8 years ago, I lost a very dear friend. Not to cancer or a car crash, but to Texas death row. He was executed on November 1, 2006.
Tonight, for some reason, the loss has really hit me. I started writing to Donnell just before a particularly difficult time in my life. We quickly grew close, and despite the intense challenges of his situation, he would never fail to love and encourage me. That meant an awful lot.
And then 7 years ago today (which is probably why everything feels so raw) we learnt that the appeals process was pretty much exhausted. The only channels left were notorious for never overturning sentences – even despite, sometimes overwhelming evidence to support it. That was it. Donnell was going to die.
Despite that, he still wrote. Still took the piss out of English cricket. Still wanted to know how I was doing. Still loved and cared and hoped and prayed, just like he did every single day of our friendship.
A tiny cell in Texas. Not the most hopeful of places. A young man, who’d made some terrible mistakes he could never rectify. Not your typical messenger of God. And yet despite the hopelessness in his own situation, he continually brought hope to me.
Tonight the memories seem very fresh, and very painful. But I’m also remembering all the things I loved about my friend, and all the things he taught me.
It’s never too late to start again. There’s absolutely nothing that can ever get in the way of God’s love. A death sentence can kill the body, but it can’t kill the soul.
Donnell, I love you and I miss you and I wish you were here. Life is very different for me now than it was 7 years ago, and I desperately wish you were around to see it. I’d love you to have known about Sam and Isaac. I think you’d love them both. I’d love to see how life developed for you, and how you managed to find hope in the very darkest of places.
I’m not going to get that. But tonight, brother, friend – I desperately want you to know – your life was not in vain. Your life touched people – sometimes for bad, but D – sometimes just for so much good.
I love you. And despite what you thought of yourself – I want to follow you. I want to be someone who sings the songs of beauty in dark places. I want to be someone who follows God relentlessly in the desert as well by the abundant streams.You made a difference, and you’re still doing it. Thank you.