Letter to Jamie 2012 – Waiting For Liver Transplant

Sonni Quick April 2017

Many of you know I am doing a rewrite of Inside The Forbidden Outside, What a journey this has been since I decided Jamie’s story needed to be written.  It is not because his story is so unusual, but because there are so many people who have lived the same story.  There are different characters but the underlying theme is the same.  People need to better understand this story because too many still say the line, “If he did the crime he needs to do the time.” How do they know if he did the crime?  How do they know the underlying reason why so many live this story? 

If someone only listened to or read mainstream propaganda, which is getting worse, why would they believe anything to the contrary? They might also believe the white race is more deserving, privileged, more intelligent and less likely to do drugs or commit crimes, especially since there are so many more people of color in the prisons than white people. No part of that statement is true. Many white people can’t stand the thought they aren’t superior to other colors.  When a race has been trampled on as much as the black race and other minorities are catching up, there is an all out effort to keep white prison corporations as rich as possible off the backs of people they don’t like to continue this false illusion.

But wanting to write a book is not as easy as knowing how to spell and where to put a period.  It has taken me a couple years of writing and studying to get this far. Working with a story editor this time has given me a much better grip on what I’m doing. Anyone can self publish an inferior product and not be able to sell their book, but this is far too important to not do the best I can.

Since no one sees every post I put out, and if you are interested in what I’m doing, please subscribe to my newsletter below.  I put out an issue about once a month on different justice issues with an update on the book.  I don’t send you several emails a day like some do.  I hate that.  I also don’t have time to do that.

I am combing through 4-500 letters Jamie and I have exchanged to pull out the most important ones to use. These letters are like a diary that hold his growth into a man and our growth in communication. His effect on my life has been tremendous.  It has also been a two-way street. We would not have made it this far without each other.

********************

sick me
I’m sitting on pillows because of bedsores. I couldn’t walk by myself. My husband took me outside each day because it was Spring. Clogs were the only thing I could get my feet into

To explain where this letter is in time, I had moved from Key West, FL to Pa in August 2010 to get on the liver transplant list at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. My local Dr couldn’t help me anymore. My body had swelled with fluid and I looked like a beached whale.  They couldn’t tap me anymore to drain fluid because it was everywhere, even in my skin.  I already had two tumors in my liver and if I developed a third they would take me off the list and tell me to have a nice life. I won’t get into the details because it is fairly gross. When the liver became available the Drs told my husband, but not me, that I literally had days to live. I was bedridden and couldn’t type or hold a pen or feed myself,  but I had a laptop beside me and I typed letters with one finger.  I had no doubt I’d be okay.  I still had too much to do. Jamie’s letters were a major source of encouragement. The transplant took place July 2nd of this same year.

 

 

Date:   1/11/2012 12:12:59 PM
Sent To:        JAMES CUMMINGS

Dearest Jamie – life always goes up and down. Even for people who think they have everything so many of them aren’t happy, get depressed, and feel as though they have problems they will never get out of. But it is really all in the mind and how you view things will determine how you feel. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you. I can’t imagine having a family who cares so little and who will think only of themselves when you get out and how hard it was for THEM. Rise above. Develop an inner strength that will see you through the tough times. For Xmas I am going to get you a subscription to a weekly newspaper that I read. You will understand better what I am saying. It is all about having hope. You know I am not a Christian. I am a Buddhist. The philosophies are very different. We don’t pray to an outside source to change things for us. We learn to change from the inside out. Every day I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is time for you to try something different to help you figure out your life. You tried going to church.  You tried Islam. Nothing gave you the answers you were looking for. Now it is time to help you find them. I promise you this will change your life. Here is how to sound it out. If you counted to six evenly over and over you would have the rhythm. One- two -three- four- five- six. In music it is called 6/8 time.

1.Nam ( the a is pronounced like ahh) It doesn’t matter if it is pronounced right or not.
2.myo ( like a cat’s meow but with and o ) It is the attempt that matters.
3.ho Try to say it a hundred times. When you get comfortable
4.ren- ( like rent ) with it, direct your mind to pray for what you need.
5.ge ( like gay ) Jamie, I would not have been doing this for 24 years for no
6.kyo (like myo ) reason. The more you chant, the better. I have often chanted for 3 or more hours at a time. You will feel better and your head will feel better. People will notice the change.

