SERVING LIFE: PROJECT COMPONENT
standing on love
• Portraits and reflections from family members living with a loved one on death row.
STANDING ON LOVE
DUKE CHAPEL 2018
Portraits and reflections from families who have dealt with a loved one living on death row. Their words and faces offer us a glimpse into their daily struggles at the same time they offer a chance to reconsider the meaning of justice, mercy, and compassion in our own lives. Portraits by Jenny Warburg.
"Our son had never been in trouble before. Never been arrested. I thought his lawyer was going to call us. But he never did. Even when I phoned him, he never returned my calls. Not once. At the trial, they didn't call anybody to speak on behalf of my son. His teachers offered to come down here and testify. We were all in shock. But the lawyer didn't call anyone. That lawyer certainly wasn't working for my son, that's one thing I can tell you. So, all I have is the hope that I'll be around when my son walks out that prison door. That hope sets in my prayers. I just want to put my arms around him again. We're huggers. And I miss that. I haven't hugged my son in twenty-something years. And he misses it, too. He says, "I just want to be around y'all and put my arms around you and be close to you." Sometimes, when we visit, and I put my hands up against that glass, I can feel heat. When I have my hands up there and he puts his hands up facing mine. You can feel the heat, even through the glass. Especially when we're praying. We put our hands up there and we pray. And that makes it better for him and for us. That's all I know to do. Because there's nothing else I can do."
THAT’S WHAT YOU CALL UNCONDITIONAL
People need to know that what they’re doing is wrong, as far as execution. It’s just wrong. All of us were there: my sister, my brother and his wife, the three children. All my children, too. My youngest brother – all the brothers and sisters were there.Growing up, we didn’t have a whole lot, but we were happy with what we had and we had each other most of all. So, we knew that as a family, we had to do it. If my mother was still alive, we’d have all had to be there. She didn’t want to live to see that day come, that they would execute her boy, and she didn’t. But we still knew it was our job, to be there for him. So that’s what we did. I feel like people really don’t see but one side. They don’t understand that we are victims, too, and we hurt, too, because we love our family member, just as much as you love yours.That’s what you call unconditional love. Regardless of whether he did it or not, we still love him because that’s family. People need to know that. They don’t, because it’s never happened to them. It was the same with me. I didn’t understand, and now I do.