The Letter

I haven’t talked much about it. It’s been too big. I get panicky when I even think about processing it. The emotions are the same I once used drugs over. That scares me. What if I feel it and what if it makes me want to use like I once did? I don’t want to do it. I feel like a three year old having a temper tantrum.

So after the mediation, I had this weird Stockholm syndrome type deal going on. I felt bad, in some ways, for the plight of the prisoner; my brother’s murderer. Looking back now it doesn’t seem rational but it doesn’t seem irrational either. But anyway, I was feeling like I should do something for him. A little something to make his life a little easier. A little more pleasant.

I put $20 in his commissary account. It seemed like a good amount but not over the top. It would give him some extra nice things over Christmas. This was the last week in November. So perfect timing. Anyway, I put $20 in the commissary account but then after I did it the message that appears lets you know that they don’t notify the prisoner that its there. The only way they know is if they check or if someone tells them. If they never get money then they never check and never know its there.

Of course I didn’t want to send $20 and him not know. I don’t know if he gets money or checks it regularly. I decided to send a letter. I was sending thank you cards to everyone else involved in mediation and he didn’t HAVE to participate so I figured well, as long as I’m at it. So I send him a card and thank him for his participation. I also reminded him of my challenge to him: do something with your life. DO SOMETHING useful. Anything. That I expected him to do better and do more. That it might mean stepping out and being a leader instead of a follower but even if it was uncomfortable that I expected him to do it… and oh yea, P.S. I put $20 in your commissary account.

I nearly sent it without a return address. Then I read somewhere that they often won’t deliver mail in prisons without one. I didn’t want it to not get delivered but I also didn’t want to let him know where I lived. That didn’t feel like a good idea. So I used my school’s PO box. I can get mail there but then he won’t know where I live. But I don’t check it often. Last time I checked it was the first week in December.

The letter was postmarked December 1. It’s a Christmas card of all things. A lovely nativity scene is on the front. His handwriting is neat, tidy, strait lined. It looks like he might have used a ruler to make sure it was strait. Or something like it. Maybe I’m reading into it but it seemed like a lot of time was spent on the wording. It is careful and kind and informative. Even with spelling and spacing mistakes you can tell he spent a lot of time on it. The letter states,



Your letter was a welcomed surprise. I want to also thank you for your words of motivation and your belief in me that I can do much better. Not only for me, but for you too, and my family will be greatful for a life time, I have signed up for a program on Construction Fundamentals. And hope to take some anger management classes as well, but there is a long waiting list. Your words are with me, and they will forever be my backbone.

Thank you,”


I’m emotional. It had been so long I’d forgotten. Maybe forgotten is the wrong word. Certainly the idea of getting a response had faded. Part of me wants to pat myself on the back. LOOK WHAT I DID. I DID SOMETHING AMAZING. I do think, in part, that I have. I’ve done something good. Amazing even but old thoughts diehard. I’m waiting for the shoe to drop. It’s the first time he’s done any classes and doesn’t have coping skills to speak of- when he gets frustrated or angry will he stick with it? Will the waiting list for the anger management classes be so long he gives up?

Where do I go from here? Do I write back? Do I let it linger? I’ve had the letter in my mailbox at the school for nearly a month but it’s new to me. What’s the right balance? What is good for me? What is healthy for him? What does the continuum of social justice look like at this point? It’s uncharted territory for me certainly, but how many other people go through something like this? So many questions.

This process hasn’t given me many answers but it has given me different questions.

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