The American Human Society often airs a TV commercial intended to tug on the heartstrings of the viewer that shows a sad and pathetic looking dog in a cage, it's misery and loneliness too obvious, and although surrounded by rows of identical cages, each occupied by similar abandoned and neglected and even abused dogs, that proximity to others of its own kind does not negate that overwhelming sense of being alone and forgotten as mere proximity to others can not satisfy that need for companionship and emotional interaction.
People are no different. Loneliness is not about our proximity to others, but that absence of emotional interaction. In many ways those of us condemned to death are like that sad and pathetic dog so desperate for someone to come in it's life and give it the one thing it desires the most..love.
In a few of my recent blogs I mentioned in passing that I recently got "dumped" by my girlfriend for no other reason but that it simply became too much for her. A few months ago the Florida Supreme Court issued its ruling in Mark Asay v State (December 22, 2017) in which they made it clear that although the US Supreme Court declared earlier that same year that Florida process that that allowed people to be sentenced to death by a judge rather than a jury was unconstitutional in Hurst v Florida, but left it up to the Florida Supreme Court to figure out how to apply this landmark ruling, so in Asay v State the Florida Supreme Court said that they will allow the death sentences of those sentenced after 2002 to get relief - but that those whose death sentences were final prior to 2002 would not get relief.
Because I was sentenced to death in 1984, this meant that I would not get relief. And on March 9, 2017 the Florida Supreme Court did issue the decision in my case denying relief based upon what they said in Asay v State - and the court also lifted my stay of execution.
Since I wrote about that, several of my friends suggested that I write more about the need for emotional interaction and how it makes me feel when someone I'm close to becomes overwhelmed by the reality of the possible imminent execution and jump ship. At first I was kind of reluctant as this is a private issue - and I'm also concerned that some might think bad about this particular person, which I think would be unfair to her as I really do understand how hard it all is on those that care about us, and in many ways it's probably harder on those that love us than it is on us and so it's not fair to blame anybody if they reach that point where they must walk away.
But this is an issue that affects not just me, but most others here. We live in a micro-community of solitary cells within close proximity to others and yet still both physically and emotionally isolated. Myself, I am far more blessed than most here as I do have my small circle of forever friends and some of my family that write regularly and even visit.
And yet too often I still feel alone, and even abandoned - not at all unlike the dog in that commercial, so desperate for love and a deeper connection with someone as when it comes down to it, no matter how many friends and family you may have around you, there's that need within each of us for something deeper, that need to connect at an emotional, and even spiritual level, with someone else.
As I've previously written sometime ago, for many years I have posted on the wall of my cell what I came to call my credo, it's words written not to reflect my constant loneliness, but rather a reminder not to become too emotionally vulnerable, as if there's one thing worse than that sense of overwhelming loneliness, it's daring to open your heart up to another only to have it yet again be crushed. My credo reads:
"I've been to the dark side of hell and back again; I've journeyed through life with nary a friend; I've laughed and I've cried; I've lived and I've died - and each day that I awake I'm condemned to do it again, and again"
Most dictionaries define "hell" as a place of "extreme torment and misery", and contrary to the contemporary image of hell as a physical place of eternal suffering, most theologians subscribe to the belief that hell is not a place of eternal damnation, but rather that eternal spiritual state of being separated from the love of God.
That's what it really comes down to...within each of us is this inherent need to love and to be loved, and throwing a man in a solitary cage isn't going to miraculously purge that need from within him.
But like that dog in that cage that has been beaten down and abandoned too many times it becomes that much harder to open up and to trust someone. But few of us go through our lives without collecting our own scars of a many broken heart and so we all know that nothing cuts deeper than losing someone you love.
To borrow from "the Bard" (Shakespeare): "it is far better to have loved and and lost than to never have loved at all". Those that know me well know that it wasn't so long ago that I was engaged to be married to someone I thought would last forever, but shortly before we were to be married in December 2013, Karen was diagnosed with terminal cancer and within months, she passed away (please read: Elusive butterfly of love") That hit me pretty hard and emotionally I shut down - I didn't want to let anyone get that close to me again, I went through a really difficult time and even all but wished and prayed that my own life would end. When the governor signed my death warrant and scheduled my execution for February 11, 2016, a big part of me welcomed it as it brought the hope that my misery and suffering would finally be brought to an end, as I couldn't imagine ant hell that could be worse than the one that i already lived in this life.
But then at the most unexpected moment, someone did come along and so quickly cut through all the emotional walls I so meticulously erected. From the very first letter she shared an only too familiar pain, and she too had stared into that abyss of death and suffering through a depth of loneliness that cut down deep into her soul and through the almost daily exchange of long letters we came to believe that we were kindred spirits. Her letters renewed my strength and dared me to hope again, and even dream of the day when I would no longer be in this solitary cell, but be free and physically together - and then she was gone.
The thing is, loneliness and suffering a broken heart is by no means limited to being a condemned prisoner. The truth is that there's many prisons in life, and my prison of steel and stone pales in comparison to that suffered by so many, whether it be trapped in a loveless marriage, or physically or emotionally imprisoned within ones self. Rather than whine about a broken heart, I choose to be thankful for having that opportunity to be loved, and to love again.
I don't know what my future may yet hold. But I do know that no matter what comes my way, I will get through it. And maybe there's someone out there who also feels lonely and wants to reach out and take a chance..you know what they say - the only sure cure for a broken heart is to find a new love.