You are such a worthwhile person. Some days it is hard. There is good and evil. Things will happen to try and make you stop. Don’t let anyone stop you. It isn’t easy doing this through the mail, but when you start getting the World Tribune and read and learn, it will make more and more sense. This is the best present I can give you.

I’m doing a little better every day. The pain is decreasing and the excess fluid is going down from the new medication. Mike said I look like a drill sargent since I don’t have much hair except for a little buzz on the top! It used to be down to my waist. Oh well . . . it grows back. I don’t want anymore chemo that is for sure. It was that procedure that I think gave me the infection I had. But at least they caught before I got any sicker. I do have good drs. Thank goodness I have medicaid. I can’t imagine what 3 days at Hershey Med costs. Probably more than I make, or used to make in a year. So, next stop – transplant here I come!!

Little Jamie will never hate you. He doesn’t really understand, but children are very forgiving. He only wants his daddy. I was lucky for Xmas because I still had quite a few toys and books left from closing the store. I knew Megan had no money so I wanted to make sure everyone had 3 or 4 presents under the tree – including Megan. I gave Jamie a 3-D puzzle of a pirate ship that Alex helped him with. I think that was the best thing for him. It wasn’t just a toy to play with and then forget about. He could be proud that he helped make it. I had puzzles for 3 yr olds that was good for Cozmo. I got clothing for Alex and Alyssa – important things in school. Can you believe that Alex will be 15 on March 2?? He has grown to be a good kid. Meg has always been a strict disciplinarian and it is paying off – even if her daughter hates her at least every other day!

Megan has not forgotten you even though it often feels that way. She gets so quiet when I talk about you. Afraid to think too far into the future.

I won’t let you give up, Jamie, that’s the way I am. You can tell me when you feel bad. I would carry your burden if I could. Lots of love, Mom

p.s. Sounds like you had a great xmas meal. It makes the little things so appreciated. I wish you could get care boxes.
Also – I am going to pay off your med fee. It doesn’t give you any money yet, but toward the end of the month I’ll put a little on your account so you can get some things you need.

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My Name Is Jamie

( Sonni’s note: This is the first thing I posted on this blog in 2014 and it has been read about 1000 times. I decided to post it again because there are so many new people who come to this blog. it is hard to get a sense of who he is or why I do this so I wanted newer readers to have the opportunity to know I write for him – why it matters so much. I am going to repost some early posts. You’ll know by the dates. I hope you go on to read the chapters of the book I am now writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at the bottom of this post. The success of this writing, and the fact that he wants to go in the direction of helping kids avoid making the same mistakes, and wanting to help others have a better life, using this book will be an important tool. You can help it be a success by sharing it with other people. I hope to be done writing it in the next 6 months, and the process of publishing will take at at least a year longer than that, if you are familiar with publishing. I think he is a very special man with a lot to give back to society. help me help him. It is extremely hard to have a successful life when inmates reintegrate into society after a long time because so many things have changed. What he has learned about his life while helping me to write this book, because he has had to look honestly at himself, is helping him to keep his determination strong to change.

There are many piano pieces throughout this blog. There is a reason for that. My life and Jamie’s life are intertwined. He has helped me survive and I have helped him. Everything happens for a reason. The people we meet are not by accident. He gave me the reason to start writing music again.

