Back on the Steps

I sat on the steps in the jail pod and silently begged God to let me die. All means of doing so myself had been removed. I huddled in anguish,  shrouded in the utter devastation that had become my life. I was told my case would never go beyond the investigation, then never beyond the initial charges. When a plea deal was offered, I was advised to reject it, no way would a jury convict. But they did and I sat in jail, awaiting transfer to prison, the nightmare that had begun almost 2 years before culminating in separation from my children for 2 1/2 years. I was told I would be able to see them immediately, another falsehood. It would be six months before the prosecutor completed the paperwork allowing my transfer, a vengeful act to increase my punishment. I sat on those steps and begged God to let me die. Excruciating heartache suffocating me, I could no longer breathe on my own. I didn’t want air to fill my lungs. I rejected food, I wanted no nourishment, my soul felt already dead. I just wanted my body to follow suit. Alone on the steps when all of the other women housed in the pod with me had left for the one hour recreation time, beseeching a God that had surely already forsaken me, I cried out.

My children were 2 1/2 and 5 at the time. I had sang them to sleep each night. I never wanted anything more than to be a mother. No longer able to smell their sweet breath, to feel silky hair glide through my fingers, hear the tinkling melody of little voices, know the weight of a lap immediately filled when I finally sat down, I wanted to escape my body. My senses were empty without children to give them meaning. I had no use for me, without the role of mom. I wanted out. I knew my suffering, I could only allow in tiny fragments of thought about those of my babies before I struggled to hold onto my sanity. What if I just let go?  A God who would allow this all to go so horribly wrong surely could just help me finish the job, just end this now. But He didn’t. He met me on the steps, the lowest place I have ever been and lifted me up. He broke through my anguished pleadings with intrusive images of the footsteps poem. I sought to push it away, arguing with God that I was done, there was nothing left in me, I couldn’t stand, let alone walk. The story kept pushing through, remembering how Jesus carried the person when they couldn’t walk. God told me I was still worth carrying. He was carrying my babies as well.

I don’t remember rising from the steps. There was no miraculous healing. I struggled minute by minute to survive. Somehow I did survive, I took the next bit of air in. I read the Bible that was given by some church group that visits prisoners.  I cherished the time an older woman from the community was allowed into the pod to do a study with anyone willing. She was a reminder of kindness and hope, she was the face of Jesus when I couldn’t find Him anywhere around me. Other bits of light began to appear as community members wrote to me, holding my family in prayers. I never had a day without mail, faith in action as strangers made time to tell me I had value still, I wasn’t forgotten and I wasn’t being judged by all, negating the message I received outside of mail call.  I was a lightening rod for many guards who favored the punishment aspect of incarceration. I didn’t fit in with the general demographic of the other women, I had a Master’s degree, I was married, had a home, other inmates didn’t like outsiders.   Yet angels appeared in the form of correctional officers as well. Intervention by CO’s allowed me to have a job that kept me away from the fray and moved to housing that fit my temperament but not my classification, both actions that protected my time and person. These angels were sent by God, they were Jesus carrying me when I couldn’t walk.

Finally I was freed, we rebuilt our life. Reunified, our time was more precious, never taken for granted. We loved deeply, openly. I gave up all of me to be mom again, the sweetest name ever I was called. I thought our horror was behind us, we still had struggles ahead. Addiction and pregnancy during Arrow’s teen years challenged us all, but we battled and united together. We stayed together. Hours and hours of laughter filled our home, if not riches, if not fancy belongings. A high school trip abroad, college, an extra car all found a place in a budget that barely covered the house. I thanked God faithfully for my blessings, these children, and for picking me up from those steps. We no longer had to subsist minute by minute, we were fully alive.

I didn’t expect to ever be separated from my children again. I knew they would grow up, go out into the world but I imagined we would stay connected as they moved into their own lives. Arrow and I have mostly managed this, never out of touch for long, the string between us stretches rather thin sometimes but has not yet snapped in two. My sweet Stella though, gone. I feel many days like I am back on those steps, aching for my girl. I no longer am begging God to die, yet I plead with Him to intercede. How can we have survived that horrific time only now to be ripped apart, by choice.  Once again, I can’t get to her. I am locked away from her or she is locked away from me. I dream of her, I wake with a longing so deep I know Jesus will have to carry me through the day if I am to rise from my bed. I know angels appear in the form of friends who ask me to walk or give me nuggets of news they have gleaned. Minute by minute I survive until one day I can live fully again. I know Jesus will carry me today. I just wish He didn’t have to.

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