Don's blog

Real Life Situations

Category: family

When A Family Member Is Imprisoned

When Muff and Don lived in Dover Delaware, they received a phone call from their youngest daughter, Suzanne who lived in a remote area outside of New Tripoli Pennsylvania. She said that she and her husband Michael were frightened when vehicles with red and blue flashing lights came in the middle of the night roaring down the rocky unpaved road leading to their home and turned into their yard. When the doors of the vehicles opened, guns were pointed toward their home and some of the gunmen jumped out and ran around back of their house, evidently, to catch any persons whom they thought might be trying to escape by a rear door or window of their house. Then a demanding voice over a loud speaker ordered them to come out with their hands held high in the air. Suzanne said that since she was seven months pregnant, Michael cautioned her to stay inside until he got their dogs calmed down and tied up to keep them from being shot by the pugnacious police officals.

After Michael got the dogs calmed down and under control, he told me that I could come out with him. Then we heard a demanding voice exclaim over the loud speaker, “Michael Powers, you are charged with abetting criminals for cooking amphetamines on this property. Therefore, you are being taken to the Lehigh Federal Prison.” Without any further explanation, they handcuffed and took Michael away, leaving me to fend for myself. It wasn’t until the next morning, when I visited Michael in the Lehigh Federal Prison, that I learned the law enforcement officers were from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as well as the State and County police. I also learned that Michael’s bail was set so high that she could not raise enough money to get him released.

Muff and Don told her, they were shocked to learn about her horrifying experience and were glad that she was alright. They asked if she had known before this happened, that illegal cooking of amphetamines had taken place on the property. She replied that Michael had told her when they were dating and before they were married that remote friends had cooked amphetamines on this property but neither of them had taken any of the drugs or had anything to do with their production. Muff and Don assured Suzanne that they were glad that she was innocent and alive and they would do everything they could to help her and Michael get through this terrible experience. 

After spending eight weeks in the Lehigh Federal Penitentiary, a friend of Michael’s put his restaurant up for bail, in order to get the money necessary for Michael to be released from jail to be present for the delivery of Suzanne’s first baby. Her husband Michael and her mother Muff Hurst were both present for the delivery of their baby. Suzanne and Michael named their baby Kristine. 

It was only three weeks later when a Federal Court hearing was held for Michael in Phildelphia in which the prosecuting attorney made an example of him for having abetted criminals by allowing them to cook amphetamines on this remote rural property. He was  sentenced to ten years at Fort Dix, a male Federal Correctional Institution in New Jersey. The prosecuting attorney made an example of him, so that other remote Pennsylvania property owners would not allow culprits to cook amphetamines on their remote premises.  

Don doubted that visiting Michael in prison where there was an eighty-five percentage rate of recidivism, would help him, but after he had read in the Bible that Jesus was quoted as saying, “I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me (Matthew 25:36),” he decided to make quarterly visits to Michael each year while he was in prison. Muff decided to go with him, because she wanted Michael to know that she had faith in him. 

After a year of Michael’s imprisonment, Suzanne called and told her parents that having been separated by imprisonment, she and he had decided that their marriage was a mismatch and they were going to divorce. She added that she had stopped attending college in order to care for Kristine and spend time trying to earn a living for her family by operating her home interior decorating business. However, she wanted Kristine to see her father and get to know him while he was in prison. Her parents were pleased to accept her request to take Kristine with them when they went to see her father. As it turned out, Kristine’s visits were superbly helpful in developing her and and her father’s relationship and helping him to endure the endless long days of his life in prison. 

Consequently, their visits to Michael in prison continued without deviations especially after Suzanne and Kristine came to live with Muff and Don when he began pastoring a church, not in Delaware. This gave Muff a chance to help Suzanne care for Kristine while Suzanne continued to operate her home interior decorating business and earn her college degree at a nearby community college. 

Muff really enjoyed transporting Kristine to her school, especially when they drove past an old crumbling rock wall. When driving past the rock wall, they always played a song on the car radio which depicted the Walls of Jericho came tumbling down. They were really pleased to learn in a letter, from Kristine’s father that after seven years of his imprisonment, the Federal Judge announced a court hearing of his case. ”Maybe,” her grandmother said, “the walls of your father’s prison, like the walls of Jericho, are also going to come tumbling down.”

At Michael’s Federal Court hearing, the original prosecuting attorney reiterated the same repertoire which she had used to get him sentenced to ten years in prison. When the prosecuting attorney sat down, Don quietly stood up and asked the judge if he might speak. The judge gave him permission and he began.

“My wife and I have taken our granddaughter Kristine to see her father, Michael Powers, a prisoner in the Fort Dix New Jersey Federal Penitentiary, every four months for the past seven years. With the ongoing 85% rate of prison recidivism, I confess that I did not think that his being in prison would help him. But I was wrong, because while in prison, he has accomplished three nearly impossible endeavors indicating that he is a different man.

