September 29, 2019, 11:40 pm
Some holidays in many of the ten-plus years I’ve been in prison have been particularly difficult for me because of the precious memories I hold of those holidays with my family. Only in recent years have I been able to celebrate these holidays, using memories of times with my family as moments of celebration. I choose now to celebrate with others, when appropriate, and to hold dearly the memories of the past. My celebrations are still tinged with deep regret, but I choose to focus on how my life is better because of those I’ve loved and built memories with.
Sometimes prisoners completely ignore holidays–the memories they trigger are too difficult to bear. I know many prisoners who do not want anyone mentioning their birthday. For them, their birthdays are filled with deep regret and feelings of hopelessness. Some have even told me their birthdays are not celebrations because they wish they’d never been born.
I’ve also known prisoners who use the anniversary of their crime to fast and spend the day in memory of their victims. Others have done the same for significant losses in their lives–the death of a mother, a wife, or a child. Some even tattoo significant dates on their bodies as a memorial to those they’ve lost.
Whether we admit it or not, our memories, and those in our memories, have shaped us to who we are today. I know my life is more complete because of how I’ve been shaped by those I’ve loved. Even ten-plus years in prison, my life is still shaped by people I’ve cherished. I struggle every day to overcome the mistakes I made in my past, to become the man I should have been all along, and to make my life a story of redemption. That is the gift I offer to those who have made such an impact on me. That is how I celebrate those who remain special in my heart.
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