A Letter from Prison: With Love & Gratitude to My Mom This Mother’s Day

The following letter is written by Heather to her mother in celebration of Mother’s Day.

Heather is a mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister and Televerde employee who was incarcerated at the Department of Corrections in Goodyear, Arizona during the writing of this post. She has since been released and still works for Televerde.

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day! I can’t believe this is our 7th Mother’s Day apart. Only two more to go, which feels easy considering what we’ve already been through. I can’t wait to get back to our Mother’s Day lunches with grandma and start buying you both amazing gifts again! I get my flair for giving the most well planned out, creative gifts from you. Thank you.

Our relationship is something I’ve always appreciated and cherished, even during the phase of slammed doors, advice I ignored, and the things you let me get away with because it was probably too much on your end to follow through with grounding me (like the time I almost rolled my Volvo on my way to a desert party, busted both headlights and came home with the car completely covered in dirt). You pretended to believe my story, and I know now it’s because you did much worse than I did as a teenager, so to you my antics were mild. Lucky for me, you cut me a lot of slack.

Yes, we bumped heads often, which you like to attribute to us both being Aries, even though I’m still skeptical about how much astrology has to do with it. Sun signs aside, I now understand all our ups and downs are because we’re so much alike. I’m finally admitting it…I’ve turned into my mother. It’s a scary thought but also completely reassuring because you’re great and I love all the extreme and wonderful traits I’ve inherited from you. For example: your love of aliens, all things paranormal, Def Leppard, and your great eyebrows.

You’ve been the president of my fan club for as long as I can remember. You told me I could do and be anything and were so convincing that I believed you. I thank you for always supporting me through my various failed ventures–like being a beauty school drop-out–until I found my niche in journalism. You always encouraged me to write, even when I couldn’t see my talent.

Your value of education led to my endless pursuit of knowledge. You always said, “Heather, not going to college isn’t an option. You will go to college!” Because of that, I have a love of learning and a book hoarding problem that I hope to pass on to my own child. I also give people a run for their money when I play Trivia Pursuit, which is an added bonus.

From a young age you taught me the importance of being independent in every way. I remember riding in the car with you in 4th grade. When Independent by Destiny’s Child came on the radio, you’d turned it up and say, “Listen to this. You need to pay attention. Beyoncé has it right!”

One of the biggest impacts you’ve had on my life is letting me make my own choices, even when they weren’t the right ones. You knew that in order for me to deeply learn a lesson, I had to experience the pain and hardships for myself. But after every mistake, you were right there uttering the line I’ve heard a million times, “You should have listened to your mother!” You taught me that life will never be easy, but that doesn’t mean you get to give up.

All I’ve ever wanted was to make you proud, which is why anytime I let you down it hit me so hard. I know it hurts you too but trust me, it devastates me to know I’ve disappointed you. I think back to who I was before I came to prison—I was someone that I wasn’t even proud of. I lacked follow-thru in mostly everything. I always thought I knew best. I was impulsive, acting first and thinking later and look where it led me. But because of how you raised me, I didn’t give up…even when looking down the lens of a 10-year prison sentence, which admittedly is where any sane person would break down. Instead, I started planning how I’d come back from all of this better, stronger and smarter than before.”

Ironically, prison has helped me become the person I am today, the woman you are proud to call your daughter. Because I grew up watching you smile through multiple hardships with grace, I’ve been able to hold my head high and build a strong future for myself and my son. I’ve watched you struggle through situations no one should ever have to deal with, but because you’ve powered through with your sanity intact, I’m able to do the same.

You’ve shown me what in life is most important: family and love. Thank you for the many lessons, endless support and unconditional love. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

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