On Monday the District Court Judge refused bail, and on Friday the Supreme Court Judge granted bail. So on Monday I lay on my bed for hours, unaware that nightfall had come and unaware that I had not eaten lunch or dinner.
On Friday I cried and smiled at the same time.
So yesterday (after eighteen weeks of remand) we waited nervously at the centre gates for his release. I don’t know what my heart was doing as I watched the familiar stride of my son emerge from the concrete and wire enclosure. It was amazing to see his beautiful smile, his warm brown eyes and to hear that familiar “hi mum” voice.
In accordance with his conditions of bail – we then drove to the “Transitional Centre” which was about forty minutes away. For the first time ever, I was so happy to be delayed in the slow snail pace of afternoon traffic!
Hidden amongst the trees and overgrown bush vegetation, we located the facility which will hopefully help in the healing of my son. In the darkness of night, it looked a little ramshackle, almost as if the old buildings and broken pathways were been reclaimed by the encroachment of Mother Nature herself.
And so our next journey begins – my grief may be reclaimed by faith and happiness, and his pain may soon be mended.
The sound of his voice caused my throat to suddenly tighten, constricting my attempt to speak into the phone. I also felt something ripping and tearing deep within my heart. How can that beautiful voice saying “Mum” belong to my son and be coming from within prison walls?
So I mustered up my bravery and inhaled a long deep breath, “I love you” was my immediate response into the phone. There were so many questions I wanted to ask, but all I really wanted to tell him was that I love him and that I forgive him. I told my son that we will get through this, and that his dad, sister and brother also love him.
We have continued our weekly routine of a single, short phone conversation – chatting about lots of things, but not really anything in particular. I am now accustomed to hearing the background ‘noise of prison’ it sort of sounds like an ‘man version’ of a school playground!
I am also accustomed to the raw sadness I feel at the end of those brief phone calls – thinking that another seven days will pass before I hear his voice again. His voice sounds exactly the same as it always has – almost tricking me to believe that he is just down the road at a friends house.
After nearly four months of remand, whereby my daily existence has been fuelled mainly by sadness and grief – his case will go to court today for a bail application and subsequent rehabilitation placement. If the judge deems it appropriate, my son may be transferred to a ‘transitional facility ‘ and commence his journey of rehabilitation. I have not seen my son for five months – but I cannot allow myself to become too hopeful upon the outcome of today.
The first letter finally arrived – the return address scrawled on the envelope indicated it was from my son, and it was from prison.
It took courage to open the letter and it took love to be able to read it. His handwriting was far messier and almost ‘lop-sided’ compared to his usual neat cursive. His scrambled sentences almost an indication of perhaps his mental disposition. And there was a thread of anger, confusion and disorientation to his conversation – threads of drug withdrawal no doubt interfering with his thoughts and words.
The letter was absent of specific detail (is that because he is writing from an ‘information sensitive’ environment?) or because he wishes to spare his mother of more grief and pain.
And of course there were the “I love you more than anyone in the world mum” and the “don’t worry about me mum” words. Tears flow freely as I read these words. While I am grateful to receive his letter, I struggle to sort emotions of failure, shame and sorrow into an ordered reality.
I have limped my way through four weeks of ‘prison silence’ – my life feels muted and almost surreal. On two occasions I have phoned the correctional centre (knowing fully that I would not receive any concrete information about my son) – but just wanting somebody at the centre to realise that my son was deeply loved by his mother.
I understand and support our justice system – and thank God everyday for the safe and enriched country in which I live. However my heart and soul now shares the daily grief and anxiety with many other mothers whose children are also in prison.
Vocabulary that I only read about is now a part of my language: adjournment, remand, committal hearings, sentencing and of course ‘time’.
So just like I waited patiently for his birth, I now must wait patiently for his court outcome.
And then life will recommence with a myriad of new rules, boundaries and hopefully recovery. Will I be equipped with the emotional tools for this phase.
Maybe my life as a grieving and healing mother is just beginning.
After lodging the Missing Person Report (for my son), it is only a short amount of time that I receive a phone call from the Police. It is so weird and surreal when you answer and confirm your name to the caller – how you have that sense that the caller is going to be a police officer. And then all you can hear is your heartbeat – because you are not sure what type of news the police officer is going to give you. How often do these brave law enforcers have to contact bereaved family members?
And the news is as bad as any mother needs to hear: “We have arrested your son this morning”.
Upon reflection, the only fortunate event was that my son’s drug fuelled actions miraculously did not cause harm to innocent people – or indeed himself.
The only degree of relief from the arrest, was that for the first time in almost three months I knew that my son was ‘off the streets’ and ‘out of the crack house’. But the word “arrest” carries with it some feeling of finality – I no longer had hope to cling onto. A mother will always harbour the most optimistic opinion of her children – but even optimism has a ‘use by’ date.
So now our daily routine is riddled with sadness, grief and a foreboding sense of failure. I am no longer the mother of a beautiful, talented twenty-six year old son, but now the mother of a prisoner. Incarcerated due to an ‘ice bender’ of criminal offences. As I write these words it seems incomprehensible that this is a reality – surely this can’t happen to families like ours?
This is a story of a grieving and healing mother.
I try to piece the ‘fragments’ of my ‘missing son’ together – a bit like looking for the lost threads of his life. His friends continue to phone us – providing us with little or no tangible evidence of his existence or whereabouts.
Unopened letters also continue to arrive – at a guess mostly overdue bills and fines.
The recurring comment voiced by all who know him, is that this ‘rejection’ is uncharacteristic of my hard working, family orientated son. And so, it is during the fourth week of ‘silence’ that I tearfully walk into the police station to complete a Missing Person Report. I feel like I have lost faith in my son – and that by filing the report I have now involved the police in what maybe just a ‘family’ or ‘personal issue’.
So I now grieve not only for my missing son, but also for the lost days of happiness that we once so readily shared. I may have polarised and deepened the chasm that my son now exists within.
And the sleepless nights continue.
This blog is about grieving mothers.
The first week is hardly noticed, as the routine of everyday life masks the absent messages or phone calls. But a mother almost always senses when there is a ‘change’ within her child. And as the child ages into an adult – these ‘changes’ can be felt evermore.
By the end of two weeks, it becomes difficult to sleep normally – the long hours of night are interrupted with random scenarios of an adult child living a very troubled existence. Difference avenues of contact are used to try and reach our son, who at age 26 deems it fair and justified to suddenly ‘cut us’ from his life. Phone calls, text messages, facebook are all rigorously used to establish contact – but to no avail.
After three weeks (or 21 sleepless nights), we still do not know of the location, welfare or well-being of our much loved son. Unopened mail is placed onto his bed, a line of letters indicating his absence from our lives.
Friends of our son drive to our farm – just to ask us if we have heard from him; they too are worried and concerned.
So we are now at the four week period of ‘nothing’ I am numb and often nauseous, and my husband is fighting with anger and frustration.
This blog is about Grieving Mothers.