Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)
TITLE: FRIENDS FOREVER
By Katie Tansley
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A true story
I was never one for sending out Christmas Cards. I was always busy working, or getting caught up in the holiday shopping everybody seems to fall into sooner or later, until one day in December of 2000 that all changed.
It all started with an email from a friend of mine in New York, she had just visited a prayer request posting board she regularly visits on the web, and there a priest had posted a prayer request. His request was prayers for those on death row at this time of year, and in particular for a man named Donald, on Texas’ Death Row who had given up on life, and was at his very lowest. The priest was asking not only for prayers for him, but Christmas cards to be sent as well.
I wrote my friend back and asked if she was going to send Donald a card, and she said yes. I decided to send one too. I had never written to anyone on death row before, and at that time in my life I was pro-capital punishment, but I was touched by his sorrow at this time of year. I wrote wishing him a Merry Christmas and was praying for him. My friend did not place a return address on her card, but I did, and received a letter back in the mail.
He wrote back thanking me for the Christmas card saying he was overwhelmed, he had received so many cards that Christmas, that it made his Christmas so much happier. It was a very nice letter.
I wrote back to thank him for his thank-you note, then he wrote back again, before I knew it we became friends, signing our letters always, “friends forever.”
The letters flowed back and forth and months turned into a couple of years. He wrote about his family, and his life on death row, and his sorrow at having taken a life. I wrote of my life, my work, my family. We shared jokes, and I would send him superhero stickers in the letters to brighten up his days.
I slowly began to write to him about my faith, and he opened up stating he never was very close to God, or religion too much, but he liked Deacon Al, and the priests who paid visits to the men on death row.
Then one day, two years into our letter writing, he invited me to visit him. I told him I would. He added me to his visitor list, and I flew out from Arizona to Texas to see him.
The visit was amazing; he was happy, jovial, full of life in the midst of death row. We talked for hours through speaker phones, with thick glass between us as we sat on cold, metal folding chairs. I didn’t care, here was my friend and he looked great.
The writing between us continued, and Don began to write asking me more about my faith.
I opened up and shared with him my deep faith and love of God. Little did I know God was working a miracle in Don.
In May of 2003, Donald wrote asking if I would like to be his sponsor in getting confirmed in the faith and I was thrilled.
Donald embraced the faith with more zeal then anyone I ever met, bearing witness of God and his faith at every opportunity to inmates and guards alike.
Word came in 2004 he was to appear in court to receive his execution date. We had already agreed in our letters if that day should ever come, I would be there for him. Well that day came.
On our final visit, Don asked me to pray. I asked God to have His Holy Spirit pray in me. The words flew from my lips as I asked God that if it be His will to bring Donald home this day, then to walk together with us as one to the death chamber.
When the time came the last I saw of my dear friend, who was a brother to me, was him strapped down on a gurney, a needle in his arm, and tears in his eyes. I stood behind the glass praying his favorite prayer and watched him as he breathed his last breath.
Donald Loren Aldrich was pronounced dead on October 12th, 2004 at 6:18pm on Texas Death Row. He is my friend forever; a friendship that all started with a single Christmas card.
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