I also would like to thank the fast and vigil participants for their efforts. I think we might still have a couple of additional stories to tell next week, so check back late Tuesday or on Wednesday!
“Do you ever see the moon?” asked Aba Gayle when she was visiting a
person on death row.
The man said no, except maybe one time when he was taken from his cell at night to go see the prison dentist. He thought he might have caught a glimpse of the moon then, but couldn’t be sure.
So Aba took pictures of the moon and sent them to the prison. Then she started taking pictures of the daffodils, tulips, azaleas, and any other beautiful things that she could capture in the viewfinder of her digital camera.
“When I see the moon now, I’m not looking at it for myself, I’m looking at it for all those men and women I visit,” Aba says in her calm, grandmotherly voice as she looked up at the sky above the Supreme Court.
She visits Mickey Douglas, Billy Ray Rigs, James Scott, Peter Edelbacker, Ramone Salcido, David Martinez—inmates who are or were on death row in San Quentin, California.
Aba explains that this is her first Fast and Vigil. Her primary passion is not the abolition of the death penalty, but rather teaching the healing power of forgiveness. Prison ministry is at the heart of that passion.
Since she moved from California to Oregon, it has been harder to visit San Quentin. But she finds the time. She talks to them about her family and friends (especially her grandchildren), her travels, her new life in Oregon, and…well, the moon. She wears bright clothing since the prisoners only ever see drab gray and blue. And Aba always makes sure she is well-groomed and well-dressed because she wants the guards to know that a man on death row is being visited by a nice lady.
When she began visiting prisons about twelve years ago, she visited in an open room with lots of other inmates and visitors. Due to heightened security, she now has to pass through three doors and enter alone into a locked cage with the inmate she is visiting. Although she was terrified on her first visit to prison, the seventy-one-year-old is now comfortable, even locked alone in a cage with a person convicted of murder.
“When I look around in there I don’t see any monsters. I only see the
face of God,” Aba says.
The first person Aba visited in prison was Mickey Douglas, the man who
murdered her nineteen-year-old daughter Catherine. During the first
visit, Aba and Mickey just sat side by side and cried. They cried for
both the life Catherine had lost and the future Mickey had lost. Twelve years later they sometimes still cry together.
For Aba’s full story of forgiveness, please go here.