“ALL THOSE MEMORIES”
As soon as I woke up this morning, I looked outside & saw the sparkling,frosted covered ground. It looked so refreshing. It takes me back to the day you were born,December 21,1994. The best day of my life & my birthday. That was the best birthday gift I could ever ask for. You wasn’t even 5 minutes old & you had already blessed me with so much love & happiness. Looking into those handsome blue eyes of yours and I could tell that you were going to be a good baby. Like all fathers it is my prayer that you would become a good man & now I can see that you have become that man. I was nervous and yet so very happy that I was going to be apart of your life. A handsome baby boy that would grow up to make his mom and dad so proud of him,as well as the rest of his loved ones. you have change my life in more ways than I ever dreamed. I was “off the chain”. Lost to you by circumstance. I wish that I could have changed. I can not therefore it is your forgiveness I now seek. If I live to be a thousand I’ll never forget the words you said to me when I was at that rough patch in my life. You told me son, That would love me if I lived in a mansion or a tent! Those words you spoke to me that day are still in my heart & they will remain there. WOW!! My thirteen year old son just “laid it down”. Thank you son you really made me see things in a different light. Such comforting and encouraging words from a wonderful son. Tyler those were not words of a thirteen year old teenager,they were the words of a son who’s words were the twins of his father.
Since my time here in the twilight zone(federal prison) I’ve missed so much in your life and I want to apologize for that again,as I have many times before. Missing your 21st birthday is a scar I shall have on my heart for the remainder of my life. Your passage into manhood will forever be outside my reach. I thank our lord and savior JESUS CHRIST for carrying me,you,and our family as well as other families through all of this. I also want to thank him for all of the days to come that we will still have together. Son,I have always wanted the best for you. I am a proud father. You have grown into the man I wish I could’ve been at your age. If that were so, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here in the twilight zone. I always say that everything happens for a reason. Being in the twilight zone has taught me to appreciate life more. We all take for granted that our love ones and friends are going to be there. In a instance that all could change. It has opened my eyes to see what a wonderful life the future holds for us. I promise to protect you from all of the things I’ve already endured. You have lots of opportunities in store for you and I’m sure that you will make the best of them. I will always love you the way only a father should love his son. Remember that with each and every turn,every decision and every thought you take I’m right there with you. I’m always thinking of you son.
You are what keeps me traveling through this journey. You are the first person I think about when I wake every morning and the last person I think of before I go to sleep at night. I love you more than life itself. Our lives will be back together soon! Please be safe!! I’m so proud of you my son and the man you have grown up to be. You are the light that guides me from the twilight zone; may GOD bless you.
JOHN WESLEY GRAVES
Note: Twilight Zone is Federal Prison
Twilight is the pin name of this writer.
Its been a month and a half since the clemency project conducted during President Obama’s administration came to a close. The weather forecast within the Twilight Zone(federal prison)has ranged from a beautiful sun shiny day to the darkest most gloomy storm and back to a calmness during that time.
There were three groups of us Approved,Denied and Uncertainty,(note: reread “the last week”), On the Clemency project blog. The majority of those who were granted clemency has passed from the twilight zone to a new life beyond, hopefully forever gone from this place. Having grown up in a small farming community I’m reminded of the male peacock as I watch them go through the gate. To my way of thinking, there is no animal that presents itself in a more beautiful light than a male peacock during mating season. He walks the yard with his tale held high saying “look at my colors”. This is the beauty and joy I bring to the world. Those who are left walked the yard on their last few days for a short time with the pride of a peacock.
I who have lived among them also bask in the atmosphere of jubilation that was cast off by their long awaited freedom. Its days like this that I wish the world could look into the twilight zone to see the peace and tranquility upon the face of those who go forward to face a world that has changed so much since they left. However, like the peacock today is the day that they get to strut the yard in all their glory; to present themselves at their very best. Today they will have a hand shake and a smile from those who before the right of passage from the twilight zone a nod in passing, would have been strain.
