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  • Doug Tjapkes

Just another empty bed

The story is so sad, so frustrating, so anger-inducing, in so many ways. Kevin, a resident in one of Michigan’s 29 prisons, was only 61, but he wasn’t in good health. Three times last week he was taken to Health-care in his wheelchair with chest pains. Each time the nurse sent him back to his cell. The third time he reclined on his bunk and died of a massive heart attack. That’s the upsetting part. Now here’s the sad chapter. The man had no known friends or relatives. The body was cremated, and the cremains taken to the state’s Cherry Hill Cemetery, on prison property. Since the cemetery opened in 1932, more than 1,000 prisoners have been interred there. Even our veterans without home or family are remembered by vet’s organizations when they die. But nothing like that for prisoners. Nada. Gone and forgotten. Well, I’m not forgetting them, and today I’m going to dedicate one of my favorite readings to those incarcerated men and women---created in the image of God---who left this earth with no dollars and no family. This is my tribute to deceased and abandoned prisoners, but who were never forgotten by Jesus. The Misfit (The story of the robber who showed compassion on Jesus) It seemed to be his lot, he was one of those unfortunate people, With a talent always to be in the wrong place … always at the wrong time. He was born wrong: The declining Roman Empire, the broken home. The conquered Jewish nation, the poverty-stricken slums. He lived wrong: When others went to school, he played hooky, Others played ball, he stole apples. Others learned trades, he learned to cheat. Just a common thief … he started wrong, he lived wrong, And it looked as if he’d finish wrong: The wrong place, and the wrong time. A Roman cross, a painful death … A final shame. When, from the middle cross, came words of redeeming love: “You shall be with me in Paradise!” In all the stream of history, One and only One Of all the numberless sons of Adam could have said these words … and he hung beside Him! In one instant his life, given to evil … thoroughly misused, Doomed to die, was changed and ended in crowning glory, It was the one sentence without which there is no success, It was the one sentence which redeems all failure, And it was said to him at life’s final flickering moment. The one most important issue of all was gloriously solved: At long last, he was in the right place at the right time! (Bob Benson: Excerpt from Laughter in The Walls/© Copyright 1969 Peggy Benson)

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