By Pat Bliss
I arrived at Marion Correctional Institution, thinking I was early, but still having to wait one and one-half hours, to get in. Fortunately it was not raining. I was checked through security, and waiting for Felix to come into the visiting room. Actually, I was very excited with the news of the parole decision, as I knew in my heart that it would be good news.
He came in without his cane, this time – with a big smile on his face – and gave me a strong hug. I asked, “Want to get in line to the canteen first?” We did, and our conversation went like this:
P: Have you heard anything?
F: I heard on TV 3 years and saw you wearing red.
P: What else?
F: Nothing else, but everyone in the room turned and looked at me and said, ‘is that you?’ I said ‘yes.’
P: They also reduced your PPRD by 12 months and you are going into the Lifer’s Program, what do you think of that?
F: Wow! Wow! (Surprised, he rubbed his head and clapped his hands) he said ‘hard to take in, freedom in view. I’m excited to get started.’
I bought the items for our lunch and we found a place to sit – Felix on one side of the table and I, on the other. The authorities had allowed him to bring in a few pieces of paper, and a pen. We could write back and forth if we had any difficulty understanding each other.
At one point, Felix said, “You know, most of my life was not about freedom. It was convincing them I am innocent. This latest thing with the parole is like finally someone is listening. Most parolee’s are put off for 7 years and they give up. When I saw [the] 3-year thing, I started to cry. They gave me hope. I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
In a letter to a supporter, Felix had mentioned a big tree that he had seen when he arrived at Marion CI.I asked him about that, and he said, “It is so big and tall, haven’t seen one like it in 33 years. I hugged the tree the first time I saw it. You don’t see the power of God until you see the bigness of that tree.” He would look up and stare at it, and others would stop and look up too. Something they never did before, as they took it for granted.
We talked about the Lifer’s Program, and I told him, the future is now is your hands. Felix is an achiever, one who always wants to improve himself. Maybe it is also a desire to prove to himself that he is normal. He can be like everyone else – smart. But Felix doesn’t realize that not all Hearing are smart. Just because one can hear, and live in the free world does not mean they have been a student of life, and taken advantage of the opportunities offered them. Felix is so wise about the things that matter – character, honesty, kindness and generosity. As I told the parole board, 5-10-20 years more will not change Felix. His character and faith will continue to keep him strong.
Before I left, I asked him if he would write something to the Deaf Community. It by no means excludes his hearing supporters, as he has repeatedly mentions the letters of encouragement he receives – the awesomeness of so many, caring about him – but in this instance, the message is for the Deaf Community:
I just want to thank all of my Deaf brothers and sisters for your support and sticking with me through these hard times. If anyone knows how hard it is for the Deaf people to live in a hearing world it’s you. But now you know that your prayers were heard and society sees us as people. Thanks to God. We have a awesome God. 🙂
He drew a smiley face at the end.
It was a great visit. They all are. We have become as close as a mother and son. But, this particular time, I felt a great sense of accomplishment in leaving Felix with real hope, and a goal to strive for. We’ll be seeing each other again in a couple months, for other business. It was with that thought, that we said our good-byes. Merry Christmas, and I pray God’s blessings to you all.
— Pat Bliss
[Editor’s note: You’ve all seen the pictures of Felix, and the pictures of Pat Bliss at the hearing. So for the graphics for this post, I chose to find some pictures of Marion CI. In so doing, I learned about some of the progressive and innovative programs they have in place. I will speak more to this, in a future post. — BitcoDavid]
Pat Bliss is a retired paralegal in criminal law. She continues to do legal work for indigent prisoner cases showing innocence. She is a Certified Community Chaplain, Certified as a volunteer for CISM (Crises Intervention Stress Management) and involved in community events.