Jerry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer while incarcerated at Forrest City, Arkansas, easily the worst prison I had visited. The guards were indifferent to the prisoners, mail would be delivered on an irregular basis, daily newspapers came once a week, and books might or might not get to the prisoner. It was a disaster that I complained about routinely, always falling on deaf ears. It was only after a lawyer's insistence that his daughter was informed that he was hospitalized, this one day before he was transferred to a medical center in North Carolina. When he was transported, they wouldn't even allow him to see out the window.
I found the North Carolina facility to be the most understanding of any I visited. When I visited I sensed he was in denial about the severity of his disease. Of course, I didn't say anything, though I understood the chances of survival were slim. He kept up his optimism but the disease progressed rapidly and a few weeks later, he died.
I've been asked if he had regrets, and the answer is yes---he had many regrets. But mainly he regretted getting his family in trouble. He understood the risk he was personally taking but he didn't want it to taint his family---and it did. Which he regretted. We discussed this on several occasions but he understood that what was done, was done, and he had to move on with his life. He talked about what he wanted to do when he was paroled this summer---he was due for mandatory parole this year---how he wanted to make amends with his family, including his grand-children. We discussed housing, cars, jobs---things ordinary people have. He was both apprehe
I found it interesting that once his death was known, over 2200 people contacted the funeral home to learn of the arrangements. That's a lot of inquiries.
I'll talk more about his last weeks during future posts.