The woman in the department store stared at me as I was making my purchase. “Have we met before?” she asked.
Nothing about her looked familiar. “I don’t think so,” I responded.
She continued to concentrate on my face and then loudly exclaimed, “I do know you! I saw you on television. Your son committed a murder and you and your husband were interviewed.” By this time a few curious bystanders were tuning in to this unexpected conversation. Now all of them were staring at me, waiting for a response.
“Yes, that was our family on the program,” I admitted.
She continued. “I saw another program and the father of the deceased was being interviewed and he said he had forgiven your son.”
I mumbled a few words as I completed my purchase and awkwardly left the mall to find my car. My mind raced: Why did I allow myself to feel so humiliated in that store? How many years will it take before I can feel comfortable when someone surprises me in this way?
Honestly, many years into this process, I am still dealing with the harsh truth of my son’s crime and conviction. I am still learning to embrace my own reality. As I do, it’s been helpful for me to list the changes that have transpired in the eighteen years since Jason’s arrest:
- Gene and I moved from Michigan to Florida to be closer to our son.
- I had opportunities to write about our journey in When I Lay My Isaac Down, A New Kind of Normal, and Between a Rock and a Grace Place.
- We’ve gotten to know many families of inmates, and we have felt a mutual support from those relationships.
- As news of what happened spread, opportunities to speak about finding hope and faith multiplied.
- We began the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope, offering tangible help to inmates and their families. SpeakUpforHope.org
- The “Stretcher Bearers,” friends and family members who encouraged us, provided examples of how to reach out to the families of inmates in compassionate, helpful ways.
I soon realized that many good changes had taken place in my life during my unwanted foray into the world of jails and prisons. For all of us who face the challenge of incarceration, there is a new reality—what will we do now, with this life we have, with all of its imperfections, embarrassment, and sadness?
Our survival tools are very simple:
- Accept the reality that our loved one is in prison—and use our knowledge of the system and the legal process to help others.
- Maintain relationships with friends and family members, even when we are busy dealing with our incarcerated loved one.
- Make plans for birthday celebrations, family reunions, and vacations, special things that take us away from the demands of incarceration.
- Discard guilt! Acknowledge that a meaningful life needs to be a permanent part of our reality.
Following thirteen years at one prison, Jason has recently had a longevity transfer to another facility. It’s a security measure to move inmates to different prisons, but it’s hard on the families—including ours! He’s now a three-hour round trip away from us. If you’d like to write to him, he would welcome your cards and letters: His address is:
Jason Kent X26713
Desoto Annex Correctional Institution
13617 S. E. Hwy 70
Arcadia, FL 34266
If you’d like to make a donation to Jason’s ministry on the “inside,” go to www.SpeakUpforHope.org.
His Words over You
“Look to me and I will do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine. Allow my power to be at work in you. Live wisely and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious; you will have the right response for everyone.”
Based on Ephesians 3:20 and Colossians 4:5–6
Question: What “hard thing” are you currently experiencing? What is God teaching you? You can order Carol’s 365 page-per-day devotional, He Holds My Hand, on Amazon.
Listen to Carol’s message on Focus on the Family, “Trusting God When the Unthinkable Happens.”