Prison is a world of caged humanity, removed and isolated from normal life. But this enclosed wasteland, with all its conscious and unconscious brutalities, cannot trap love in the heart.
In September 1981, I opened a letter to the woman of my life (now my wife of 37 years) as a prisoner with these words from behind the fenced world of a prison called Angola—a sprawling 18,000-acre plantation where thousands of inmates and former slaves were killed and buried beneath the soil of its rich Tunica Hills:
“The sun is shining this morning, the air is light, and I thought of fall approaching – and, instinctively, I realized that fall will take on a new meaning to me because you like it so much. This beautiful morning reflects the shade and color of my heart – I am so filled with this love for you. My heart is singing a melody that would still the forest and make all God’s little creatures blush with envy. Baby, for an entire life time I have longed and dreamed of being able to love someone as I do you, being able to feel what I knew was inside of me but that was caged. Now, those feelings have been set free, cut loose – and it is like a wild mustang freed from a corral running majestically across the open plains.”
I had been in Angola sixteen years when those words were written. I would spend another 24 years there and in other penal facilities in the state—the woman of my life at my side supporting me every minute of the tortured journey.
Our love was born in the Death House on that prison plantation – and today, 38 years later, I stood on the front porch of our home this morning staring across a rich valley where far away porch lights could be seen in the distance wrinkling across Texas hills and, once again, I stood listening to the melody of the low winds of an approaching fall.
I gave thanks to the quiet forces of life. The vast prison that once caged and in many ways scarred my soul is now so removed in the past. A sense of pride colored around the edges with satisfaction knowing that prison could never confine my heart, break my spirit, or deny me hope.
That imagined mustang galloping across the plains so long ago has come to rest in its final dwelling place.
As the modern day prophet, Martin Luther King, once said:
“Free at last, God Almighty, free at last.”