My Name Is Jamie – by Sonni Quick copyright 2014

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My music pieces are improvisations. There are many throughout this blog. This piece of music is an early recording, before I had the means to record the way I do now. I wrote this after my liver transplant, when I was able to sit again at my piano. My playing changed. I used to write songs with lyrics, and do copy music of other artists. I lost the ability to sing, my vocal cords are shot, so the meaning needs to be expressed solely through my playing. I can’t explain this right, but when I lived through the transplant, my music changed. I no longer wanted to sound like someone else. My dream as a child was to play the most beautiful music in the world, but I didn’t know how to play what I could hear inside. Now, it may not be the most beautiful in the world, but to me it expresses what I feel inside. I crawl inside my piano and play it from the inside out. I kn0w. I sound a bit nutty, but it is the only way to describe it. Every time I sit down to play I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t listen to it while I play. I just play. I don’t listen to them until a few days has passed so I can listen to them as a stranger would hear them. I don’t remember them. It’s an odd experience. I can’t play them again unless I went back and charted them, which I may do someday. I hit an occasional wrong note. Oh well. My fingers play what they want to express. I play when I am feeling emotional. This piece is the first piece I played this way. I just let my fingers play what they wanted. This is the emotion I was feeling after reading one of Jamie’s letters. The emotion of Jamie’s loss. During the short time he was able to call me last year and I played this for him over the phone. It will be a long time before he can hear the other piano pieces i recorded for him. Sometimes I record a piece and give it as a gift. On the list below you will see one called Graduation Day. Currently it is my newest piece and I just sent it to my niece. I recorded it during her graduation. I want to off some of this music with the book when it is published. )

I sit here in my prison cell, as I do every day, trying unsuccessfully not think too much. How can I pass this day quickly? How many hours can I sleep? How can I pretend that I am somewhere other than this place, trying to wish my life away? It’s sad. What a waste of my life. How did I let this happen to me? This isn’t where I was supposed to be. I want to be with my family. With the woman I love, and with my son and her other children. I think of them like they are my own. I try to not think about that too much anymore. I’ve lost so much I will never be able to get back.

From one human being to another, Jamie – I love you. Not a romantic love, but the love for you as a human being. You inspire me with the strength you have shown in making it through these things that have been done to you in the false name of Justice.)

I can never get back the time. They are all growing up without me. I’ve let everyone down. I know I’m not a bad person. I try to do the right thing, but sometimes, in the past, I did things on impulse. I never thought about what it would do to my life. I never thought I would end up here. Unless you’ve been here you have no way of understanding. This is a nightmare I can’t wake up from.

I often think I won’t make it. I feel like I want to explode inside. I tried to kill myself more than once, but I didn’t succeed. Sometimes I feel like I am under my cell, under the floor, and everything is on top of me. I feel like will never get out of here. I don’t care about eating most of the time. I’ve gone on hunger strikes. But mom, the woman I call mom, always talks me out of it by telling me that my life matters even if I don’t believe it does. You wouldn’t want to eat if you had to eat the food in here. Sometimes all they feed us is peanut butter.

Sometimes I don’t take my medications for epilepsy. The medical care in here is another story. One time I had a seizure and I woke up on the floor with my hands and feet in cuffs. There was no concern for me. They were afraid that they were going to get hurt. Amazing. Anywhere else a person would be taken to the hospital, but not here. Another time I fell off my bunk and broke my front teeth. I have had so many seizures and many times the guards let me lay here because they don’t want to do the paperwork. They do give me my seizure medication, most of the time, but I’m not too sure what it is. I’ve heard that drug companies try out new meds on us with the government’s permission – we have a debt to pay society, they say. But how many seizures can one person have and not have their brain all scrambled? People on the outside don’t treat their dogs the way they treat us in here. What does it matter? I don’t think it matters to my family, either. No one ever writes and asks me how I’m doing. I’ve given up waiting.

I know, I’m feeling sorry for myself. They didn’t put me here. I did. I was wrong to think they would care. Eight years in here. It tears my head up thinking about where I could be. Where would I be right now? I’d like to think I would have done something good with my life. Would Megan and I be together? Would I have been able to take care of my family? Would something else have happened to me because it was my karma to be in here? Eight years is very long time. I have nine more to go, unless they let me out of here someday. I’m not hopeful. My family doesn’t pay me any attention because they say they feel too much pain knowing I’m here, or they say they didn’t make me screw up, so they ignore me instead. It makes it easier for them. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s kinda screwed up, isn’t it?

There isn’t much I can do in here except think. I lay here hour after hour just thinking about things. Some of my memories are worn out by now. I try not to think about the memories that bring me down, but they seem to sneak in anyway. I have so many regrets. I try to replace those thoughts with good ones about the future. Sonni, who I call mom, tells me that the mind is very powerful and I can shape the future the way I want it to be. I need to think of the life I want to have when I get out of here. Focus on what CAN be, not what was in the past. The future hasn’t happened yet so i can shape that the way I want it to be. It’s hard not to get depressed. I have to work at that. Some day this will be over. i can do it.

