Tales from death row: Justice for Rodney Reed

By: Caitlin Adams

I recently became familiar with a journalist/author, Dudley Clendinen.  Mr. Clendinen died May 31, 2012 of complications of ALS—the disease I also have.  Before his death, Mr. Clendinen did a weekly radio show on NPR in Baltimore, called "Living with Lou“–“Lou" for Lou Gehrig, baseball great who also died of ALS complications.  Most people are more familiar with the name Lou Gehrig's disease than the medical name ALS.  Mr. Clendinen and I shared a very similar take on "Lou".

Lou is merciless, relentless, a pit bull, a ball-buster.  There is no treatment.  There is no cure. Lou is also a patient teacher, a spiritual guide, a "live in the moment" Master.  John O'Donnell, a favorite author, wrote a book of blessings and one of the blessings that I have really embraced is titled “For A Friend on the Arrival of an Illness”.  I consider myself a friend so it seemed an auspicious blessing for me.  

A part of this blessing has been a daily companion for me:

"May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came. Why it chose your friendship.
Where it wants to take you. What it wants you to know.
What quality of space it wants to create in you.
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself..."

Calling ALS “Lou” has been such a help for me. Thank you, Dudley. Giving ALS a person's name has made it easier for me to dialogue, to ask Lou why it came, why it chose my friendship and the other questions posed in John O'Donnell's blessing.  This dialogue is yielding some extraordinary insights into the quality of the space it is creating in me and I do believe I am more fully myself than I have ever been.  Lou is a very paradoxical kind of guy!  While he's bashing the heck out of my body, he's encouraging my soul, my spirit, all the invisible parts of me to bloom.  I guess, Lou believes in tough love!

Death row/solitary confinement is merciless, relentless, a pit bull, a ball-buster, and knowing Rodney, I believe that it is also a patient teacher, a spiritual guide and a "live in the moment" Master. I think I'll suggest Rodney start calling his confines “Bud”.  I'd love to hear about that dialogue! And I'd love to write a blog titled "Bud".