First of all, he made up his mind that he was not going to act vengeful as a result of imprisonment. He was sorry for what he had done, the embarrassment he caused his family and friends and was going to move onward and forward to do everything he could to improve his life. Secondly, when an opportunity occurred at the Federal Penitentiary, where he was a prisoner, he got the job of laying bricks for a new prison addition. With his paltry earnings of ten cents an hour, he purchased chewing gum and hard candy which he gave to his little daughter, when we took her to see him in prison. Thirdly, while he has been in prison, he has learned to read and write. He has sent letters to us and we have sent letters back to him. You might wonder why he had not acquired the ability to read and write before he was imprisoned, especially since his mother was a public school teacher and his father was a successful business man, but for some reason he had not acquired this ability.  In fact, I personally know other men, who without being able to read or write have become outstanding business men, but Michael Powers is one of the few who has learned to read and write while in prison. 

Therefore, he is ready to be released from prison to make a good living laying brick, in order to provide financially for his former wife to care for their daughter Kristine. The brick layers union to which he belongs has kept his dues paid up to date while he is in prison, so he can return home and start laying bricks again. He has paid the price for having allowed culprits cook amphetamines on the remote property on which he lived. He has learned to never do that again. He has repeatedly told me that he is sorry for the pain, shame, inconvenience and embarrassment he has caused his daughter, her mother and her family and will not do anything to hurt or harm them again. He has already done and I believe will continue to do even more significant things to help his family when he gets out of prison. I therefore sincerely hope that he will be released to go home to provide financial support to his former wife to continue to love and support their darling daughter.”  Don quietly sat down. The court stenographer had become so engrossed in his presentation that she stopped taking notes and listened. The judge remained quiet for a long time. Finally, he looked up and said there will be another hearing and banged his gavel on the desk. Don thought he knew what this meant. Michael was going to be released from prison.

One month later at Michael’s hearing, he was released from prison. This time his older sister from Harrisburg was on hand to escort him home. After renewing friendships, he went back to work laying bricks and sending money to his former wife to care for their daughter, Kristine. Incidentally, he has continued to do this as Kristine has progressed through public school, college, undergraduate, and currently earning her doctorate. Although, Kristine’s mother married another man who became Kristine’s step father, this did not deter her biological father’s financial and emotional support.

In fact, her biological father developed a new loving relationship with another woman who already had a son, who became Kristine’s step brother. They also had a daughter who became Kristine’s half sister.  Kristine’s biological father and her mother’s current husband have both become close to one another in caring for Kristine. When she graduated from college, both of them were sitting side by side in the audience. When she walked onto the platform to receive her college degree, they both stood up together and clapped their hands with tears of joy, pride, praise and gratitude running down their faces. Kristine’s mother, step mother, grandmother, grandfather and her boyfriend all witnessed their touching and supportive care.

By simply being her own God-given true self, Kristine helped her father, her mother, her step father, her family, friends and many others live through her father’s difficult and challenging prison time in which he adjusted back into a very productive, rewarding, wonderful and meaningful life. 

Her father affectionately says when asked about his imprisonment, “Kristine made the difference. She saved my life.” 

Kristine responds, “God made the difference by working with my father and our family. I hope and pray that whenever a family member is imprisoned, that he or she will be able to wholeheartedly engage in positive, honorable and courageous endeavors, like my father and our family and friends did to facilitate his and our families life enhancing togetherness during and after his imprisonment.”

Kristine Powers, with her father’s support, is currently earning her Doctor’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology at The Claremont University in California.

Her Mother Was The Problem

One day when she had stayed home to do some housework, she noticed Dr Joe Carr, who came to their parsonage to counsel Don, regarding his pastoral leadership at the Leeds Church. He came into the house dressed in the uniform of a National Basketball professional team.  Muff, asked Dr Car, why he came to the homes of his clients and did not have them come to his office and why he wore the basketball uniform. He told her that he came to his clients homes because he could learn more about them in their homes than when they came to his office and he wore the basketball uniform because he was employed as the coach counselor for an outstandingly talented national professional basketball team, which could not win without learning to relate to one another. Since Counseling was his profession, he wore the basketball uniform in order for clients to learn the importance of relationships. He also said that he liked to come to their parsonage because his mother was a pastor and he had lived in a parsonage. Joe also attended the Leeds Pastor Staff Parish Relations Committee with Don at the church and complimented Don and the committee’s productive conversation regarding their relationship with one another and the church. He called them a winning team.

