“For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Matthew 24:44)
That morning I was sitting in the attorney’s booth at Union Correctional in Raiford, Florida with Dwight, an older Black man with mild intellectual disabilities who sits on death row.
We had a religious visitation scheduled. That cold December day, Dwight would be received into the Catholic Church. As Dwight sat at the table, I was taken by his warm smile. I am always taken by the warmth and mindfulness so many of these men carry within them in these harsh surroundings.
Dwight spontaneously erupted with, “I’m done with hating because I have a love in my heart. I just want you all to hear this before we start this here ceremony. I’m done with hating!”
Tears then filled his big, beautiful eyes, on the verge of overflowing down his cheeks.
He continued, “I have had so much hate for most of my life. So much hate that I never had much time for love. But Jesus! I have love now. This love is something I never thought I’d have.”
You’d think Dwight was declaring this fact before heaven’s courts. It was one of those testimonials you know is coming from deep within the otherwise hidden parts of the soul.
Nodding, Dwight said, “I had a lot of hate for a lot of people. But now I don’t hate.” Tears now rolled down his face.
“If somebody got something against me, now I just say well bring it over here — I want to hear what you got.”
After receiving communion, Dwight looked over at me and said, “There’s a quietness in me; there’s a quietness in me. I can’t explain it. I would never have believed such peace was possible.”
He was hushed as he spoke, and for a moment more. I wondered if he wasn’t speaking directly to God.
Such moments are rare for me in these asylums of steel and metal — moments when light passes through the instruments of death and confinement. But they do happen, and suddenly these spaces of cruelty are transfixed, in a moment, into spaces of grace.
Dwight’s eyes — my, how his eyes in that moment were windows into God. That unseen source of love appears in his watery red eyes, testifying to the undying power of love that washes over a world of cynicism and retribution.
In that space, the Son of Man appeared to me through the tender, tear-soaked eyes of Dwight.