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White caps and peaks of rushing river water
Illustration by Teresa Tauchi (Source: Depositphotos)

It’s a hell of a thing when you can’t breathe anymore. This is how my grandfather must have felt on the day he went under the Delaware River.

It feels like I’ve known this man all my life, but I never met him. He died before I was born. Mother told me his story. 

His vessel capsized and deadly currents dragged him down. Three days later, they pulled my grandfather’s bloated corpse out with only his boxers on. 

It was evident he fought for every breath, using methods taught by the U.S. Navy: clothing as life-saving flotation devices. 

To no avail. The currents were too powerful. He wasn’t breathing anymore.

Maybe being incarcerated with a life sentence is almost the same thing. Trying to survive, hoping to stay alive. Dreaming for a second chance. Fighting for every breath. 

Anxiety. Confusion. Panic. Drowning, but still conscious. Riding the currents, till you can’t breathe anymore.

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.

Larry N. Stromberg is a writer incarcerated in Pennsylvania.