Today’s post is part two in a three-part series by Ellen Gee, guest blogger and author. She’s writing from her personal experiences to parents who have a son or daughter who is incarcerated. Need hope? Need fresh ideas for how to love with boundaries and stay close? This post will help.
As the months went by, my husband and I realized we couldn’t help our son, Daniel (serving a six year prison sentence), by ourselves. But in order to initiate our friends and family’s involvement, we had to convince them he wanted help. And the best way to do that was to connect them.
One by one, we called each close friend, cousin, uncle, aunt, and grandparent. We asked a simple question. Would they be willing to receive a collect call from Daniel once a week for the next six years?
We then passed the list on to our son. He had the freedom to accept or refuse anyone he wanted. But regardless, he was going to call a close friend or family member each night of the week.
He added each name to his call list and we sent out a schedule. Each person agreed to notify us if he failed to make a scheduled call. Again, there would be no excuses. He needed to stay connected in order to keep his spirit outside the prison fence.
In Virginia, a no parole state, my son served 5 ½ years of his sentence. Regardless of how far away he was, my husband and I visited him almost every weekend. On the rare occasions we couldn’t go, another family member stepped in and made the trip.
We read somewhere that family visits begin to drop off at the three-year mark. Most people can’t go the distance. When we got to this point, we understood why. It never got easy-going through the disturbing process of entering and leaving the prison. Nor did it ever get easy trying to engage in conversation under the ever-watchful eye of the prison guards who hovered over us in the visiting room.
It was tough.
But Tim and I wanted to demonstrate our love for Daniel in a very practical way. By doing that, we hoped he would reconnect with God’s grace and recommit his life to Christ. We knew He was our son’s only hope of restoration.
We were anxious to get on with our lives. We hadn’t been able to celebrate a normal holiday. We were tired of our weekends being eaten up with prison visits. But we had made an agreement with our son. There was no way we were going to break our side of the contract.
It took a family to pull Daniel out of that pit. And it wouldn’t have happened if Tim and I had waited for someone else to do it for us. We had to be proactive and develop our own plan. There was no instruction manual for us to follow, either. So we stayed the course and saw it to the end.
When our son got out of prison, he was smarter and closer to the family than before his arrest. He had a better understanding of our love for him, and how far we were willing to go in order to show it. But he also had a better understanding of the boundaries we were setting within that love. None of this would have been possible without all parties being in agreement.
Check back for part three of this series, on Wednesday, April 30th, to hear from my son, Daniel. He’ll be sharing what helped turn the tide for him.
Father, take these ideas and bring them to life for other families who are trying so hard to set boundaries with love when their child is an inmate. Show them the way to develop closer relationships. They can’t do it on their own. They need you and the help of their family and friends. Uphold them and comfort them with Ellen’s words.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ellen Gee’s ability to find beauty amongst brokenness is inspiring. Her talent is never more evident than in her award-winning memoir, My Mother’s Song, where she details the tragic events of her childhood. After living in Northern Virginia for over fifty years, she and her husband Tim moved to Orlando Florida, where tragedy struck again. After a courageous two-year battle, Tim lost his fight with lung cancer. Now she spends her time writing her next book about her thirty-eight years with Tim.
Ellen’s blog: Slipstream
Ellen’s book: My Mother’s Song