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One of the moments anyone in prison dreads the most is when he is being unexpectedly called to the chapel during daylight hours or to the office-in-charge’s office at night to be informed that someone close to him has died.

While taking that slow walk, all kinds of thoughts go through a person’s mind. Often, the name of God, Yahweh, Allah or any superior being is invoked. You beg to them, ”Please, don’t let it be true!”

I can’t count the number of times I have heard the phrase, “I know how you feel.”

But regardless of whether or not there are good intentions behind those words, no other person can ever know how I feel.

As a person in prison, I don’t have a place where I can safely retreat and grieve over my loss. In prison, our manhood is often questioned if we are vulnerable and show tears. It’s a sign of weakness. We feel so alone with no one to really talk to because everyone else is preoccupied with their own problems.

My outlet when dealing with grief is writing. The following is an ode in honor of my grandma and all the other loved ones we have lost:


Grandma was there when I was born, took me in her arms and raised me,
Grandma was there when I took my first talk, my first walk, my first day at school, and my first report card,
Grandma was there when I scored my first goal in a soccer game,
Grandma was there when she caught me smoking my first cigarette,
Grandma was there when the world was a beautiful place as I fell in love for the first time,
Grandma was there when the world turned dark, mean and unforgiving, as the love of my life ran to someone else,
Grandma was there when I came home for the first time in my Air Force uniform,
and Grandma was there when I was arrested, convicted and sentenced.

I was NOT there when Grandma displayed the first signs of dementia,
I was NOT there when the neighbors called my mom to say that Grandma could no longer take care of herself,
I was NOT there when Grandma was placed in a home,
and I was NOT there on the last day, when she passed all alone, with no one to hold her hand.
Grandma, I am so sorry!

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Rudy Vandenborre is a writer incarcerated at in Florida. He was born and raised in Belgium and was a member of the Belgian Armed Forces. His story “Sheet Wappering in the Wind” was published in Exchange For Change’s “Don’t Shake the Spoon” anthology.