Abundance of Love

Menstuff® has compiled the following story about seeing your child go to prison.

Abundance of Love

As parents, most of us believe that losing a child through death is the worst-case scenario. But I know, from personal experience, that there is another worst-case scenario—to lose a child to prison.

My own son was one of those kids that got hooked on drugs—permanently.

The nightmare started during his last two years of high school and continued into young adulthood. Jeffrey managed to stay clean and sober for about nine months at a time—tops. Convinced that he would always have only this kind of life, he turned to a life of crime to support his habit.

When he was finally caught and convicted, my son entered the Texas prison system for the rest of his life. I didn’t know anyone who had ever been in prison before.

Shortly after Jeffrey’s conviction, an acquaintance asked me about my family. As I choked on my unusual answer, “My son is in prison,” I could see the uneasy look in her eyes as she cut the conversation short and hurriedly walked away. Suddenly, I felt the stigma associated with an incarcerated loved one. Although most people didn’t want to deliberately close me out, they couldn’t overcome their feelings.

As a long-time volunteer in our church, the PTA and other organizations, I knew support was available to me. Remembering a discussion about prison ministry, during my volunteer work with Cursillo, I called a few people that had worked with me on that Christian weekend. To my disappointment, no one had a recollection of who might know about the prison ministry.

Feeling desperate and alone, I stopped by a church that I once attended. At the coffee hour after Sunday service, I was greeted by someone who was eager to hear what my children were up to. For once, when I mentioned that my own son was in prison, I saw a genuine look of hope.

The woman put her arm around me as she explained, “My husband is working at a Kairos weekend in a nearby prison, and I’d be happy to have him call you after he returns. Is that okay?”

Relieved that someone had finally understood how I felt and unable to speak, I simply nodded.

“Good. John will be in touch. God Bless!” She smiled and waved as I walked away in tears. I was grateful that she reached out to help me in my time of despair.

The following week, John called. “My wife, Brenda, told me about your visit to our church. Have you ever heard of Kairos or Kairos Outside?” he asked.

Clearing my throat, I answered, “I’m familiar with the word Kairos.”

“Well, it’s a three- to four-day weekend that surrounds the inmate with love, forgiveness and understanding," John continued. "The devoted volunteers go into prisons to work with people who have a willingness to change their lives. Are you interested in helping out?”

My mind wandered. Here is a way for both Jeffrey and me to survive this ordeal. People are giving their time and love to help make life more bearable for inmates and their families.

As we talked, John promised to see if the program would be available at Jeffrey's facility. "There’s a Kairos Outside Weekend coming up in three weeks. Would you like to go, Joan?"

Kairos Outside supports women who have loved ones who are, or have been, incarcerated. Being a steadfast volunteer myself, I assumed he meant as a volunteer. But as we talked, I discovered that John really meant as a guest. “I don’t know,” I responded with trepidation. “I need time to think about it.”

“Fair enough,” John said. “Let me know when you’re ready.”

Even though I had been hurt by others who didn’t want to associate with me, I asked myself, Am I ready to be in a room with other women who share my plight? Aren’t I different? I was looking for someone who would accept me—someone who would understand my feelings. Most of these women probably feel the same way I do, I surmised.

So, I went to Kairos, where I felt more love and understanding than I had ever known. Living with the shame and embarrassment of having a loved one in prison is a disheartening journey—a journey far too difficult to experience alone.

After my weekend, I made a commitment to volunteer in the Kairos Outside ministry. I went there to find someone I could talk to, and I left knowing I would always have an abundance of love to turn to.

Those gentle volunteers made it possible for me to live through a double tragedy - two worst-case scenarios. Not only did I lose my own son to prison, but I lost him a second time when he died there. Many people stood by me through the painful days that followed. Without the volunteers from Kairos Outside, I would never have been able to survive the journey.

Source: Reprinted by permission of Joan K. Johnson from Serving Time, Serving Others 

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