From the perspective of having had a loved one incarcerated, we can never fully understand or be prepared for the aftermath of incarceration until the roller coaster we have been on with all its death-defying ups and downs, twists and turns come to a halt.
The second our loved ones report to prison is when we begin holding our breath and our own lives become very secondary. Once a routine is established with emails and phone calls, the first time there is an interruption in that routine where an email or phone call has not come in on its scheduled time, our minds conjure up the worst scenarios. We begin to imagine our loved one being thrown into the SHU (Solitary confinement); they are sick, hurt, or even death due to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the DOC's cruelty and neglect that they proudly inflict on our loved ones.
Once we begin visiting our loved ones incarcerated and become involved in support groups, we start forming a community and become family. I have many sisters and brothers that I have not met personally, but in a minute would help them out in any way I could, and I know the same is true in reverse. We become vested in each other we cry, laugh, and get angry together. We catch each other as we fall from exhaustion, disappointment, and broken hearts, and we carry each other through the battlefields. I do not know how anyone who has a loved one incarcerated can manage to come out the other end without the support, encouragement, and understanding of fellow warriors. As much as our friends support us, they cannot feel and understand the frustration and pain of knowing your loved one's life has no value to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the DOC.
All of us warriors power through each day, knowing at least for most of us it is A Day Closer to our loved ones coming home. I have witnessed several homecomings and celebrated in the joy of families reunited, but then often, the curtain closes, and we are left in the dark, not knowing what happens next. I am a wife who just five days ago celebrated her husband returning home after four years of incarceration, and I will share what is next.
The days leading up to my husband Chris coming home was as exciting as leading up to our wedding day. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered at a constant pace. The hope and promise of our future and how we will conquer the world had me flying without wings. When I saw the white government van, which contained my husband drive through the prison gate, I jumped out of my car, ready to jump into his arms. As Chris walked towards me, I could see his movie star smile the same smile that would greet me every time at visiting. He wrapped me in his arms, where then we both began to sob from the joy of being together and relief to be able to breathe again.
Chris and I have been smiling, laughing, and loving each other for five days. It feels like we have picked right back up where we left off four years ago with a few caveats. There is a new routine we are trying to figure out; at times, maybe we are too courteous and respectful of each other to where we are walking on eggshells. Chris has not only health issues to be managed but also some reprogramming. When you spend years having to conform and being dehumanized daily, it will take a moment for a person to realize their value and relevance again.
I would be remiss if I did not say that this journey does not and should not just center around the person who is or was incarcerated. Warriors exert all their energy, heart, and resources in fighting and advocating for the well being of their loved one incarcerated. We allow all our needs during the time of incarceration to go unmet, and now we must work with our loved one to again make each other whole.
The continued support of champions is imperative after a loved one returns home. In my opinion, not having this valuable support system is like fumbling the ball at the one-yard line with no more time left.
I dedicate this to every A Day Closer fierce champion who shows so much love, support, and dedication to each other. We are all in this together, and none of us are ever alone. My gratitude cannot be expressed adequately for the love, support, and encouragement shown to me.