There's no question that a close brush with death gives a person new appreciation for life. Perhaps that's why the casual way in which life and death are mentioned behind bars makes me so sad.
A friend wrote a short note to me recently from one of Michigan's prisons. Almost as an after-thought, he reported that "there was another murder here last week." Another day, another life.
A female inmate sent a short note via email. "I just thought I would let you know that Trina passed away last night at the hospital. She got pneumonia and her heart gave out. I don't think she had any family."
Another prisoner wrote to tell me of a terrible incident across the hall from him. An inmate jimmied the lock on his cell so the guards couldn't get in...then he tried to beat his roommate to death. They had to just about tear the cell apart to get at him and stop him. I wrote this inmate a short note, asking how the story turned out.
"As for the youngster, the latest word is that he's OK now, out of the hospital. The latest on the guy who tried to kill him is that he committed suicide a couple days ago. Being that he killed a cellie in the past, and now tried to do it again, he knew he was headed back to Level 5, so the word is that's why he hanged himself. I guess he won't be harming anyone else."
Henry Van Dyke said: "Be glad of life, because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars."
Life is cheap behind bars.
We mustn't take it for granted.
May God be near the least of these.