A Letter from Ruth Dalgleish

Dear Rachel,

So many times in the past twelve or more years, I’ve thought of your tiny ad in our church paper and have been so grateful that you provided the means of bringing James into our family.

We have watched him change from a hopeless man on Death Row, hard as nails, his language less than nice. He says he almost quit writing several times, thinking I too would leave him to his fate. Later he told me that something kept him answering, even taking my last letter from the waste basket sometimes. That “something” had to be God. Now that same man is a real sweetheart, an “adopted” brother and uncle to our whole family. I call his sister once in awhile and we both marvel at what God can do. He studies his Bible, prays for all of us, has hope of eternal life with his friend Jesus someday.

He is now 66, diabetic, has had heart bypass surgery and is doing much better but has to use a cane. He has been in prison for about twenty years for a crime he didn’t do. He finally got a hearing and they gave him a “deal.” They should have sent him home, but that would mean they knew all the time what they had done. So they let him out from under the death penalty for the rest of his life, but did not give him freedom. He is now in a prison in Lebanon, Ohio, and is out of his cell all day and eats with the others. He can have visitors without glass between them, so enjoys a few perks anyway, and right now he is closer to his family.

My husband and I went to see him in 1998 and talked via phone through thick glass for five short hours. It was the first visitors he had had in over five years. For the last several years I’ve gone to see him once a year. I’m 80 now and don’t drive, so our two daughters take turns going with me. My husband can’t travel very far from his own kitchen now, so can’t make the trip. We have to fly 2000 miles, rent a car, get a hotel, drive to the prison and visit James the next day-then reverse the process the next day. Last year we got to visit with a cut-out in the glass, get refreshments from the vending machines and share with him. We could reach our hands through and touch him, and with tears in his eyes he told us it was the first time in 18 years he had been touched by a human being that loved him; only guards and medical people had touched him. We all cried, as we could see how much a human touch can mean!

This year we can stay two days and visit both days sitting at a little table. That means he gets a hug this time. Our girls call him Uncle James and write to him too occasionally.

I am an only child, but found two half-sisters after I was sixty years old. I was telling him about them, but I said I didn’t find a brother, and would he like to “adopted” and be my brother. He liked that idea and thought it would be a fun thing to do, so now we say we are brother and sister and we ARE, ‘in Christ.’ He has great fun sharing some of my letters and pictures, and likes the comments he gets. ‘She white, ain’t she?’ He just grins and says, ‘So, what’s that got to do with it?’

– Ruth Dalgleish