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“I learned…to give love unconditionally, because you need to understand that love goes both ways.”

Ron, 60

Incarcerated: 26 years

Housed: Valley State Prison, Chowchilla. California

As a child dealing with years of domestic violence and other forms of abuse, I managed the courage to run away from home at 14. I slept with friends and on the street. I began to deal weed so that I could get an apartment. Hollywood and San Fernando were the worst places for a child to be alone. I was managing my life, working day labor with side jobs at the studios. I made it to 16 before I got in trouble, then arrested for having a concealed weapon. I ended up getting released with time served because it was a misdemeanor. I had my mom sign for me to go into the Army. I was placed into violent situations all the time and got the attitude, ‘if you’re not on my team, then you are nothing more than a bag of meat’, and that was how I treated everyone. To say the very least, I was very angry and expertly trained to be a heartless and cruel person, and along with all the alcohol abuse, I truly enjoyed it all. Surprisingly, after my time was up, I was honorably discharged. I was arrested for a high speed chase and sentenced to 25 to life under the three strikes law. Now with a PTSD disability, readjustment disorder, years of jail and prison, the hate in my heart needed to change.This time in prison I found myself in an unlikely place: the prison’s hospice care unit. As I was being trained by Nancy Alexander, a team member of Elizabeth Kublar-Ross I found the change that I desperately needed. I learned to be a human again. I spent countless hours training, I sat hundreds of hours of vigil bed side with strangers. In doing this I learned to better understand how to care for someone on a level that can only be human. To give love unconditionally, because you need to understand that love goes both ways. You have to give as well as receive. I have learned that all the journeys we take in life end in the same way, in death. So keep in mind that death is as big a part of life as being born. And it will change the hardest of hearts.. respectfully.

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