Tuesday, August 24, 2010


St Francis Xavier by Art4theSoul

I got a letter from a very dear friend yesterday. I've known Paul for nearly 40 years, played music with him professionally for several of those years, visited with him in his home, and he in mine, and spent many joyful hours with him. We even kissed once, a chaste kiss, with him in the back seat of my car and me in the front. We used to sit in the car for hours on end, just talking. Funny, I remember we kissed just because we never had, and decided after all the years we'd known each other (about 15 by then, I think) that we needed to!

My friend is in prison now, and I won't go into the reasons, but will say that there are many men and women in prison these days simply because of a very prevalent tactic DA's use these days: Cut any charge into as many separate charges as possible, and make the accused disprove each and every one of them. Thousands and thousands of people in this country simply give up, knowing they can't afford a lawyer who will be able to do that, seeing a plea deal as their only option.

Inside "Paul's" prison

So what do these people do, once they're behind bars? Who are these people, and what are they like, and why should any law-abiding citizen even care? Because they are us, and they suffer, often needlessly, often wrongly. I'm going to put my much-loved friend's letter in here.

"My very best friend (whom I truly love) Anitra,

Summer is marching on. A mild one so far as they go out here in the west Treasure Valley. Fine with me, the heat-wuss. I'm contented. I have fully accepted the present situation. Of course, you know what that means...change is just around the corner? LOL.

I finally found a book I've been wanting. It's the Psalter that is used by the English speaking part of the Catholic church. They are hard to come by, outside of seminary circles, or suppliers of priestly esoterica. But I managed to have a Christian book catalog fall into my hands that listed one. I saved up for it and got it a couple of weeks ago! Now I can pray the "Divine Office".

I begin each day with "lauds" or morning prayer before morning chow. Back from breakfast, I pray my personal prayers, petitions, and intercessions, and make reparations for the harm I've caused others. The hour before lunch I always say a complete Holy Rosary for those like you, most near to my heart, and in honor of Our Lady, my mother in the order of Grace. As the sun sets, it's time for "vespers" or evening prayers. Just before I turn in at 10pm, I pray the night prayers, put my head phones on, and listen to a sermon on EWTN, Catholic radio.

Then I sleep Oh-so-well and dream of being in better places than prison. The next morning, it begins again with new prayers and new readings for that particular day and liturgical season. There is a beautiful harmony of prayer to it's particular time of day, and the rhythm of seasons of the Church calendar. Each day seems more sanctified and meaningful.

Oh, how I adore beauty in all it's pure forms. Mozart. Telemann, Michelangelo, St Augustine, the Taj Mahal, Irish countryside, the Hubble photos of galaxies and nebulae--the list is endless. But the ancient liturgy of the Church and dignity of her divine Mysteries have become the apogee of my experience of transcendent beauty.

And the glory of it, my friend, is I can live it even in a "purgatory" like this. I never said I deserve such a merciful gift. Who does?

I've picked up a number of recipes for my favorite dishes that I hope to try some day. The list is hilariously eclectic: Indian fry bread, Matzo ball soup, Buffalo wings, various stir fry entrees, chocolate chip cookies, chicken liver pate, etc. These are things I've Never made before because I didn't know how, and felt intimidated. These are the stuff of dreams for food lovers in captivity.

In spite of my inordinate passion for food, I have managed to lose 15 pounds so far. Hope to keep them off and continue until ideal weight is achieved. My friends here have been very supportive and razz me no end whenever I slack off my exercise, and I do that. After all, I was a couch potato all my life. People around here have so much time to mind other people's business. It can be a real blessing. There is a lot of good-natured teasing goes on among us, as well as warmth and compassion. I've come to see that the system nets many more good fish than bad.

I still spend most of my time writing a treatise on some doctrine of the faith or another. I suppose it helps me to systematize, and then interiorize those truths that bring me comfort and hope, or draw me nearer to my beloved Saviour. Occasionally, I even find someone willing to hear one of my monographs and it gives me the greatest pleasure when they seem to share some of my excitement about one of my recent discoveries. I think my next book purchase will be he concordance that was created to fit my translation of the Bible, the RSV Catholic Edition. It's only been out for about a year, and I've been waiting for the right time.

A friend of mine and I brought our guitars out to the recreation yard with his book of Beatle songs and had a lovely time reminiscing. I may have mentioned it before, but nostalgia is particularly potent in the slammer. You know, there's nothing like a song can put you "right back in time" to a certain moment, at a precise place in your past. The Fab Four always inspire pleasant feelings. It's one of those gifts that keep on giving.

As I sit here writing, (and I should sound an alarm that this is to be a radical change of subject) I'm reminded how terribly fortunate I am to have your continued contact by mail over the course of years. There are so many, many men in here who would give almost anything to have friends outside like you. But you are precious, unique, and unrepeatable, (and spread thin between your many beneficiaries). A pity ALL friends aren't like you!

Our five-night-a-week corrections officer works the same nights as I do, and he's my boss. (I think Paul's job these days is sweeping the halls, and pays him about $30 a month.) He is a good person and I feel like he thinks well of me, too. I thank God for causing me to find favor, even with some of my captors. It really helps make the days go by easier when in the company, or custody, of men of good will.

The many prayers that have gone up to the Heavens on my behalf are effectual and very, very much appreciated. I can't even imagine how I could have managed without them. Have no doubt that I also pray for you and those you love. After all, I love them, too. Thanks for keeping me current on how you are all doing. My love and best wishes to you, Sarah, Pawnee, Bob, Bruce, and all the rest. I just miss you all so much.

A special hug goes out to Sarah and my wish for a much happier, more complete satisfaction with her life post-Mark. Have I just made a bad pun? I didn't mean to. (Explanation of inadvertent pun: My daughter Sarah was devastated this past Valentine's Day when her husband Mark left her for another woman.)

Love forever & always,

This is long, and I hope you weren't bored by it, but I'm still going to add just one more thing: Paul always says that stuff about me, and I always wish I actually deserved the praise! Mostly, it just makes me feel guilty that I'm not a better friend. sigh. But I do gain happiness in every blessing I can give him, every joy God sends.


MOLLYE said...

Oh Anitra this was a beautiful poignant and thought provoking letter written by your friend Paul. My prayers will include him each night before I close my eyes until he is set free. He is so lucky to have a friend in you. I do understand the plight of so many incarcerated and they too are someone's son, brother, spouse, father or friend. My oldest grandson Andy has been behind bars in his 30 years more than he has not. He currently is with his mother, my oldest daughter who is simply enjoying her "boy" today and we know not what tomorrow holds with him. Love you, Mollye

Anonymous said...

How good of you to stay by your friend thru good and bad times. Many people wouldn't. Thanks so much for your supportive words on my blog. I've gained much strength from sweet bloggers like you. Take care. Hugs.

Celestial Charms said...

The true meaning of friendship is apparent in both your hearts. I too, shall pray for him to be comforted in this most difficult time. This is the first time I have visited your blog, and I'm very happy I chose today...to read this special post.

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