When you think of death what is the first thing you think of? Today I associate bells to represent death. The church bells here have a different meaning than what you may be used to. They tell you the time, let you know when service is starting, to celebrate as well as to mourn. “Dobles” is Spanish for doubles and when you hear them, they tell you something significant…A death. Ding. Ding. Dong…a woman. Ding. Ding. Ding. Dong…a man.
I played with death for so much of my life that I wanted to die. Much of my life I spent addicted to something. Lying, drugs, stealing, relationships; the list goes on. I had never really known true freedom. I spent most of my life living in low-income areas or in the system. I have had times that I’ve had plenty and times I had nothing. In the times that I had nothing I learned how to appreciate the little things I normally take for granted. In the times I had plenty it made it easier to give.
Death and life are a cycle. They are inevitable beginning and end. So much like the ups and downs of life. Times of trouble will come; however, how will you handle it when it does? A month ago, I was homeless but not hopeless. 6 months ago, I was suing my sister on the Judge Mathis show and it led to a stronger relationship today. I lost the case for pretty much popping off at the mouth as usual. We however had an amazing trip. I also got to ride my first plane. It was amazing.
Seven years ago, I was a very different person. My criminal record has Council Bluffs Most wanted, conspiracy, manufacturing, intent to deliver, and much more. My final count around four years ago was a 14 page long criminal history. The fact that I can sit here writing these words is a true miracle. I knew times of true darkness. Days I feared myself and dared not look at my reflection when I knew the disgust that awaited. I begged for death.
The day I got arrested for my second heavy hitter I couldn’t even part with the drugs long enough to go get my stuff from the last home Juan and I would share. We had gone to pick up our stuff with my sister. The drive there I did not know until later I had been praying. I begged whoever was out there to let me die. I had a plan and it my very distorted thinking it made sense.
Seventeen bottles of various heart suppressing medications in my nightstand and a paper bag full of 100 proof liquor should have done the trick. I couldn’t bear the pain I was causing to everyone I loved. I knew something had to change. The proof was hidden in a sock under my seat. The drugs were completely taking over, and my humanity faded. I was hopeless. Has anyone noticed hopelessness can be the first step to knowing complete hope?
Before I could ever get home to carry out my master plan: God had His own plans. Jail saved my life. I have never doubted that. I had committed so many atrocious acts against people that there was no way that the consequences would catch up with me. I have not been in trouble in almost four years, which was not easy. Doing things, the wrong way became my first nature. It took that time to take all my mess and make it into a message.
Jail slowed the world down to a stand- still. Its easy to get distracted by the noise out here. Behind the cement walls with windows barred with steel; time stands still. Every day is the same as the last. I was in a small-town Iowa jail which let me tell you gets very quiet. Especially when you’re the only inmate for long periods of time. Quiet. It became a time to stop talking and start listening.
Three times death has circled. God had other plans. Maybe your wondering what this has to do with the sound of dobles? I’m getting there. When you have been consumed with the idea that death is an end or a way out of life; life becomes hopeless. I begged for death; but not the death I thought.
The old way no longer fit in with the life I have been living since that day. Not for lack of trying. True freedom for me came the day I finally surrendered what was. I couldn’t see a future for myself. However; I never stopped dreaming. I dreamt of a life of being able to look at myself in mirror or not having to remember what lie I told to who. I dreamt it, but never believed it was possible for me.
When I look into my eyes today, I don’t see all the masks anymore. I look into my eyes and see life again. A dream I long thought lost. The day I got to Mexico I was reminded how short life truly is. Seven bodies lined the ditch. Hands bound behind their backs. What covered their faces stained with blood from the shots to the head. Two women. Five men. I don’t know their stories or what led to their deaths. Nor is it my place to speak on.
What it does lead me to do is remember how short life is and reflect on what I have done with the time, gifts and resources I have been given. What it does is make me appreciate that in my heart I know this is not the end for me and what is to come is far greater. It leads me to find the beauty in the small things and give grace whenever possible. It leads me to close my eyes as the bells sound and feel the wind hit my face. I have never felt such peace in my life. The sound of death reminds me I am still alive.
Appreciate the small things; you’re not promised tomorrow.