We all make them. They rule our lives, often throughout our lifetime. Some are hard and difficult; others are easy and made on the spur of the moment.

Some choices can cost a person their life.

That’s what happened to a Michigan inmate named William Garrison.

Earlier this year, according to a CNN report, the Michigan Department of Corrections offered Garrison a chance at parole. He was in his 44th year of doing time for a 1976 murder committed during a robbery when he was 16 years old.

Garrison was nearing the end of his sentence when given the parole opportunity. At the time the Covid 19 virus was creeping into the Michigan prison system as it was in other states. He chose to turn down the parole opportunity, preferring to serve a little more time to reach his mandatory goodtime discharge date. He did not want to be under parole supervision.

That was Garrison’s choice to make.

As the outbreak of the Covid virus spread throughout the nation’s prison systems, Michigan corrections officials three weeks ago offered Garrison a second opportunity for parole release. The corrections officials told him that given his age, he should seriously consider taking the parole release.

This time Garrison accepted the parole release opportunity.

That choice came too late.

Five days later the 60-year-old inmate died from the Covid virus.

That was April 13, 2020.

I understand the difficulty of the choice made by William Garrison.

I was paroled from the Louisiana prison system on April 25, 2006. I was 61 years of age and had served 40 years. At the time I had a mandatory goodtime discharge date of April 11, 2011.

I had a choice: accept the parole and live under its supervision until 2055 (my full term discharge date) or serve five more years to April 11, 2011 at which time I would have been discharged without any supervision.

I chose the parole over discharge.

As it turned out, on April 11, 2011 I lay on a bed in a prominent Houston hospital undergoing a major open heart surgery to replace a heart valve with a metal valve. My normal heart valve had ruptured a few days earlier bringing me as close to death as one could possibly get. A renowned heart surgeon saved my life.

Had I chose in 2006 to wait for my 2011 discharge date, I would have died in prison. The heart valve problem had been diagnosed as far back as 1995 but the prison medical staff had been advised that the kind of surgery I needed was too complicated and too expensive to perform on an inmate.

William Garrison and I faced similar choices.

He turned down parole and died; I accepted parole and lived.

Choices are the byproduct of the free will embedded in the human species.

Whatever the choice, each of us bears the responsibility and consequence of it.

My metal valve heart bleeds for William Garrison’s family. May God soothe their loss.

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