A little more than a week ago former New England Patriots football player and convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez, committed suicide in his prison cell. The next day I listened as the men around me, and the news media pundits on TV commented on the subject. I heard people on TV calling him a “coward” among other unflattering things. I listened, but, gave no opinion unless asked…and asked I was, frequently…being a lifer myself had somehow made me the expert on the subject of Aaron Hernandez, and by extension, suicide.
One very respectful prison guard pulls me up and asks me this one question, “Why do you think he did it ?” However, in his eyes I saw two questions, one was genuine concern and interest in trying to understand something far beyond his realm of possible thinking. But hidden behind that question I also saw in his eyes the unspoken question that he really wanted to ask, “How do you deal with being a Lifer convict, and have you ever considered killing, yourself?”
I imagine that lots of folks have wondered how a person’s mind handles the uncomfortable reality of spending the rest of their life behind bars. I could answer that by saying that you either deal with it or you don’t. I could say lots of things to make you smile and to laugh. I could talk about butterflies and laughter…as I often do. But every now and then I just gotta tell ya the truth, even if it’s a cold slap in the face. I don’t do that to bring you down, in fact I try hard to keep things light and to hide the fact that sometimes, just sometimes, life in prison ain’t a bed of roses; Now, I am sensitive to the fact that lots of you who read my blog have people you love in prison…but I think that every now and then I have to be the reporter, that recorder of sorts, that circumstances has called me to be …If I don’t do it, if I don’t tell the story of misfortune and sorrow that, is prison, who will. That is what I am going to do today.
Rather than to try and explain what might have been going through the mind Mr. Hernandez I will instead, go to the only record of it’s kind in print. I will quote from the personal diary a Lifer Convict, on the subject of death and suicide. I will let him use his own words to give you a “REAL TIME” experience of what those like him, to include Aaron Hernandez, are experiencing.
“Where No One Hears Me: the inner dialogue of a lifer convict”
At my arrest I felt a terror a thousand times more frightening than any I had previously felt. My courage flickered about me like a flame gasping for air. I longed to cry out to my father, but he had abandoned my family and me. I looked to God, but we all know that God cannot be found in Hell. My wife and my children, my brothers and my mother, my friends and my enemies were all powerless to help me, for I had created for myself a scenario so ugly that I was beyond help. I, who had everything, had thrown it all away as if it were meaningless. Death called to me – and I considered following.
It was not my time to die however, and even though fear surrounded me, beating upon the walls of my inner sanctuary, I stood against its unnatural calling.
I looked out past these walls, past the razor wire and I denied their essence, their existence; a freedom I remembered lay no more than a step beyond them. However, the moment was lost and I stood statuesque inside my body. With sleep heavy on my mind I threaded my way back among the living dead to my walled existence and curled up on my side.
Through my window the glare of stadium lights overpower the glow of the moon I love; a curtain of thick light blanching off the the prison cell wall I now faced. Artificial light, one moment bright, the next filled with moving shadows smothering me in a sinister happening, of what origin I do not know.
Blacker than night she cast her spell over me, but unlike trees, she offered no life, only death. The frayed hangings of my sanity droop dispiritedly.
She is death, she is beautiful and I want to hold her and caress her and make love to her. Is she is my redeemer? or my re-claimer?
Exhausted with it was my morning reverie. I suddenly felt exhausted, confused about my internal fascination with death. I dream about it, constantly.
The Colorado wind cuts through me as I watch the earth pirouette first in front of me, then around me and finally behind me. I shudder unconcernedly into my prison jacket, Death, where for art thou?
I sense a provocative familiarity with prison; I have visited it before. Yes, there is more here than meets the eye; Ariadne in the labyrinth? Or merely a puppet dancing to the strings of an invisible puppeteer.
Survival in this prison or in any other for that fact, is a gift not all receive.
Survival after death is also a gift, a rebirth, the way a penny is reborn when a child pulls it from its dirt covered existence to reclaim the experience of its value, a value that brings to its redeemer a candied smile by allowing that penny to once again fulfill a more tangible glory.
Death…yeah, the diluted dreams of a Lifer Convict who has the courage to quit. The gnarled withdrawn hands of old age in the crater of a middle-aged body of diminished vigor, diminished potential, and the obscene dignity of it all.
Most bruising of it all is the imaginations of Death by those who fear it, their complete misunderstanding of its glory. The long forgotten memories of forgiveness that only death can provide. The multitude believing it a just punishment, when in reality it is a just reward; forgive them Father, for they do not have complete knowledge. Death, the transmogrification, the curling smoke from a cigarette; that which is from that which is.
