July 21, 2013
Sunday, 8:00 p.m.
Letter #287: Visit with My Dad
I just had a truly special weekend with my dad. The greatest benefit to being in prison is that I’m no longer too busy or too preoccupied to visit with my dad. He has always made the effort to spend time with me, but I didn’t always make a priority of getting together with him. Regret lingers like a bad odor as I consider the wasted opportunities I had. Now, a three-day visit of 16 hours feels as if I’m trying to make up for the time I squandered.
My parents are unbelievably gracious and generous with their time. And though I’m not too comfortable being permanently in the recipient’s role of all the care and concern, I’m overwhelmed by the many ways they express love for me. The consistent visits I get make the time away from family less painful, and I thank God for all His blessings He’s given me with each one of you in my life.
Most months, my mom makes the 12½-hour trip either alone, with a friend, or with another inmate’s family sharing the cost of gas. Every couple of months, my dad also comes to visit. But, as much fun as it is to get both Mommy and Daddy together—all to myself—my favorite visits are when I get to spend time with them one-on-one. Braving a car of women, hours of painful front seats, and … oh, wait … he even endured 16 hours of conversation with me this weekend!
While he was in the hospital last month, I became even more painfully aware of what my incarceration has cost those I love. I’d call my dad’s phone, and Michael would answer. I’d find out that the grandkids had just visited, and my mom was speaking with the hospital staff. I should have been there. I would have been there, I’d like to think. Or, would I have found the time?
I’ve missed Mark’s wedding and a few nieces and nephews being born since I’ve been in prison. This is when it feels painful to be here—when it feels like punishment. There are no more “chain gangs” breaking rocks. No leg shackles bolted to a rock wall in a dimly-lit dungeon. The punishment for crime now is separation from society. And though I’m grateful for the opportunity to write letters and make phone calls, the greatest blessing is that you read what I write! A message in a bottle does no one any good if it is never opened and read. Thank you!
Visiting with my family and friends takes me away from the sheer monotony of this place. I’ve become accustomed to it, and it doesn’t bother me because I know I need to be here, but change is good. I can imagine what a miner feels when sunlight hits his face after weeks of living underground, or a soldier when he comes home from deployment overseas. Except that I get that feeling every time I get a visit. Every time I get to see the face of someone who loves me, I remember just how very blessed I am.
Our visit was awesome. Lots of laughter, some tears (my dad is a sensitive guy), but my favorite part was having my dad pray for me. He is a quiet man of faith whose character and example have often inspired my own walk with God, so it was a privilege to hear him pray for me.
And the deeper message wasn’t lost on me: my dad had to go through a lot of hassle and effort just to spend time with me. This wasn’t because I deserved it; it was because he chose to make it possible. My sin separated me from him, but he didn’t let that stop him from pursuing a relationship with me. Sound familiar?
What a reminder that this isn’t all about me. God wants to spend time with me, and He’s made it possible more than once a month.