I wanted to share this exchange with a woman whose friend on death row has given up his appeals.

Dear Sister Helen,

I’m writing you, because I have a big problem with a friend of mine. He’s on Texas death row, and is a volunteer for execution.

I have great difficulty in accepting his choice, but his lawyer said everything is ok. At first, when I read about this, I thought he was trying to commit suicide; the whole thing sounds like a cry for help.

But, his lawyer, to whom I wrote, said for two years my friend has been trying to give up the appeals, and during all this time, the lawyer has been trying to change his mind. His lawyer says that there is nothing left to do, and the only thing I can do is continue to stay by his side, writing letters to make him more and more comfortable in meeting his death.

It’s the first time I have been in this situation, and I am really confused and divided. On the one hand I think I should respect his will, but on the other I’m not sure he is completely sane (even if the court says he is).

So, now it’s time I start to write him, but what? My heart says try to stop him, reason says follow him…

I know this is a big problem, but I really need help to find the answer…

Thank you in advance.


And my response:

Dear Stefania,

It is very difficult to know what to do, and because your relationship is confined to letter writing, that restricts your influence quite a bit. It’s such a big, life-death decision…. Is it possible for you to visit face to face? If not, express your appreciation for his personal worth and thank him for the gift he has been in your life and assure him of your prayers.

Know that I am carrying you and him in my prayer.

Love, Sister Helen