October 2021, “Sullivan, are you ready to get out of the ghetto?” My boss says to me after having just hung up the phone. I laugh confused. He goes on to say, “You’re moving to Hale” although I had never requested this partcular move or dorm.
I leave commissary, which is my assigned job here at Ohio Reformatory for Women, and pack my belongings and haul it across the yard. It’s about a block or so, pushing a small flatbed cart that had to have been made back in 1960 with everything I own piled onto it. Thinking this has to be a mistake, and I’m going to be moving right back.
No mistake was made.
My days began in the new dorm. Adjusting to new people. As always I am observant of people around me, before I make friends or even talk to people. I pay attention to who you are when you think no one is watching. Three beds down from mine lived a woman named Cara Smith. She was rarely ever “home”. Always busy. She was in D.E.P., the Delayed Entry Program, which is a program that prepares you for the military program. These two programs teach you self-discipline, give you structure, and a sisterhood. She was also in horticulture. The seldom times she was in the dorm she stayed to herself. She peaked my interest due to the need to stay as busy as possible and to keep on the right path behind these walls. But our schedules conflicted, so I never had an opportunity to introduce myself.
A few weeks pass, and one day she just happened to be speaking to my bunkie and neighbor. She introduced herself and quickly made me a part of the conversation. That alone revealed her personality to me. We quickly became friends. Never judging me as she learned things about me and who I am, why I’m here and what’s ahead of me.
Through time, I discover she’s been here five and a half years and would be filing her judicial soon. Through conversation I find out that a big part of her time is spent at church, whether it be church, Bible studies, praise dancing, etc. My hands began to sweat, and my heart began racing as that voice in my head brought flashbacks of my past. The darkness was steadfastly clouding the light that was being brought into my life after having been married to an atheist and having God erased from my life for many years. It makes these conversations very conflicting, and honestly my first thought was to run. I was already on my own trying to renew my relationship with God and strengthening my faith. But I was living in FEAR, fear God wouldn’t forgive me for waking beside my ex for so long. Fear I wasn’t worthy of his love and empathy.
It was January 2022, Cara asked me to go to church and watch her perform. Nothing more just to support her and that she’d already signed me up in hope that I’d say yes. Come that Sunday I was there. I got to watch the praise dancers minister. It was beautiful to see and learn the various ways that people praise the Almighty Father.
During this specific service I heard a sermon being preached by a man that has done time, longer than I am doing. The things he said spoke to my soul. It woke something up inside of me that I didn’t know existed. It was a moment in time that happens very rarely, but I knew I was in the right place and time, and that God was talking to me.
Then 5/3/22 Cara left. She got her judicial and began her next journey.
A person so beautiful on the inside, full of warmth, and truly humble. Forgiving and giving to anyone that crosses her path. Yet, rarely did anyone take the time to get to know her behind these walls because she was weird, foreign to what these women know or expect behind these gates. She was someone that was able to help me openly express feelings and pain that I haven’t dealt with nor the grieving process of losing my freedom, control and what was and will never be. In her last 6 months in prison we built a friendship, but not only that. She is a blessing to me. She helped open my eyes not only to my path in this prison but also my spiritual path.
But here I was once again. Being left in here behind these walls. Everything good that comes into my life always has an end. But this time because of her and what I’ve learned, I wasn’t mad. I didn’t feel alone or abandoned. For the first time in my life I understood. I have God beside me 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Walking her to the exit was one of he hardest things I’ve ever done. She proved that people you’ve known a short while can have better intentions for you than people you’ve known your whole life.
In a place full of hate, darkness, and negativities, God worked through Cara and walked me right back into His arms.
And still, after a month of her leaving, we’re actively walking our spiritual walk. She still encourages me and pushes me to keep at it. We both constantly remind each other when bad things are happening that when God brings us to it, he’ll see us through it.
I thank you Cara for being a wonderful person and taking the time and patience that you give me. But I have to give a bigger thanks to God for working through amazing people and blessing me with a genuine best friend. Also, for forgiving me and accepting me back into your life.
I am being baptized the 24th of June. My rebirth day.
People come, people go, people love, people hate, people educate, and even while in prison they go home, but they don’t always leave you…
Some take you with them!
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