Susan is one of more than 900 women I have had contact with in the last 2 1/2 years while teaching a Bible study at a nearby drug rehab facility. (I wrote a post about Susan on Jan. 16, if you want to refresh your memory.) I talk to her about once a month or so, our last conversatin being around mid-January. (She is one of two women from the facility I have ever given my phone number to.)
Susan got in touch with me again on Friday.
I got an email from the church secretary. Another obscure message had been left on the answering machine, complete with a long distance phone number and my name. I replied back, "Don't know who this could be ... hmmm." Then I forgot about it.
Later in the day, I saw that email message again. I thought, maybe I should call the number. When I identified myself to the man who answered the phone, he said, "Oh, you want Tracy" and handed the phone off. My brain went to work ... Tracy, Tracy, Tracy....
When Tracy got on the line, she told me she had been a cell mate with a woman named Susan. Now THAT name I knew! I hold Susan up in my mind as "the one who is going to make it." Imagine my despair to learn that she was back in the county jail. I thanked Tracy profusely for calling the church and hung up.
Suffice to say, Friday night I went to the county jail.
I've never visited anyone in jail before. This was a new experience for little ole me. It wasn't anywhere near as creepy or disgusting as I thought it would be. I was in pretty good spirits, chatting to those around me. I explained to the man in the booth I had never been to the jail before and asked what must have seemed like some idiotic questions. A big grin spread across his face. County prisoners are only allowed 1 visitor a day, so I also asked, "If a pastor comes to visit someone, does that count as the one visit for the day?" "Oh no, pastors are different, but you have to have a card that proves you're a real pastor." I snapped back, "So I can't just say, 'Hi, I'm Pastor Tammy... Sis-tah Tam-my'" (winking at him for effect.) He asked, "Are you a pastor?" "No, I'm just asking for my pastor." "...Cause you have that aura about you..." "Well, I'm a Christian ... that's the Spirit in me."
If nothing else came out of that visit, having this perfect stranger tell me I had an "aura" about me was very affirming.
I filed into a small room, sat down across from the bullet-proof plexiglass with about 15 other people and waited. And waited. After 15 or so minutes, there was an eruption as men and women in orange jump suits filed into the room on the other side of the plexiglass. Watching the moments of recognition and relief on the inmates faces was very interesting. Susan didn't see me at first, so I stood up, walked directly to where she was and waved.
For the next 15 minutes, I jammed my ear up to the little grate in the plexiglass so I could hear her, or practically pressed my mouth against it while I talked. (Note to self -- bring hand wipes next time.) It was so loud in there! You really had to focus on your person to distinguish between all the different conversations. And it was disappointing that you couldn't look at the person while you spoke to them; couldn't make eye contact because of the need to press your ear against the grate. It was almost dehumanizing.
During the course of our visit, I learned that Susan had been put back in jail for violating her parole. When I last spoke to her in January, she had confessed that she had relapsed. Apparently, this relapse (which showed up in a urine analysis when she visited her parole officer) caused her parole to be revoked.
I felt considerable relief at learning this. I feared she had really gone off the deep end.
I also learned that since being incarcerated on Jan. 22, she had asked four other inmates to call my church in an attempt to find me. Nearly a month later, one finally did.
Susan caught me up on other details in her life. They are tragic. In essence, she has lost all of her material possessions through circumstances involving her grown daughter that would break your heart. (She told me, "Tammy, God gave all those things to me and he can give them to me again.) Her young son (10 years old) is living with a grown up son in San Antonio. Her chief desire at this point is to get out of jail (which happens in May) and get to San Antonio.
I will repeat my earlier assertion that Susan is one of them who will make it. This is a set back for her that is serving to solidify her faith and strengthen her resolve to keep her life together.
I think God is going to do something astounding with this woman's life. I just feel it. SHE is the one with the aura. I pray the Lord will give me the pleasure of learning what that something is.
Copyright 2008 Just Enough Grace Publications