There’s something that has been on my mind for months. Like an annoying commercial that you cant shake. I’ve been thinking about something that’s both far removed and close to me at the same time. Something that you never hear about.
Imagine for a moment that you love someone. Imagine, if you will, that you’ve met this person through a mutual friend or through correspondence, and that this person of whom you’ve come to cheerish is incarcerated serving a long sentence. Now, try to imagine falling in love with this person, sharing your hopes and dreams and your optimism for a future together. Somewhere along the way you marry this person while still incarcerated. From that point forward happiness floods into your lives both having never been happier.
I know guys whose wives they’ve met while locked up. They married while serving their sentence and are now free men reunited with a loved one they didn’t know prior to coming to prison. Most have gone on to build families together and their story is a happy one. They say love can overcome anything but I’m not so sure this is true. There’s another side to this love story that you don’t know. It’s a side that’s utter darkness and sadness.
I have a friend here of whom I’ve known for 20 year’s having met him along this incarceration journey. He’s an introverted and generally quiet man who is serving a long sentence. Twenty years ago he met a woman through pen pal correspondence and eventually they married. Since he has not been out since the 1990’s their marriage was facilitated via 3 way on the phone through a chaplain friend.
For twenty years both of them were happy together. She’d visit regularly, talk on the phone often and she made sure that he did not struggle for lack of want. She took care of him always making sure that he had the things he needed here behind these walls. For his part he was there for her in all the ways she needed. He paid her the attention that other men never did, loved her for who she is and made sure that not a day passed that she didn’t know he love her. Their visits were eagerly anticipated by both and this is the only physical contact they would have with one another. A kiss and a hug at the beginning and then a kiss and a hug at the end.
Throughout the years I watched from afar as my friend’s hopes and dreams increasingly centered around his wife. He spoke of their plans once he was released and of how happy they were together. She was his family and he hers. But, this wasn’t always something that their families necessarily agreed with.
Her family initially didn’t like the fact that she had chosen to love a man in prison, and his even questioned his judgement. How quick some are to focus that microscope on others lest they spend a moment examining themselves.
For twenty years his wife stayed faithfully by his side, both hoping that the next parole hearing would be the last and that they would finally be together.
Then covid struck. My frend tried and tried to convince his wife that she should get vaccinated. He had watched first hand here how covid ravaged the human form, men here one day gone the next. But she refused. She didn’t believe covid was even real, let alone accept a vaccine that she said was ”untested and unknown”.
In March of this year my friend’s wife Sonya, caught covid. She passed away 2 weeks later from breathing complications. At this same time, Sonya’s sister of whom had cared for Sonya when she was sick, fell ill with covid. Sonya’s sister passed away 4 weeks later from covid.
I’ve watched my friend’s world grow very dark, as all the hope and optimism he had built over 20 years drained away. He has seen the parole board 6 times. Incredibly, starting on his second appearance they acknowledged his rehabilitation and strong community support, yet refuse to let him go. But why? I ask. Why must it be this way in this state? Here was an example of a success story for both my friend’s family and community and the criminal justice process. The only thing that stood in its way are the biases of Ohio’s parole board. Now what remains of this man has no future. Is this what society really wants?
I have another friend whose name is Mac. I’ve known him for 18 years, perhaps a couple longer but the years have all blended together at this point. Anyhow, he met his wife through correspondence. They married and were together for 9 years before death took her away from him.
Then a few years later he met another woman and married again, still incarcerated and still awaiting release by Ohio’s parole board. Their marriage lasted 10 years and like Richard’s they hoped for a future that never came. She passed away never once being able to see Mac as a free man.
As if this story couldn’t get any sadder, Mac has lost everyone in his family over his 40 years of incarceration. He married again, this time to a childhood friend and they were married for 16 years. Both of them hoped and waited patiently for the Ohio parole board to grant Mac release. All of Mac’s conversations with me centered around how much he loved this woman and how he hoped he’d be home with her soon. In 2019 he lost his wife, his third and last, this time to a car accident and now he is alone in the world.
Read more of the posts from Lettersfromchristopher in the book titled ”Behind The Wall: A Prisoner’s Journal”. Search Amazon by title or author name ”Christopher Monihan”.
THANK YOU for following–Christopher