if I die before I wake… (Prisoner no more)

Posted on April 11, 2012. Filed under: My Lemon Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

I had a wonderful time chatting with an old buddy, Ana Sonia Vinatea, who now resides in Dubai.  She’s an artist, entrepreneur, champion of all things 4-legged.  I was telling her about my “past life” as a law enforcement officer.  I’ve always been on the unconventional side, sometimes subversive.  I reflected on one moment of subversion.

Prison sucks.  It’s depressing, confining, and ranks rock bottom for life experiences.  We used to say it’s so low, that you have to jump up to touch the curb.  It’s hard to be optimistic in an environment like this for 14 years, but I managed.  My door was open to any inmate who had something positive to say, or dream, to the chagrin of most of my supervisors.

Those same supervisors eventually came under fire for illegal activities (rape, drugs), but I digress.  Uhuh.

One inmate (I’ll call her Yoli) came in to my unit.  She had some serious baggage, but she had a dream.  She thought if there was someone there to counsel her during hard times, she would possibly not be in the system.  She wanted to be that “someone” for others who need counselling and intervention.  I asked her what was stopping her, she said “I don’t have a GED.”.  I smiled.Image

My father went around to the area churches, dropping off fliers and brochures about continuing education. He always had them, the information pack rat he was.  I couldn’t bring in the information for Yoli alone, that would constitute “Undue Familiarity”, which is a serious offense and would have put my job in jeopardy.  However, I did receive a donation of brochures from a church, which was permitted.  I received the donation from the church trustee (thanks Dad) and placed the brochures on a table in the public areas.

I called Yoli over and told her to take a look at the brochures.  Fast forward…

Yoli took that information and got her GED while in prison, and signed up for distance courses.  She got her associates degree, became a substance abuse/HIV AIDS Counselor for a major NJ foundation with a flowery name, where she still works, at my last inquiry.  When Yoli took those brochures, she stopped being a prisoner to her circumstances, freeing her mind to live.  So often I saw people whose true incarceration was mental more than physical.  I still see it today, and it has nothing to do with correctional facilities.


My best friend passed away in 2003.  I’m a bit choked up writing about him because we were so FRIGGIN close.  Almost everything I do, everyday, is him, especially this blog.  Both my parents fought to inspire people out of their mental prisons, and I carry their torch.  During my dad’s funeral, we watched person after person line up, and heard stories of my dad helping people out of their mental prisons that we weren’t even aware of.  Person after person told their stories of all my dad did for them.  He left a beautiful legacy, and I watch now as my mom leaves an equally spectacular legacy, finding someone to help in some way, each and every day.  

The day before he passed, I had a conversation with my dad.  I told him that I would be OK, and that he didn’t have to hold on anymore (They kicked him out of hospice because he stayed alive too long.).  I told him that I would do as he did, that I was holding on to everything he taught me.  If I die before I wake, I know that I have done what I could to help as many people as I could.  For every day I am here, I’ll look for one more person to help, because prisons suck.

Thanks Mom and Dad.Image

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