Skip to main content

When I was a young lad, my older nine-year-old brother, James, had leukemia. I was too young to have a clue what that was. I knew he was ill. Sometimes, he was home. Sometimes, he was in the hospital. He was isolated in his room when he was home, and the rest of us had to be quiet and stay away.

The adults would whisper about how bad it was, saying things about how it would be so much better when he was gone. He wouldn’t be in pain then. All this hush-hush talk was about waiting for James to go. There were five of us kids, and we heard things. We never discussed any of this. At least nobody ever said anything to me; it seemed more of an adult thing.

Mom and Pops were very loving parents to all of us. One morning, when I was four, Pops gathered us together; very solemnly, he said, “James has died.” I let out a loud “Yahoo!” Pops looked at me like I’d just cussed out his Mom. He shook his head and walked out. In my young mind, I thought we were waiting on this. The adults said how much better it would be once he’d gone. I thought it was a happy time.

Nobody ever talked about it to me after that. I never did understand the concept of dying. I don’t know the emotion that’s supposed to be attached to someone passing; I still don’t get it. My whole family has passed while I’ve been in prison. I miss them, but I’m not sad. After Pops died, Mom came to visit and rationalized it well. She said it would have been selfish if she wanted Pops to stay alive. She said he had a full life, and it was his time to go.


“Here I sit in excellent health.

It just seems I ought to be the one dead.”


Strangely, my entire family was God-fearing, World War II era, John Wayne-loving, good American citizens. Yet they are all dead, including my best wife. Here I sit in excellent health. It just seems I ought to be the one dead. I’ve walked some deadly prison yards and been in a few severe prison riots, yet I don’t have a single stab wound. I’ve been in two shootouts on the outside and never been shot. I’ve ridden some very questionable Harleys at very high speeds. I lived quite a rough life. I’m the only Hell my Momma ever raised!

I’m alive and well while my whole family is gone. I take this to signify I have something to still do.

Leave a Reply

Receive more inspiring stories and news from incarcerated people around the world.