By Robin Gilmore
When most women become moms, almost instantly they develop an awareness, a “tuning in” to their child’s every need, and every attempt at communication, verbal or non-verbal. When the child grows, that tuning in begins to diminish, and when they are adults you find it is nearly gone. You get your “self'” back again, so to speak.
Not so with prison moms. That “tuning in” returns with an unhealthy vengeance. It’s now a hyper-awareness of your son’s every move; every gesture, every glance of the eye, every inflection of speech, every word spoken and every word not.
At each visit, too numerous now to count, I would search for glimpses of the quiet and introspective person he was, but prison life had shoved it way back down inside. Most often I would see a haunted look in his face, a slump to his shoulders, a lack of animation, a dullness in his eyes, and a beaten-down demeanor. An overall general disconnect. Over the years it began to lessen, but at an agonizingly slow pace. All I could do was silently pray to God for something to bring him back to himself, for a light at the end of the tunnel.
Then, in the summer of 2012, I noticed a dramatic change. I got an excited phone call from him telling me about a class he had begun to attend at the prison. It dealt with centering prayer. He told me that its moderator had written a book on the process, and that I should get the book. I bought it and read it, knowing that this was what he needed, and an answer to my prayers.
In the last 2 years, his demeanor has changed markedly. He has things to say now, excitedly, and he reaches out to other inmates in the Visiting Room, something he never did. He is developing insight and compassion, two valuable things the prison system can take from you. He is still quiet and introspective, but he walks lighter now; some of the weight of prison life is gone. And wonderful laughter has returned.
Because of his involvement in the Contemplative Prayer program at Folsom Prison, his world has gotten larger and is no longer confining. He has found a source of freedom, right here in the midst of a well-controlled prison.
And that light at the end of the tunnel is now the light I see in his eyes!