How Precious Life Truly Is

By Jay Goodman

I look around me inside the cell block I live in and everyone seems oblivious to life. Yes, there are a lot of good people who do have good intentions, but even they seem to get caught up in the BS that prisoners do. Like what’s watched on the TV each day, or having one special spot on the bench or table to call theirs. I even had a good friend of mine tell me today that he woke his cellie up out of his sleep last night just to tell him, if he has to pass gas, he needs to get up and go sit on the toilet and flush it. I asked my friend if his cellie was asleep? And to my surprise he said, “yes”. I then said, “you do realize that people pass gas while they sleep?” He said, “yes, I know.” Of course, he knows this, I didn’t even waste my time asking him if he knows this, then why wake someone up out of their sleep to tell them to sit on the toilet?

Everyone around me seems to get lost in prison life and into the prison thinking. The funny thing is everyone in here talks ab- out how much they dislike this place, but they go right along with the ideology of how most prisoners think. Never realizing that they are just holding themselves back from advancing in their own thinking. And it’s when we learn to think on our own can we make plans to better our lives. I wonder sometimes, if God was to give these men a reality check, could they deal with it? Could they face their circumstances with a new outlook on what’s truly important in their lives? Which brings me to my story.

I know a man who was called to the infirmary some time ago and was told that he has a certain type of cancer that’s not treatable, and that he would die within a 3 to 5-year span. He said that the cancer was in a place in his body that is impossible to operate on. They filed paper work for an early release, but it was denied in less than a week. That was a very eye-opening experience to the true hatefulness of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The young doctor who knew this man for many years and felt compassion- for him took it upon herself to e-mail the Governor of Texas. That was denied the same day. The doctor had tears in her eyes, she apologized for them and said, “I’m so sorry.” He thanked the doctor for trying and said, “you are a wonderful person and it’s great to meet someone who understands the need for compassion.”

It’s always difficult to receive bad news. I can remember when my son Eric passed, all of the memories of special moments flashed before my eyes. Believe me, the realization of death is life changing. This man always enjoyed life, in fact God had blessed him with a good Mom and Dad, a beautiful wife and lots of kids. He went back to his cell and gave his situation a lot of thought. Naturally at first the thought of dying is difficult to deal with. But the idea of dying alone in prison made his situation a little more stressful.

He made the decision after a few days of contemplation to keep his bad news private. Why tell his fellow prisoners and bring those down around him, whom he considered his friends. And he also decided not to tell his family. He decided that this news would only affect his children in a negative way. His thinking was that it might even hold them back from accomplishing their dreams. He had always dreamed of his kids growing up and being successful. In fact, he spent a lot of time pushing all of his children to strive for wealth. He told them the importance of financial independence, and that by becoming wealthy would allow them to live the life they so choose. Not spending their lives working for someone else. This man also spent a lot of time thinking about how he was going to spend the rest of his life in here. He said becoming bitter and hateful was not an option. All of his life he kept a very good attitude and figured, why change it now. He said of course he thought about all of the mistakes he had made in his life. His family had long passed away and he thought of all the things he wished he could have said before his Mom and Dad had died.

Isn’t it amazing that the love we have for our Mom and Dad is not a secret, but it seems for some reason we never look at how important they truly are to us, until they are dying or have already passed. We must make a conscience effort in our lives to focus on what’s most important. When we allow our emotions to control our lives are never complete, it seems we are either running or we continue to chase something we believe will make us happy. Only to find out in the end we always had happiness right in front of us. Where? Every time we looked into our Mom and Dad’s eyes. When we held our wife in our arms as we slept, or when we heard the laughter of our children. How about the beauty that’s all around us. Has anyone walked outside and looked up at the sky? Or looked at how beautiful a full moon looks? What about the sunrise in the morning? Or a sunset in the evening? Ask yourselves everyone who reads this, why is it that it takes death for us to see the beauty God shows us every single day we’ve walked the earth?

This man has learned that life is a gift and he needed to stop and smell the roses and appreciate everything around him. Sometimes this man sits in the corner or looks out of his cell door and looks at his fellow prisoners and wishes so much that he could change them. He thinks, if only I could go inside their head and show them how truly blessed they are. If I could open their eyes so they could see how special their Mom and Dad’s are to them. If I could show them how much they’ll suffer when they die. He said, if I was able to close their eyes for just five minutes and let them experience the pain I have felt losing everyone inside these fences. Then they would clearly see how blessed they are to pick up the phone and call them, or hear their name at mail call or walk into the visiting room and see the love in his Mom and Dad’s eyes. He said that he and his wife used to say, when the kids grow up, they were going to do this, or go there. But, he said he learned a very important lesson about wishing his children were grown.

After he received his news about his cancer, he called home to speak with his daughter. When she answered, he discovered that several of his other kids were there also. And as they talked, he could hear his grandchildren running and playing in the background and his heart felt so happy, because his mind raced back to the day when it was his children. He closed his eyes and thought how much he wished he was able to go back in time. Now he understands the beauty that God gives us when we see or hear children laughing and playing.

Why does it take death for us to realize how beautiful life is? No one in prison seems to really understand this. Yes, we are in prison, but that doesn’t mean we should stop growing. In fact, this experience is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see how precious life truly is. Think for a moment what would each of you do if you knew without a doubt you were going to die? I’m sure some people will say we are all going to die. Which is true, but of course we never know when. So we’re not forced to deal with it. But, what if you knew that death was coming for you? What if you knew around the time you were going to die? Once the shock of this bad news wore off, how would you want to have people and your family remember you?

Please allow me to give you a small glimpse inside the mind of a man that’s dying. Very quickly you would realize what’s truly important to you, over a short period of time everything would come into focus, and you would begin to realize the true meaning of, “love”. Not what you always imagined love to be, but the true meaning of what love really is. You would see how stupid past arguments you had with family or friends were, and believe me, you would long to say, “I’m sorry.” You would remember the importance of a smile, or to call someone you haven’t spoken to in years. You would laugh more, cry more, and understand more. You would forgive more quickly, because now you would understand that it’s only by forgiving can we truly love, and it’s true love that allows us to be in the presence of God. You would look at everyone around you with love and compassion. You would see the sky, the moon, the stars, the trees, the flowers, and maybe for the first-time experience how wonderful the sun feels upon your face. You would know how important your family and friends are to you. You would let go of how you used to think and feel. You would speak words of kindness, and do your best to smile, even when you don’t feel like it. Maybe also for the first time you would see God in every single thing around you, and realize that you never, had to search for love and happiness, because God had already planted it inside our hearts and souls.

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez