Died Alone

By David C. Taylor
 
Today, just this afternoon, a man died here, in prison. Under a tree by the horseshoe pits. He was only 48 years old. 
 
His family is on the other side of the world in Guam. His wife is imprisoned somewhere in the vast Federal prison system. A Chaplin his family does not know, a complete stranger, will deliver the news of their tragic loss.
 
He died alone. With no family present to help his chindi, his spirit, his soul find the next plane, Heaven, Valhalla, the Tenth Plateau.
 
This is as real as it gets. There’s nothing bigger or meaner than dying in prison, incarcerated, and alone. It's every prisoner's worst fear. No goodbyes, no one to share your fear, calm your mind as you struggle to breathe, like this man undoubtedly did before his heart stopped.
 
This is the eighth life I've seen lost while serving this sentence. It’s a deeper tragedy each time one slips away. It affects, not just me, but all of us immensely as inmates. We do not take it lightly. The whole prison aura shifts to a solemn quietness, a deathly still.
 
From my window as I write this, I can see the spot where he took his last breath. There's eight or nine guys out there right now milling around under the trees. I assure you, each and every one of them is thanking who ever they pray to for passing them over. Thank God it’s not my turn. They pray, not just for themselves, but also for the safety of their families. Please, God, let everyone live until I get out.
 
Nothing brings home the point of imprisonment like the death of another prisoner in the yard. I mean, that's the point, isn’t it? To punish you and your family? Sad, but true.
 
As inmates, we receive a modicum of medical care, decent food, and opportunity to exercise. Few here are innocent, but life is still precious and at times random. When we grieve there's no blame to cast, just sorrow, gut-wrenching sorrow, for the prisoner who dies, his wife, and his family. Nothing is left in the wake of an incarcerated death, except reoccurring nightmares (like mine) of dying alone in prison.
 
Just one of the plethora of reasons to, as Charlie's dad says, "Straighten up and fly right."
 
Normally, I try to be upbeat when I write, maybe even put a smile on the reader’s face, but honestly, there’s nothing to smile about this. 
 
Man, don't come to prison, ain't nothin' nice in here.
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