Sonni, Megan's mom
Sonni, Megan’s mom

Sonni might not be my mother, but she is the one who has been here for me. She treats me like I am her son. She keeps my head on straight when I’m really feeling bad. Over the years she has been my lifeline. She’s the one person I know I can count on. She helps me buy the things I need at the commissary and sends me books and magazines. But most of all she writes to me and I am so grateful for that. She’s done so much for me when she didn’t have to. I don’t know why she wanted to help me, but I’m glad she did. She’s my son’s grandmother, so she will always be a part of my family. I know I am important to her. But it’s a shame when you have a large family like I do. They live close enough to visit, but they don’t. I don’t even get a birthday card. It’s like I don’t exist anymore. Sometimes I am so hurt and angry. that is the hardest thing I have to overcome – my anger. I used to think it was my fault. Maybe it was because I gave my mom a hard time when I was growing up. Maybe she is just too busy working two jobs and she used to take care of my nieces when their mom was in jail. So maybe my family just doesn’t have any time for me.

I can’t say that my mother never visited me. She and Megan drove across the whole state of Texas when Jamie was little more than a baby. It was the only time I saw my son for 6 years until last October.

jamie-meg

photo43

Megan brought all the kids to see me. It was great. I felt, for a little while that I had my family around me. It gave me good memories to think about over and over. I think I almost wore them out! For a long time I was moved around Texas and the first two were really far away. I’ve been in 6 prisons so far. But even when I moved closer it didn’t make much difference. My mother did come some months back. I was really surprised. She brought my nieces with her. She told me that she would be back every week. That made me feel really good, but she didn’t come back again for a long time. Megan brought my son Jamie Jr to see me in 2013 after much begging. She also brought the other kids. That made me so happy. They were so small the last time I saw them. They grew up.

IMG330 Antonio Alexander

i0000010 Alyssa

photo-29 The next month, November, Megan came back and brought Sonni, who from now on I’ll just call mom. That’s what we use in our letters. She lives in Pa. After all of the letters we’ve written, we finally got a chance to see each other eye to eye. She put her hand flat against the glass and I put my hand up to hers. I could feel the caring through the glass. I haven’t seen them since. Mom hasn’t been back to Tx yet. Soon I hope. A man named Melvin, who is a member of the SGI, the Nichiren Buddhist organization that sends me the reading materials about life that I am studying, has visited with me for awhile coming every couple months. It is teaching me how to change the things inside me that cause me unhappiness.

I met mom before Thanksgiving before I got busted. I was only 22 then. I’m 31 now. She took my picture when I walked into her room at the hotel. I was embarrassed and couldn’t look up into the camera.photo-44The next morning we all went out for breakfast. I wish I could turn back the clock and do things differently. Megan had just found out she was pregnant, but we didn’t tell anybody yet. It was only a month later that I got arrested. I was surprised when I got that first letter from her. I am so glad she took the time to write to me, and over time we got close. A lot of dudes in here don’t have anyone to write to.

I wish I could see my son more, but I doubt it’s going to happen. Megan’s life is too full of drama. It keeps her from being able to make the drive. It is a full day of driving so I guess it isn’t easy. I’ve given up expecting more. What I don’t understand is when they say things like, “Just because I don’t write you doesn’t mean I don’t love you” or ” I don’t write to you because it hurts me too much.” Hurts them?? They make it sound as though they are the ones being punished. It hurts me so I’ll hurt you more?? And someday, when I get out of here, am I supposed to open my arms and be glad to see everybody? When someone you love doesn’t write back to you, you make up all kinds of things in your head. It’s hard for me to believe they care.

If I could go back and do that night again, I wonder where I would be? If I had thought about that the night I chose to follow my friends maybe i would have had better common sense? I went out with my cousin and some friends. I was in Megan’s car. She tried to get me to stay home that night. We were smokin’ some weed. We just went out to party. This wasn’t supposed to happen.One guy made a joke about robbing this place. I think in a way I was shocked, but at the same time I didn’t try to stop him. I didn’t leave because friends don’t leave friends behind. I played a part as well by helping him. I was driving. He had a gun in his backpack. It was all so stupid.

