My Letter (Unavailable for photo)

May 13, 2018

She was my rock. Always.

My mother was a special person that seemed capable of moving forward regardless of how many obstacles were thrown in her way. I should know, I was responsible for a lot of those obstacles and much heartache.

I figured nothing could stand in her way until I hadn't seen her or gotten a response to my letters in over a month. Finally the chaplain located her and allowed me to speak with her by phone. She was in the hospital preparing to undergo surgery to remove part of her colon following a diagnosis of stage 3 colon cancer.

After her recovery and even the next three years, she would visit when she wasn't too sick from the chemo. She was the epitome of strength. I can see her now, walking into the prison visitation booth with her head shaved and held so high as her frail body would allow, trying her best to show me that everything would be ok. Though I didn't want to admit it, deep down, where we hide all the truths we don't want to face, I knew better.

One day I received a letter from her telling me that another tumor had been found and another surgery necessary. For the most part, that surgery rendered her bedfast the last two years of her life. I wasn't able to see her anymore, but I wrote constantly and she responded when she could, never complaining, always making light of her situation and downplaying concerns. She would ask how I felt, had my allergies been acting up. She was dying of cancer, but more worried about my allergies. Only a mother.

In Feb. 2016 cancer had spread to her liver and she was "given" six months.

On June 7th telephones were installed where I am and I spoke with her for at least thirty minutes a day for a few weeks. We talked about everything and it was wonderful to have that opportunity of leaving nothing unsaid. Before she passed I only cried once and it was when I begged her to embrace my religion (She was Christian, I'm Muslim). Three days before she did I told her I love her and she whispered back, "Love you too."

Those were her last words to me and though whispered, they ring loudly in my mind.

Her death taught me that it's important to tell those you love how much they mean to you as often as possible, to not have regrets and that if you live a good life, the transition to the next one isn't difficult.

In spite of being a prisoner on N.C.'s death row, I'll continue to press on and be the best I can be for myself and others. That's what she did, she pressed on, somehow becoming even more loving and concerned for those around her in the face of impending death. She taught me that you can't control when you die, only how you live.

Jason Hurst 0509565

Jason Hurst, Death Row Inmate (Unavailable for photo)

This letter is part of the Death Letter Project - North Carolina, a means to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Historic Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, NC.


Michael Palko