Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
As humans we are really good about painting a happy life. We post pictures of ourselves smiling with our friends/ loved ones, pictures from our latest adventure, and pictures of something exciting that happened to us. All of these things are good, and most pictures do showcase the moment they captured. However, what about all of the thoughts and feelings those beautiful smiles hide? Today I’m going to be real; today I am going to share with you my “hard things”.
The tornado that hit my life six years and four months ago placed me into two categories. I am now a child who has a deceased parent, and a child who has an incarcerated parent. Today, I’m going to talk about what it’s like to be a child who has an incarcerated parent.
There’s a grief process for when you lose a loved one, but I believe there should be a grief process for when a loved one gets incarcerated as well. The day my mom was arrested was the second most awful day of my life. My mom is the best mom in the whole entire world. She is kind, loving, generous, strong, brave, and every other good attribute you can think of. My childhood consisted of trips to Disney, Sea World, Knotts, and Lego Land. My house was full of different types of animals, from ferrets to fish. And our hearts were full of love. But you see, my childhood wasn’t amazing because of the places we went or the things we had, it was amazing because I am now full of these wonderful memories which I cling to with everything I’ve got.
My mom was so excited for me to venture into middle school and then on to high school to experience the fun and memorable times that growing up brings with it. She was arrested two days before my first day of middle school. At the time we thought she would be getting released that weekend because we couldn’t find a logical reason as to why they would keep her for a crime she didn’t commit. However, that weekend came and passed. I remember the first time visiting my mom. The visits in county consisted of talking on the phone while looking at each other through glass for thirty minutes. Now imagine having to split that time between four people. Imagine telling your eight year old brother his time was up because it’s your turn to talk to your mom. Leaving after visits is always the hardest. Walking back to the car and leaving my mom behind feels so very wrong. Those first few years we were so optimistic. Although milestones, such as my first dance, came and left I knew everything would be okay once my mom came home. I would day dream about her sitting on my bed and me brushing her hair. The hope of her coming home soon made the hard things easier. Not being able to pick up the phone and call my mom when I wanted to tell her something was so hard to get used to. Goodness, getting used to not being able to walk down the hall and tell my mom something was awful. Every single day of my life my mom was there loving me and taking care of me, and then one day she’s just not. One of the worst feelings is when I miss a call from her. The fifteen minutes I could’ve had to talk to her slips between my fingertips and I just imagine her on the other side of the phone walking back to her room wondering what I was doing. It’s so, so hard. Four years later, during my sophomore year of high school, the trial finally got started and it felt like the end was almost near. She was going to come home. The trial was rough, but we didn’t lose hope. I mean how could they convict her for something she didn’t do? The trial lasted about two grueling months, but it was going to be worth it in the end. I was making plans for what we were going to do once she got home. Closing arguments had finished and it was now time for jury deliberations. After just four hours the jury had come to a decision. I was in fourth period when I got the text that the verdict was in. I couldn’t breathe, I was in a state of panic and didn’t know what to think. My best friend had to talk for me as we waited in the office to get picked up to go to the court house. I was reading Bible verses on my phone looking for a sign as to what was about to come. On the car ride down we were silent. My aunt was already there and texted us to tell us the judge wasn’t going to wait, and that she would let us know what happened. A single worded text with an emoticon changed my life forever. The text read, “guilty :(“. At first it was like a blow to the chest, and then I burst out in tears and kept saying “no” over and over again. It couldn’t be true. The one strand of hope I held onto so tightly was ripped away. That was the most awful day of my life. Two months later she was sentenced to 26 years to life.
Visiting in a state prison is much better in comparison to county. We get to spend the whole day with her talking and playing games. We get to hug her, and walk around. However, instead of 45 minutes away, she’s five hours away. Now that I am eighteen I can visit her on my own which I am excited about because I get to be able to spend time with her with all her attention on me.
Some days I miss her so much that my heart truly aches. All I want is to hear her laugh, and have her hug me. At night when I lay in my comfy bed watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram, I can’t help but think about my mom sleeping on her cold hard bed in a room she shares with about six other people. As I look around my room and see all the unnecessary things I’ve come to love and find comfort from, I think about how fast it could all be ripped away.
One of the hardest parts is noticing how sad it makes my mom when she realizes how much she is truly missing out on. It breaks my heart when I can hear how sad her voice sounds on the other end of the phone. I have always been very protective over her, and now that I can’t do that anymore it hurts. It is all just so hard. If someone would’ve told me that this would be my life, I would’ve cried at the thought. If I could have back all of the things I took for granted, it would be like a dream come true. Seeing my mom every day, texting her, going places with her, just simply being with her. My heart will never be whole again. When she does come home, when I’m in my mid thirties, she will restore some of the missing pieces. And the rest will be restored when I see my dad again in heaven.
I did not share this aspect of my life to find pity, but to shine a light on how much of an impact incarnation of a love one has on people. I am often asked how I am so “normal” and how I seem so content. My answer is God. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” God is fighting for my peace, He is fighting for my mom’s peace, and He’s fighting for your peace. I find my joy through the fact that I will never walk alone a day in my life. My friends, no matter where we go, and no matter what happens to us, God will fight for us.