I got letters in yesterday’s mail from two of the guys who beat Abraham. They were responding to my letters of last week. One guy is practically illiterate and I had a terrible time trying to get through his letter, but he did give me permission to come. The other guy is very articulate and clearly educated. He not only gave me permission to come, but he welcomed it. I decided after reading his letter that I am going over there this morning – the entry prison where he is being held temporarily is only ten miles away – to see him.
And then – last night – I, who always sleep solidly, woke up three or four times. Nothing in particular that I could catch: I just woke up. Anxiety, I suppose. Doubt, maybe.
What am I doing with making this decision? You can’t spend serious time working with foster children without recognizing that some few of them – still too many – end up in jail or even prison. So, I have visited many a prison in my time, including visiting Abraham there. And I have visited prisoners who were responsible – some directly, some indirectly – for the death of other people. But this morning I am planning on visiting one of the guys responsible for the death of Abraham…….my Abraham……..my son Abraham.
I want to go and hear whatever I will hear about that night six months ago. And I won’t stay if I hear nonsense. But I don’t think I will. It has to take some courage for these two to give permission to sit down alone with me, with no family, no lawyers. The one guy I meet this morning – Micheal – said that he wanted to contact me earlier and his lawyer told him not to. Why am I so certain that that is true? And why am I so certain that that advice, in the totality of this guy’s life was so wrong? For Micheal, for me, and for both of our families.
Is this going over there this morning a mistake? I chose to write this morning – maybe to help me stay together – because whatever I would write after the visit will be influenced by the visit. I ask myself why I am doing this visit. Why – beyond that first question – am I referring to this guy by his first name? Certainly, whatever story I hear will be a biased one, I know. He will have to defend himself from the horror of the consequences of his decisions made and not made that night. I get that. But he was there; I was not. He knows things that happened that night that I not only don’t, but I have no way of finding out. There is no videotape for me to view. I want to hear Micheal’s perspective.
And, therefore, it has to be “Micheal.” Going in there as an adversary won’t get me what I want or what I need from this man: openness to the truth. I am not looking to blame him for Abe’s death. The fact that Abe was not the first of my kids to be taken from me, has given me years, even decades in Gilbert’s case, to recognize where my issues are. They are with God, not with any person on earth. It is with God that my conversation about the deaths of my kids really needs to take place.
What do I want today? I want as much truth as I can get. But I also want to give “Micheal” whatever true justice I can give him as Abe’s father. Not “justice” in the sense of revenge, or pain. Rather, justice, as truth, which might well be painful. Which means I go in there this morning open to who he is and responsive to him, and here’s the kicker: responsive to him as though he were mine.
That may be the most damning statement of how I think that I have ever publicly made.
But I believe it to the core of whom I have chosen to be my whole life.