It’s natural to be in a reflective mode as each year comes to an end. I particularly like to reflect on where I was a year ago at this time and where I am now. This has been one of my most critical years in growth: spiritually, emotionally, economically – you name it.
For the past few days, my heart seemed to want to reflect on more than just 1 year ago. This morning I was taken back to this day, 10 years ago. I can hardly believe it’s been 10 years already. Ten years since someone I dated and truly cared for lost his life. That would’ve made him 22 yrs old and me 23. When I think about where I was then and where I am now, it seems like a completely different life. I’m thankful for where God has brought me from and although that soul tie has long been broken, I still care for the soul of my ex-boyfriend. Does it lie with Jesus? I pray so.
November 30, 2007 I lived in Miami, FL and had just started a new relationship that in my heart of hearts I knew I shouldn’t have but eh, I was 23 trying to be everything I wasn’t. I was glad that this new relationship was “proof” that I was finally over that previous one. True or not, I was determined to convince myself of this or die trying. As life would have it, I received a call from my ex that I proudly ignored at my desk at work because he must be calling to say how much he missed me and wanted to see me and boy was I ready to crush that ego with the simple action of sending him to voicemail. Through my interaction with him I learned to not let curiosity kill this cat. As much as I may have wanted to know why he was calling, I knew that my silence to his efforts would far more torture him than it did me. He deserved it after all we had been through. Games are meant for kids. This would prove to be the day that I learned that.
Having been an on-again/off-again couple, I found relief in finally having the courage to be in a new relationship and actively work towards forgetting my ex. How dare he try and mess that up? Was I not clear that I didn’t want to talk to him anymore? I’ve always been a straight shooter and leave no question to another’s imagination of where I stand. He was never unkind to me so it always made my tug of war to delete his record from my files that much harder.
The day progressed and I hadn’t had any other communication attempt from him. Good! He finally got the point! I continued my day, proud of myself that I resisted the temptation to answer the call. I still had an uneasy feeling inside but determined not to get “played” any further, I buried that feeling deep and told myself I didn’t care. I did though. I did care. I have always had an intuition of sorts to know if something was wrong (or off) with the person I was dating. I know now that it’s a gift but back then I hated this internal prompting.
Later that night I received another call that would prove to be life changing. I didn’t realize at the time that he was using his “1 phone call” and immediately went into “I’m going to show him” mode. Very quickly I noticed he was in distress and was serious. As my defensive wall came down, I gathered enough information out of him to know that he was in jail, needed me to contact his mom and his best friend and even find out what jail he was in because he didn’t know. In the 3 years we dated,
Fast forward to 2 years later and he’s now facing a court trial where he will be sentenced. The District Attorney was seeking the death penalty on him and his crew, of those that were caught on November 30th – 2 yrs prior. Two years I watched his family try everything to get him reasonable legal representation. His family was new to America and quickly saw and learned that money talks here. In dollars we trust. Barely speaking English, I often was used as a translator with legal counsel. I saw lawyers name their dollar amount to “get him off and bring him back home within the week” otherwise they wouldn’t be able to assist and we’d have to let the process play its course. I also saw his public defender truly take a compassion towards him and even travel to the Dominican Republic and videotape character witnesses speaking of my ex’s TRUE character, despite his lapse in judgement. I saw his public defender ask me about our past and ask me to testify in the trial about his character to hopefully turn this death penalty sentence. He had emphasized that our story was his best bet at this point because he didn’t have anyone outside of family to speak about his life.
Everywhere I looked was tragedy. His mom was growing emaciated from depression and anger and grief for her son. She was picking up odd end jobs and even tried to sell their small home. When you live in the hood though, you weren’t exactly attracting buyers or even making enough of a profit for the legal representation this high profile case demanded. The prosecuting family was grieving the loss of their loved one that was killed accidentally. I, myself, didn’t have closure from our dysfunctional relationship and now I’m being asked to build a bridge and get over it, for the sake of saving his life – literally. Not only that, by this time, I was a regular visitor at the jail and the process to get in to see him was never short of 2 hours and I’d only get to see him for 15-20 minutes. Sometimes I’d see him in good spirits. Sometimes I’d see him with a busted lip or eye from a guard that abused him because his English was minimal. I hated that I was learning about this lifestyle. Every day I was involved, a part of me grew more dim.
