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A Grievance for Grieving

Evan Lawlor

A Grievance for Grieving

I’m working in food service, on the west line, preparing the lunch meal, when my supervisor tells me what no one in prison wants to hear: “Lawlor, you need to go to the Chaplain’s office.”

The moisture that was in my mouth seems to have found its way to my forehead and palms as they both immediately start to perspire. On legs that feel like rubber, I change out of my work clothes, get a green pass, and head out. 

Though the Chaplain’s is only a short walk from the kitchen, the haze I’m in makes it feel like an eternity to get there.

My mind is going a million miles an hour with all the possibilities of what I’m walking into. My breathing is short and panicked.

I make it to the Chaplain’s office where I’m greeted by one of his clerks. He is a younger black man and for some strange reason, I think to myself, “That’s a nice smile.”

He introduces me to the Chaplain, who welcomes me and invites me to have a seat. By his soothing way of talking, the reality of what’s about to happen sinks in. In the most comforting way possible, he delivers the news to me that my mother has passed away.

He’s patient as the ton of bricks settles on my chest. He explains that he does not have any other information but that I’m able to call my aunt.

She answers on the second ring and gives me the details.

After we hang up, the Chaplain asks me if I’d like to pray. I say yes. He says all the right things and while comforting, before I know it, it’s over and I’m walking back to my cell house.

“That’s it?” I think to myself. “Now what?”

It’s at this point that I realize I’m left to myself on how to grieve in prison. 

Painting by Gwynne Duncan 

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