I always thought of myself as being brave, but when I heard the footsteps of the guard coming toward my cell, fear gripped me in a way that I never imagined. Everything inside me froze from the terror. I couldn't move, or speak. My stomach was in knots, and my breath was gone. I was hoping that my heart would stop so that I wouldn't have to face the inevitable horror outside.
I had been in that cell for almost a week. The cells on death row are always the worst but I hardly even noticed. All I could see was the cross. The chafing of the shackles was a constant reminder of the nails that would soon be pounded into my flesh. Their unrelenting hold on me never let me escape the permanence of my sentence.
I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. Every time I closed my eyes there was the cross. I would pace back and forth in my cell like a caged animal. "There's got to be a way out of this! This can't be happening! Is this really the end? Is this all my life is to be?" No matter how fast my mind raced, no matter how many times I walked around that cell--there was no way out! There's no Governor to pardon a Jew in this fascist government, especially one who rubbed out a Roman Centurion.
Before I was caught, I used to run with a group of revolutionaries. I guess you would call us terrorists. We prefer the term freedom fighters. We had a cause and were willing to go to extremes for what we believed. I was a thief and a murderer. There was always a kind of thrill when we would go out on a spree. As I watched the man's life flow from his body, I felt a kind of a high--a buzz that was better than wine. It was a release, as though I had finally gotten rid of the anger and hurt inside me. The next day my hatred was back, but even stronger, as though it fed on the violence.
I used to think that I was doing the noble and courageous thing. Now I see that I was just wasting what little and precious life I had. I knew that someday I would be caught. I knew that someday I would have to pay the ultimate price for my cause. I accepted that. But I always thought that it would be different from this. I thought that I would be brave and strong--a hero! I always hoped that when I checked out people would admire and remember me for my courage. I used to think that when I would die for my cause I would have the greatest rush of my life. The truth is, when I heard the keys jingle, the lock turn, and the door open, I felt only shame for having nothing good or clean to show for my life--only hatred and violence.
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