I would often think to myself during this process that I was dumb for being so loyal to undeserving people. He got himself in this situation. He deserves whatever came to him. Right? Wrong. I could never find peace in this mentality. As I mentioned before, he was never a person that was unkind to me. In fact, if he hadn’t willingly confessed his wrongs in our relationship to me, I would’ve never known he was trying to be a player because he was always there! We probably would’ve still been together when he was arrested. I didn’t know his motives for ‘fessing up his infidelity that broke us but if nothing else I could appreciate him sparing me looking like a further fool by having actually told me – almost immediately. The person behind these bars wasn’t the one I knew. The killer the prosecutors and media described him as was as if they were talking about a completely different person. I couldn’t believe I was learning at a very rapid pace about prison life and how broken our system is and that it favors those with deep pockets, no matter the crime. A life sentence and death penalty is only for those without the funds to overturn that verdict.
As the trial began and the story unfolded, I learned that that phone call that I received while I was at work was because he had a gut feeling he shouldn’t be in the car on his way to rob a small convenience store 2 counties north of where we lived. He knew I would say something to talk him out of it even if he didn’t tell me what he was about to do. The temptation was there for me to carry the weight of knowing that if I answered the phone, maybe something would be different. Maybe his life would be spared. However, God protected me from all of that twisted thinking. When it was my turn to address the court, the defense lawyer painted the picture of our relationship being the last good thing in his life and when it had ended he associated himself with bad influences that I didn’t know in the 3 yrs we were together. He pointed out my upbringing and how my ex had to have some substance to him in order for a “professional, hardworking, suburban” woman to pay him any mind. It was my turn to plea to the jury that his life be spared and I remember barely being able to speak because I saw the grief of everyone’s faces in the courtroom, inclusive of the judge. Wrong place. Wrong time was the common understanding throughout his trial. I wept from my soul. I understood that what he did was wrong. Even still, how were we in debate of how valuable his life was or wasn’t?
It came time to hear the jury’s decision after they had deliberated for 1/2 of a day. The judge asked if anybody felt like they wouldn’t be able to control their emotion with the sentencing readout that they please remove themselves from the courtroom. To everyone’s surprise, the defendant – my ex, asked to be removed because he didn’t want to see his mother’s reaction. The judge had never had this request before but was willing to honor it and in a moment of strength, his mom promised to control her reaction so that he could stay. It would be one of the last times I would see him up close and personal – no bars/glass between us. The jury found him guilty of being an accomplice to a violent crime. In the state of FL, if someone dies within an armed crime, the state is able to pursue the death penalty against everyone involved regardless of who pulled the trigger. They found him not guilty of pulling the trigger of the gun used to shoot stray bullets to scare the store owner that pursued them out of the store. One of the stray bullets did indeed wind up in the body of an older Jewish man and proved fatal for him. The jury also reduced the death penalty sentence to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Hefty consequence to pay for being what we also found out through surveillance footage was the “lookout guy” in this equation. I thought I was going to pass out from the weight of the grief I felt for all the parties. The only thing I knew was that I didn’t want him to die this way.
November 30, 2007 was the day his life ended. At 22 years of age, one bad decision took the rest of his freedom. As the judge stated, there was no winning in the trial because both families lost a loved one forever. The next time my ex comes out of the prison walls will be in a casket because he will surely live out his days in a prison cell.
Today, 10 years later, I can’t help but just remember that time in my life and be thankful that even though that was a hard process, I learned the frailty of life really quickly. I learned to mourn our sin and feel the heartbreak of God when we choose our ways over His.
I learned that my loyalty is a strength needing more focus & caution but not something to hide from or suppress. I learned that it’s okay to let go of people, places & things no matter who understands and who doesn’t.
Once the trial was over, I continued to visit and occasionally provide him commissary until God (even though I didn’t know it was him at the time) challenged me with a simple question “What are you doing and how long do you plan to do this?”. I guess those are 2 questions. I haven’t communicated with my ex in over 6 years. I don’t think of him often, not even seldom – to be honest. Today I did though. A common “joke” among judges and lawyers is that “everyone finds God in jail” as if it’s a scapegoat for consequences. I hope that for my ex’s present & eternal life, he truly has and that his life sentence will serve a purpose in the lives of his fellow inmates deeper and wider than we’ll ever know. Romans 8:28
18 days after my ex committed his crime and was arrested………I got saved.
I look back today and entertain the thought of how different my life could’ve been if things hadn’t played out the way they did.