For some the protocol of prison life has slipped off as easily as an over sized pair of shoes. For others the transition will be more difficult; like a ring on a swollen finger. The ring is in the place it is suppose to be, but no longer fitting. It may even be causing pain. I often wonder when my time comes which shall I be? Sliding beyond the Twilight Zone like out of a comfortable pair of shoes or bound by an overflow of flesh from prison life and not able to remove the ring that has wed me in this unnatural matrimony. I guess only time will tell. However, today I get to share this state of jubilant joy with my brothers as they walk from the twilight zone.
There are other who have been granted passage from the twilight zone their path to the outside world has taken a different path. In most cases the RDAP program(Residential Drug Alcohol Program) lies on that path they now travel. For many of these who are now staring their new found freedom in the face. The RDAP program was not even a consideration before the clemency program. Its a different program with very strict rules that separates those taking the program from the general population and often separating friends who have been sharing their time for years. The program is nine months long and normally offers a year off your sentence if completed. In the case of those who have been referred by the clemency program its immediate release upon completion.
This is my opinion alone: they are getting the better end of the deal. One of the requirements for the clemency was that you must have been incarcerated for ten years. They have 9 months to prepare for life beyond the twilight zone. Nine months to gain valuable life skills that were not available to them just days ago. It can be seen in them days after entering the program with freedom as an incentive their focus is concrete ,their values have changed. Many who before clemency looked as if they had given up on life now have a spark in their eyes and a smile on their face that is contagious to those of us who are not able to see ourselves clear of the zone at this point.
Their heads held high, pride in their steps they move forward with hope. Some are trying to make contact with people they have not spoken to in years. New life has been breathed into them and by association into the remainder of us. The granting of clemency has had positive effects throughout the Twilight Zone.
“THE DARK SIDE”
Light and Dark are equals in the twilight zone(federal prison). Those who were denied clemency have been living on the dark side of the twilight zone. They have looked the one friend who travels freely throughout the prison system; without race,religion,culture,financial status, or past history being a factor in the eyes and been rejected. That beloved friend: “HOPE”! Who is there for myself and so many others seems to have left them behind. HOPE, is the air we breath, the food we eat, the constant compassion we share our lives with. To watch those who are without HOPE for the time being is a painful experience for me and the families who love them. I’ve grown to maturity in the Twilight Zone and HOPE is a funeral I have attended often , there is no greater loss than hope to any of us here. Its almost unbearable to see the light of HOPE leave one of my brothers’,children’s or friends’ eyes. Watching those who have been denied has had its effect on the twilight zone. A dark cloud that has come upon us. The depth of its blackness seems to have eclipsed the sunlight of those who have been denied. However, flashes of lightning can be seen at the edge of the darkness a promise of brighter days ahead. We pray this storm too will pass.
Those of us who have lived in the twilight zone for the period in time that the clemency program required (10 years) have had darkness as a companion before. NO! Darkness is no stranger to us. More often than not we find our way through the darkness. This darkness seem to be a little different, because for the time being it has covered our true light “HOPE”! I need the prayers of you who live beyond the twilight zone to restore the HOPE of those who were denied. Reach out to family and friends now that you are aware of the darkness they lived in. Offer them whatever light you have to give.
“IN THE SHADOWS”
The final group I’m most sure of, I belong to this family in the twilight zone those who live in the shadows. Uncertainty is a constant in the prison. We never really know what our circumstances will be from day to day. Laws change, appeals come through and judgments are overturned. The hope of the last 330 commutations are still out there somewhere and we peep through that window daily for a list with our names on it. Standing in the shadows where neither light or darkness rules is a place that’s familiar to most in the twilight zone. In the shadow HOPE truly is the food of our existence. Therefore for those of us who have returned to a different level of uncertainty the adjustment has been easier. We share a very low level of darkness.
When no one is around and we dream of what might have been or become anxious about what still might be darkness will creep in; at other times when we remember the joy in a love one’s voice as the days drew nearer to President Obama’s final list of approvals that ugly monster darkness will raise his head. In our gut it feels as if we have let those we love down again. No! the shadows are not a safe place. Its a place where we in the twilight zone learn to balance darkness and light. We learn to move forward in the shadow between the two; with HOPE as the beacon of light that guides us through. Those of us who live in the shadows live with the promise of a bright sunshiny day ahead.
Your Brother: TWILIGHT