I was at a board meeting of a local nursing home, and the subject of compensation came up. I thought of you. Two years earlier, your mom had called and asked me to accept your collect calls from a prison a few hours from my home. She said you really wanted someone to pray for you, and I agreed to speak to you. After our first talk, I agreed to pray for you, and we started a spiritual journey together.
In between your calls, we wrote letters. You drew pictures of flowers on lined notebook paper for stationery. Now and then I spoke to your mom, too. It must have been pretty scary at 23 years of age to find yourself incarcerated. You knew something about Christian Science from your childhood, but now you needed to discover it for yourself. I remember mailing you packages of literature and the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy.
Just before you went before the judge, I realized how completely and sincerely you had embraced your true identity as a child of God. But New York drug laws aren't swayed by sincerity; they are mandatory. The judge found you guilty of possession of a hallucinogenic mushroom.
Before you were sentenced, we spoke on the phone. I told you how certain I was that you were innocent in God's eyes. Together, we read in the Christian Science textbook the allegory of a man on trial. At the end of the first trial, the man is sentenced to death. But then a higher court prevails, the court of Spirit, God. That court finds him innocent, and he is freed (see pgs. 430-442).
The judge at your sentencing gave you a choice: five months more jail time in a much larger prison, or a six-month incarceration in a boot camp for young offenders. You chose the latter. They took away your books, paper, pencils, and phone privileges, and sent you into a remote area of the state.
"Father," I prayed, "There is no distance or separation from You for any of Your children." Eventually, the state prison system agreed to let you have your Christian Science textbook to study with a Bible. But that was all they would allow.
When you wrote to me that you were creating your own daily study plans patterned after the Bible Lessons, the kind outlined in the Christian Science Quarterly Weekly Bible Lessons, I was awestruck. So many mornings I had taken for granted my freedom to own and use a Quarterly to give me this study plan, and so often I had found excuses not to read mine. Yet here you were, writing your own since you weren't allowed to have one.
When you called to say the medical staff had discovered you were ill with hepatitis C, something they could not give you medicine for because there was no known cure, we both declared that even in this, a life sentence of an illness that might kill you, you were innocent. As instructed by this medical staff, you bravely informed your fiancée, knowing she might not stay with you because you had this illness.
When you were put through the most grueling physical challenges during your six months in the wilderness, your letters and occasional calls made it all sound as if you were away at a really tough camp, like Outward Bound. You were proud to be made a team leader, and recounted how you were allowed to sing one of the songs you wrote at a formal gathering.
The day your sentence was up and you "graduated" back into the world, with your mom, stepdad, and girlfriend cheering you on, you were called into the nurses' station one last time. They had taken a blood sample every two weeks, and they had something to say to you. All traces of hepatitis C had lessened, and that day, the day you were to leave, the medical staff was happy to report that you no longer had any sign of the disease. Our prayers were proved effective.
Back at the board meeting I was attending, someone asked me the most I had ever been paid. "A dozen roses," I said, remembering that your first act as a free man was to send a dozen roses to me. It was the most I'd ever been paid and the richest I have ever felt. You were the gift, dear friend, and I was the recipient. You gave me more than I could ever give you.