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Reflection: In Remembrance 2015
As a staff member of Texas Impact and a member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, standing in the middle of the Captain Joe Byrd Prison Cemetery on a plot of land I often drive by without a second thought for the “In Remembrance” event is always a very spiritual moment for me, inviting me to reflect on the notion that all lives are of sacred value.
Last year, it was a “proud parent moment” as my then seven year old daughter and I walked the cemetery after the event talking about why we host this event, when she noted that “God loves everybody, even when we mess up.” Last Saturday, we took another opportunity on the Saturday after All Souls Day to remember that indeed, the Creator does “love everybody” by having an interfaith prayer service and laying a flower at the grave of about 3,500 prisoners as we remembered the lives of those buried there, their families, their friends, and their communities.
This year was particularly memorable as the weather was not ideal. But, I will remember the cold, rainy, windy morning as an appropriate backdrop to the almost 30 people who braved the elements to give witness to the lives found at the cemetery and the values that In Remembrance projects. A few of those in attendance have shared their reflections, and I look forward to reading more. If you attended the event and have a reflection to add, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
David Collingsworth, Producer, The Prison Show-90.1 KPFT in Houston
I really appreciated so many people coming out in the cold rain to honor our brothers sleeping on that hill. I know it is a beautiful place, but for some it may be a lonley place. But for the grace of God am I. I realize I am blessed to have walked away from TDCJ, but it is comforting to know there would have been a place to lay my head if needed. There are some troubled souls there. I feel we gave them some peace and honor.
Stanley Mozee, Former inmate in TDCJ, recently released due to the efforts of the Innocence Project overturning his wrongful conviction
I was glad to attend In Remembrance and get the chance to pay tribute to my brothers and sisters who already made the transition to the next life. Here on these sacred grounds are people from many denominations and faiths, and reminding the world that their lives are important was a privilege. Prophets, like those who gathered in the falling rain that Saturday, are dedicated to humanity, devoted to a cause greater than themselves, frequently serve the forgotten, and sometimes remind those in power not to forsake their obligations to all the human family. Groups like The Texas Interfaith Center and the Innocence Project are the Garrisons, Quakers and the abolitionists of our time, who see after people whose voices have been silenced and ignored. Their tireless efforts make a difference to those struggling inside prison walls, and to those of us, like me, trying to rebuild our lives on the outside.
Kenneth Burchfield, AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Texas Impact
I learned that prisoners are buried at the Huntsville Cemetery because their family members do not claim them after they die. In addition, family members often don't attend the funerals of these prisoners. I can't imagine what it would be like to be dying in prison, completely cut off from your family and isolated from society. These prisoners may be forgotten by the outside world, but it's important that the faith community remembers them, no matter what they may have done in the past. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to participate in the Texas Impact ceremony and pay respects to these men and women, who like the rest of us are created in the image of God.
Jennifer Hallberg, Young Adult Volunteer through the Presbyterian Church serving with Texas Impact
When someone goes to prison, they are often forgotten about by society. They are assigned a number and expected to serve time for their crime. This is true too when they die in prison. At the In Remembrance event in Huntsville, I saw graves that were only marked with a number, the number that was assigned to the prisoner when he/she was in jail. We came to remember those who passed away while in prison to remember the person behind the number. We came to remember those who are not remembered as a person by society but rather as a number or a crime. For me the event was a deeply spiritual morning, which will never be forgotten.