I have begun a big project of cataloging my sister's letters. I have received hundreds of letters from my sister in the last 6 years and I want to put them in binders and put them in chronological order. I also have a box of letters that she had released to me at a visit once that I am doing the same thing to in a different folder. I lost count of how many letters there were total but it was between 800 and 1000 letters and cards, not to mention the pictures, drawings, cut outs from magazines and more. Needless to say I am not done with my project I have only just begun.
This project has allowed me to go back over the last 6 years and relive parts of what has passed between us since her incarceration. I got pregnant in these letters, I had a second child in these letters, Gabe finished Vet School in these letters, she moved from County Jail to a Correctional Facility in these letters. So many changes.
Shortly after entering jail, my sister became a born again Christian. I'm not sure how to explain it - she had been a Christian before, but her husband treated religion and Christianity like the plague. As a result, she never brought it up much and stopped going to church or talking about God. When she was arrested one of the first things she did was start attending prison church services and tell all of her friends and family that she had re-discovered God. I stumbled on some letters from a family member congratulating her on her life-changing decision followed by page after page of religious information and advice. I was a little put off by the amount of time and energy put into writing 4 and 5 page letters outlining doctrine and biblical study guide material, using religious rhetoric that seemed inappropriate to send to someone in prison. I started to get angry. I felt like maybe my sister needed something more practical to help her through her journey in a confusing, terrible, stupid place - like a street guide to women's prison, or maybe cliff notes on how to hang with lifetime criminals. Instead, she received pages and pages of how she should spend the Sabbath now that she was in a cell with the same internal dimensions as my tiny bathroom.
I will admit that because of how I was raised, once someone starts to speak in "church" lingo I go deaf. I immediately tune that person out and I start pretending I'm talking to a crazy person. I cringe when people use words like "salvation" and "eternal" and I can't wait to change the subject or slam the front door. It isn't that I don't have my own belief system on God and Jesus but I don't feel comfortable laying them on the table or bringing them out in the open. To me, that kind of stuff is private and personal and for those of you that know me well, there is not a lot of stuff that I consider private and personal.
I can say that we have become much better friends and have gotten much closer these last 6 years. I can say that I know my sister very well and she knows me very well too. I can say that I support anything she chooses to do with her life right now because she is in a place where all I can do is support her. And while she rebuilds her and prepares for her life on the outside, if her peace of mind and comfort comes from God then good for her and good for God! Who knows? If I were in the same place I might make the same choices as her.
But it is easy for me to guess because I'm not in prison.