How many people do you know who live with an intelligent purpose? Even fewer still are they who can read this and understand the importance of an intelligent, death.
I am not a butterfly on a pin. I am in a state of deferred numbness. I am happily dying.
Some folks orgiastically enjoy my incarceration, but they are blind to the truth that it has brought me the required dose of compunction necessary to live with a conscious awareness of death. I am no longer like the masses who fear death by clinging to some paltry slice of mortality like a miser to a copper coin, I have been awakened. I live as though I am dying so that I might die as though I were living.
The knowledge he has gained gives him scant comfort. The loss of innocence has barred him from paradise, and the only way he knows that it can be regained, breached, is in an honorable death, but here in this place, he is stripped of any chance of a glorified death as surely as he is stripped of a gloried life.
The change in me came when I accepted my own death as inevitable, when I came t see it as a reward instead of a curse. When I found the glory in a good death.
Glory itself does not come from the dying, it comes from proving yourself worthy by overcoming your fear of it, because to fear a thing is to be its servant, to have no fear is to be its master. Once you’ve learned to see death as a goal to be honorably accomplished, then you comprehend the reality that every day brings you one step closer to its inevitable embrace. With this recognition, death, will respect you and commune with you like an old friend, the companionship, the peace, the perfume. The perfect final dance, is to die with honor, to die well.
Visions of strange men and strange women fill my head. Faces visit me when I close my eyes, so vivid are they I have begun to paint them. Death and its bloodletting no longer repulses me, it entices me and my mind buzzes with the possibilities.
I believe that, with properly applied thought, that it is even an honorable undertaking (suicide). I am not talking about the contemplation of the weak, who in a moment of self-pity do the foolish, that I do not justify. Instead, I am referring to the kind of decision a person makes who possesses the knowledge that life is a school, and when a person believes themselves to be in a position where they feel as though they can no longer learn, due to the circumstances of their present position in that school, they then are able to contemplate the Grand Affair with the aid of reason. And I concur, when a person puts themselves into a life-position where they feel as they can no longer learn, due to their circumstances, or when they feel as though they have become a burden upon others they love, don’t they have the moral obligation to remove themselves, to regain their honor through the courage needed to “go there”? I believe so!
A black crow flies low, slowly riding the sweltering heat-driven air above the prison yard, like a dark omen. I silently watch from my cave as a guy sitting across the track from me claws and scratches his skin to blood; chemicals in his bloodstream. I am not repulsed. Can I make another day? Or will today be the day that I break? Maybe I’ll load the cotton like that unforgiven soul across the way, then I too can leave this cursed place for a while, or forever. Don’t do it you say! It won’t help, you add! It’s wrong you cry! But after what I have experienced, I’m not sure that I even know the difference between right and wrong anymore. Yes…there it is my friend, the truth about me…it had to surface sooner or later, didn’t it!
Sitting at my side she patiently awaits me to take her for a spin. She loves me, she is my sweetheart, she is Death and Death is very close to me here. She is my hidden companion, my lover, a photograph that I can pull from that hidden place within the wallet of my thoughts, at my choosing. Nothing to it.
Note to self: I am that one today!
Of course by now I’m sure that you’ve figured out that these excerpts are from my own, very disturbing diary…so yes I do understand what was going through the mind of Aaron Hernandez, because it goes through the mind of all “Lifer’s”.
In my opinion, since it seems to have some weight on the subject, I believe that Aaron Hernandez, after much thought, came to the decision that his life had run its course. I think that he felt it best, for his daughter, his wife and for the families involved, if he simply moved on.
You see, when a person comes to the realization that they love someone else more than themselves, they see life differently than others. And sad as it is, sometimes you don’t even know how much you love someone until your separated from them. Couple that with the realization that to be in prison is a burden on that person or person’s you love and, arcane thoughts begin to arise. For instance: when someone you love dies, you saddened, but, over time you are able to move on, but when that someone you love is in prison you get the phone calls, the emails, you worry about their safety…you feel obligated to send them money…you can never move on, not really…it never ends.
So, the rational mind, sometimes thinks the irrational thought and comes to the conclusion that it is best, on those he loves, if he just cashes in, thereby granting his loved ones the gift of being released from the cold fingers of prison’s grip.
Mr. Hernandez, I salute you. In my opinion, you have regained your lost honor. Peace be with you.
Now don’t go ta thinkin’ I’m losin’ it in here! Trust me, I’m too vain ta kill myself… Peace be with you all. And I appreciate you readin’ my stuff.
Three Rivers, 4-30-17