What pulled me through these upside-down days was focusing my time and attention on the common, everyday healing presences of our world—grass, tree, sky—all of which are wholly inaccessible to an inmate on death row. I walked barefoot in a creek, watched a spider spin her web, and fed pigeons at a bus stop as I chronicled the sights and sounds of our world for my beloved and condemned friend.
One thing I learned from my month of ceaseless vigil is that prayer has not a thing to do with words, petitions, or belief. In the end—at the end—prayer means to be unconditionally present and alive to Life, such as it is, in the here and now.
Caruthers reported that he enjoyed the drive from Livingston to Huntsville, Texas, the day of his execution because he could see the bright blue sky from his seat in the van.
When we find our way into that powerful state of wakeful presence, beyond all the conditions and qualifications that we might place on our acceptance of life, the world is so devastatingly beautiful that it breaks our hearts open and can bring us to our knees.
Prayer isn’t about words. Prayer in a traumatized and traumatizing society is the radical act of seeking to be fully and unreservedly here–now–in body, mind, and soul. Prayer is a heroic effort to stay rooted in the moment. Prayer is the act of resisting our culture’s brittle “up and out” reflex in the face of discomfort, seeking instead to greet Life with a steady gaze and the open arms of a lover.
Unconditional presence is the prayer that will help us not only to survive these times but to come alive again.