LETTER TO PASTOR CHERYL

(Editor’s note:  Pastor Cheryl was the pastor at the Presbyterian Church I attended on the outside)

Dear Pastor Cheryl,
I am sure you have been exceptionally busy in this Lenten Season, plus having Peter home. Hopefully it was as wonderful as I imagine it was, even with this strange weather.
I wondered if you could share the enclosed with the congregation via the newsletter if you feel it appropriate. This “bazaar” life I am leading does have a purpose, one I am working to unravel. One thing I do know is that it has and will change me and many of my beliefs and thoughts. I certainly have lots of time for reflection and meditation here, and who knows of the future for any of us.
Peace & love to you and all your family,
Van

Hello to all.
After a very difficult transition, I find myself in a reception area of a maximum security prison in Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill, New York. Although the timetable is unclear, I hope to be relocated to where I will do my “bid” (one of the many new words I have learned) or sentence in the next week and a half. If you have never been incarcerated, let me explain that this facility is as you might see on T.V. or in the movies or maybe read about in the papers. Tight rules, strictly enforced by overly aggressive c.o.’s ( correction officers) in a cold, sterile environment where each has an individual cell, approximately 8’ x 8’ or thereabouts, complete with a paper thin mattress on a cold steel frame; toilet and sink combination, one fluorescent light and half a locker for your state issue green clothes. The food is, well, nothing like I am used to in my health conscious life. Mostly starch, carbohydrates, overcooked vegetables and, if lucky, once a week, fruit. But then again, as I am constantly reminded, I am in prison. (Complete with high walls with strands of razor wire on top.)
We recently celebrated Easter. Happy belated Easter wishes to everyone. I wanted to celebrate the resurrection so I again went to a service here in a small “chapel”. It was a Catholic service as I had previously attended a protestant one which I will relate at another time. The priest was a wonderfully happy man with origins in South America and truly had the blessings of God shining through him. He spoke of a time of rebirth, reawakening, starting over and leaving the past behind, and going forward with new life filling our hearts with joy of forgiveness, and asked each of us how we would “feast with joy on this festive day.” It almost felt like he was speaking only to me. How am I going to share this joy of the resurrection? How COULD I? Me, the sinner, who has disrupted so much, hurt so many, thought only of himself? It brought up again all the pain I had been experiencing. But I felt an honesty in his eyes, his words and his ways that told me I too could be forgiven. I broke down. As I finally gathered myself, pushing my soaked sleeves up to join hands in the Lord’s Prayer, I knew I had to share this joy of rebirth with you all. I now have hope where formally there was only despair because of what Jesus did for me and us all on that cross: dying, being buried and rising on the third day to conquer death and sin. The eggs that little children seek on the Easter days he said represent hope of the future, that there indeed will be a future for us all, so we must carry on knowing if we so chose, we can be a part of it with Him.
So I now carry this joy with me as best I can in here, hoping that no slap happy guard, no fence, no bars, no restrictions of rules or orders will take away. It’s a process, but at least I am on the road and moving in a better direction. This is what I wanted to share with everyone this Easter season. Peace be with you. And hope.

Van

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