I live in a country where a huge number of people don’t want to give a last meal to a person headed to the gallows and it makes me want to barf. What does that say about us? Who are we cultivating in our citizenry?
Texas Senator John Whitmire says, “I have long been opposed to the practice of providing a meal of choice to death row inmates just prior to their execution.” He goes on to list a massive meal which the inmate, in all likelihood, did not receive.
Brian Price, who cooked over 200 such meals, says the prison uses groceries available on site to prepare the requested meals. He made creative adjustments to make fish appear more like lobster for example. The reason for a last meal is a compassionate gesture, an act of Grace, not an all out bid to reproduce an imagined ideal.
I thought of my 14 year old son who has been sleeping without a flat sheet on his bed for the last several years. He’s a bit of a slob. I can barely go in his room. But whose fault is that really? He is just being a boy, doing what comes natural.
Recently I bought him some nice sheets and told him I wanted to take care of him and teach him to appreciate a made bed. I carefully washed the flannel sheets with fabric softener so they’d smell good and I made the bed, tucking in all the corners.
I don’t know if my son will appreciate the softer things in life. What I know is that caring for him in this way changed the way I think about him. It changed me. I accuse my son of being messy, but have I taken the time to teach him to be neat? Do I nourish him and cultivate his desire for the soft things in life so that he will want a flat sheet and a made bed?
If we, as a society, refuse to feed a last meal to a person we have determined to kill, what does it say about us? It’s not about the criminal. It’s about the society we’re nourishing. Do we want to tell our children we were unwilling to grant another man his dying wish for something to eat that might remind him of his mother, or of a happier time in his life?
I want my kids to be able to follow my example. In my home I’ve determined I will make the beds to foster softness until people can find a desire for softness on their own.
And while we’re at it, maybe could we set the example that we don’t kill people to teach folks it’s wrong to kill?
How about you? Shall we feed those who we are about to execute? Is it possible for a parent (or a society) to lead with softness? Do you sleep with one sheet or two? Where is the soft spot in your life?
You might enjoy this story on NPR where Brian Price talks about why he is willing to feed every last meal to Texas death row inmates at his own expense.