That evening after Joe had gone home, and Muff and Don were talking, Muff wondered if Joe would talk with her about something that was bothering her. She knew that she was loved by her father, her grandmother and her grandfather and many friends, like she was loved by many current friends, but something was wrong with her and she didn’t know what it was. When Don asked her why she wanted to talk with Joe, she told him, “I am sure that he makes lots of money as a leading NBA basketball coach counselor and his wife is the warden of a Delaware woman’s detention center, so he has more than enough money to purchase a modern automobile, yet he drives a beat up old European car like detective Columbo’s. He impresses me because his clients are more important to him than his possessions. Consequently, she said that she trusts Joe and would like him to help her with a problem.”

The next time Joe came to the house, Don went outside and worked in the yard so Muff and Joe could talk privately. After Joe left, Don came back in, and Muff told him what she and Joe had talked about. “I told him that something was bothering me, but I didn’t know what it was. He asked me if I thought it was something that had happened to me recently or a long time ago, and I told him that I didn’t think it was recently, and it might’ve been a longtime ago. We talked about different things, but we didn’t strike any pay dirt.  Eventually, Joe asked me if I had any childhood photographs? I told him that since my father was a prolific photographer, I had boxes of them. He suggested that I get them out, sit down, look at them to see what happens to me. So after he left and before you came back inside I got them out, sat down and began to study them and I need to tell you what I discovered.” Don sat down next to her, remained quiet and listened as Muff explained.

“I noticed bright cheerful pictures of me smiling and happy as a little girl until I became six years of age and the pictures then showed me unhappy and frowning until I was seven. I remembered when I was six I became aware that my mother would not allow me to have my own mind about what to do or not to do. She told me how to dress and what to say or not say. Once when she was expressing her opinion about something and I chimed in with my own opinion. She slapped me so hard that my teeth rattled. Understandably, after that, when I was between six and seven years of age, I buried my own God given ability to think for myself deep down inside when I was around her. I have never mentioned the hurt and shame I felt by not having been able to speak for myself when around her, not even to you, except for one girlfriend who was my high school girlfriend. I told her at our twenty-fifth high school class reunion. Neither of us were able in our school days to talk about our mothers, and just now being able to talk with one another about my pain and shame of being unreasonably and dictatorially controlled by my mother is freeing. That is what made me so hurt and sad in my photos when I was between six and seven year old. Of course when I was seven the pictures of me indicated that I was happy again because I decided with my father and grandparent’s help and support to be myself regardless of my mother.”  Don and Muff put their arms around one another as they joyfully and gratefully hugged and kissed. As she remembered, the pent up tears of hurt and grief from long ago were released and rolled down her cheeks. 

Next week when Joe came, Muff showed him the photographs and shared with him what she had hidden deep down inside of herself. He asked her to tell her story to him as he quietly and attentively listened and then after she stopped he repeated everything back to her and told her how pleased he was that she trusted him and shared this information with him. He then asked her if he had heard her correctly and was there anything else that she wanted to share. When she was satisfied that Joe had understood, accepted, appreciated, supported and respected what she had told him, he suggested that she confidentially tell others whom she trusted besides Don whom she told Joe that she had already told. “Otherwise’, he explained, ‘your grief will continue to pop-up anytime, any place and sometimes in embarrassing and inappropriate situations. So keep telling those whom you trust”. 

Joe also noted, “It was interesting that when you were a child you not only realized that you did not want to be dictatorially controlled by you mother, but you were obviously understood, accepted, appreciated and supported by your Father, Grandparents and younger Sister, who encouraged you to be your own charming God given true self. And not only that, but what I have learned from your parishioners that you are a fabulous mother, of your own children and have helped them and your neighbors and parishioners to be their own God given true selves, too!” He further affirmed Muff by saying, “Being a pastor’s spouse is probably the most difficult job in the church. Anyway, now that you have uncovered your vulnerability, you can continue to let your own God given true self, shine like a bright star in a night sky and Continue to be your own God given true self. You’re a fabulous person.” 

Then before leaving Joe asked this one last question. “Have you had a chance to think about the reason your mother tried to dictatorially control you?” Muff answered, “Yes, I’ve had a chance to think about this and I think that my mother’s parents spoiled her by allowing her get her own way in everything while she was growing up because of their fear of losing her like they had lost her older brother, who died as a little baby, two years before she was born. Consequently, she grew up to be a spoiled brat, getting whatever, whenever she wanted it by bossing me around. She was like a two year old that never grew out of everything in the world revolving around herself.  I don’t think she was intentionally or diabolically mean or a cruel. She just did the best she could as a mother raising me her first child. It was not easy for her and in those days, mothers and their children did not talk about their relationships openly even after the children were grown adults. I have forgiven her for what she was trying to do to me and why. I know that under the circumstances she did the best she could. Maybe it will be different in the world to come. When we meet, I’ll hug her, we might even laugh and shed some tears of remorse and enjoy genuine forgiveness together.”

Joe felt that his work with Muff was completed, but before leaving, he thanked and complimented both Muff and Don for being their own God given true selves and sharing their lives with him as well as with many other trusted friends. After a group hug, he was on his way.

Muff’s Recent picture

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