now, I must understand that the power of prayer is more powerful than the power of presence. I am trying to believe and understand.

I went to a jailhouse farewell party tonight. It was for a woman who was falsely accused by her ex-husband in order to get custody of their son. She spent 2.5 years in prison on a 15 year sentence. Talk about great food out of NOTHING…tamales made with ground up corn chips filled with beans and chicken and pork rinds (softened in water!), a fruit salad that rivals anthing I have ever made and served in orange rind cups…Flour tortilla shells made in a reused cheese dip container filled with a great rice with broccoli…bean dip and chips and the best of all a cheesecake made with graham crackers and I am not sure what else, chilled by putting it in a dishpan filled with ice and wrapped in trash bags. The decorations were cut out magazine pages hung in curls from the ceiling, a table cloth made from taped magazine pages, a card made from cut outs from magazines. It was festive, colorful, and whimsical. You would not believe you were in prison. But the night officer had to be on or they would shut it down. Mr. C. is the regular officer and he knows us but in case we get too close or too comfortable or he gets to know us too well, they (BOP) will rotate him at the end of the month. I think they get 3 month shifts. So ALL will change…from the way mail call happens, to the way washer times happen, to what level of noise or what dress at night is allowed. Some officers are so picky that even the slightest form of creativity, like needle pointing their initials on their houseshoes or putting glitter on their shower shoes…All seized as Contraband. Head scarves are made fom ragged bedsheets…contraband. I had found a plastic spoon…I got rid of it right away b/c if there is a shakedown, I could get a shot for, you got it, contraband…if you have move than I think two pairs of tennis shoes, more than ten books, more than a shoebox of letters, it is considered contraband. One officer went so far as to accuse me of running a political card business b/c I get “too much stupid mail.” He is the same officer who tried to humiliate me during mail call by smelling an envelope and asking me if I get a lot of FATHER’s Day cards! (He was suggesting I was gay.) My sisters here were outraged b/c many feel as though I am still a nun. They wanted me to report him. I is not worth my time. But I guess my point is that they can pretty much say what they want and construe what you have as contraband. Right now I have nothing sice I had to pack everything out. I still laugh at the political card business.

I don’t know where this experience leads me. Sylvester Brown’s article suggested I have a “new cause.” I thought about this…I really don’t have any causes…what I see is all of this is born of loving people, consequences of loving. I could go to jail and just do my time and get out and continue my life. That is permissible. It is a possible scenario…but when you love someone, when your heart has been touched by people, then it is difficult to ignore their plight. It was suggested to me before I began my prison time, to keep my heart soft. I’ve thought of this often during these two months. It is easy to harden your heart here. There is so much pain, too much pain. It would be reasonable to protect your heart here by hardening up. But when people are involved, people whose sorrow is written on their faces, in their tears, when I read Pema Chodron’s book and she suggests to lean into the pain…well how can I harden up my heart? How can I not be touched? How can I not feel the pain and despair? If I did this here, I would not be receptive to my children and Sandeep or my friends I love in the “free world.” I can’t pick and choose, hardening for some, softening for others. And while I face the fact everyday that I am NOT God, that I am just a person I see that loving people bears consequences. I don’t know what exactly that is other than feeling their pain and listening but it is not a cause. It is about a way of living and seeing and, I am sure with a lot of questions and a lot of errors, trying to find where this all leads to, if it leads anywhere.

Alec, my son, wrote a paper for me on a woman, Elizabeth Fry. Elizabeth was a Quaker who had a bunch of children and worked for prison reform. She believed in the Gospel and felt serious about living it. She saw her role as a mother and as a Christian not mutually exclusive. I found it significant that my son, my first born, gentle boy chose to write to me about this woman who worked for prison reform b/c she saw it as part of the Gospel. Sometimes the wisdom of a child is the hand of God.

I wanted to close with a quote I got on a letter…the card is by Gen Cassani, SSND, the quote by Kay Weaver…”…and my road is a little easier cause she (you) were here, I see a little clearer through the darkness called fear…” I could add each of your names as Gen included the names of women who have made such a difference…But I think Beth might quit before I got home…just too many names. But each letter, card, note, phone call, prayer, song, book…each meal cooked, lesson taught, child loved and toted…All this and more eased my road and dispelled a fear. I am more convinced than ever before that any act of peacemaking is a communal act. It is not an individual action. So all I have to offer is my thanks…from deep down and heartfelt…I love each of you and again, loving has consequences. So I hold each of you in prayer. I am grateful and humbled by your love…I am more convinced than ever that God works in our lives in ways we can never know or understand. It is, for me, just keeping my heart soft through love and prayer and my eyes open to the daily ways God works…

Next time I write, I will write a homecoming letter!

I want to ESPECIALLY thank Beth w/o whom these letters would not get transcribed. I don’t think she knew what she was getting into when she offered to do this (hahaahahah, very true!). I am so grateful, Beth.

With hope and sorrow and love,

Two women who do not get any mail and would appreciate a pen pal:
Denise Burruss 79086-180
Daria McAdams 13267-078

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