You know the court appoints a lawyer for people who don’t have the money to hire an attorney. They aren’t on your side. This lawyer gets paid about $200, at $75 an hour, to help whoever needs help. But they don’t really care about helping you. They work for the DA so whatever deal the DA wants, that’s what they tell you to do. The first deal he came to me with was 45 years! No one got hurt. Yes, it was wrong. I accept responsibility for that. But a white guy could murder someone and not get 45 years. But when you can’t afford a lawyer and you’re black and live in Texas, you’re screwed. So I told them no deal and they set another court date. Then they enhanced my case to make it 15-99 years. Fifteen minimum until I probably die. This was to make me take the deal. They also don’t want to take the time and money to go to court. It’s called, clearing the docket. So then this lawyer said they would offer 17 years and I should take it. He never discussed the case with me. He didn’t know who I was. He didn’t care. He wasn’t there to help me. I didn’t have anyone I could talk to who would help me. This was a first offense. I did go to juvy on a nine month sentence when I was in tenth grade, but it wasn’t because of a crime. The school to prison pipeline is very real. That’s another story.

That was more than 8 years ago. I think I have a long way to go. They don’t like to let people out of here. They keep knocking us down so we never make the level to get out. Guards file false charges. One accused me of blowing her a kiss. If you saw her you would know that would have never happened. She was big and fat and ugly. Besides, who would be that stupid. But she wrote me up for it and got me in trouble.
Prison recreation cages
Most of the time I spent in ad seg (administrative segregation), which is solitary with another name, and I can’t even leave my cell for meals. They let me out of my cell for an hour to go outside by myself to the cages if the weather is okay. A few times a week I go to the showers. They put my food through a slot in the door. Ad seg is also called G5. Recently I made it to G4 and I could go to chow. But a guy jumped me there. A guard saw it and said it wasn’t my fault but they still took my G4 away and put me back in G5. Now I have to wait another 6 months to a year to get out again. It has happened every time. Last time it took me more than two years to get back up to G4. When I do work my way up it is never for long. They always find a reason to send me back. because of that, in all these years they have never been able to make even one phone call. I would have to be G2 for that to happen. My son was born after this happened but I can never call him, never wish him happy birthday or tell him I love him. That sucks. It also means I can’t go to school. Without a GED I can’t even work at a fast food place. I couldn’t live on that anyway. This is why inmates can’t make it when they get out and why prison doors revolve. Let one person out while it brings another back in.

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Tears For All The Years That Passed

Tears For All The Years  by Sonni Quick copyright 2016

I wrote this poem in 2012 and the music recently.  It was published on my other blog about and month and a half ago. Today I decided to re-blog it. During this time period in 2012, when I wrote this poem, there were many letters between Jamie and I. I had to type with one finger because I lost the ability to hold a pen. I had trouble holding a fork, too. With liver failure protein builds in the brain and motor skills don’t work and confusion sets in. I knew he was having trouble with me being so sick and not being able to do anything.

He and I have things in common and one of those things is a family who doesn’t know how to care. I had moved to Pa to have a liver transplant and I was close to losing the battle. I also had liver cancer and more infections than I thought possible for one person to have, but that is what happens when your body starts shutting down. I have a lot of family that live close but not one person ever called to even see if I was dead. As you can probably tell, I still have trouble dealing with it, because in the years since then nothing changed. I have better friends all over the world that I met through blogging and I am so grateful for that. I never could understand my family.

In a letter I got from Jamie yesterday he talks about the same thing – a family who never cared about him the past ten years who can’t bother to even send a birthday card, let alone send a book to read or money to buy a bar of soap. He writes about how hard it is, and that he tries to keep it out of his head because it brings him down. He loves his mother. He can’t bring himself to say anything bad about her, and I hope he finds a way some day to tell her how much she has hurt him. He says it’s hard to know he doesn’t have her support in any way. That is heartbreaking, too. It is one reason why I tried to fill the void. After ten years of filling that void it is much more than that, but I just don’t understand why people, who say they love you don’t ever do anything to actually show it. I had my transplant in 2012 soon after I wrote this poem. It really explains how I felt about my life because I thought I was losing it.

As a Nichiren Buddhist, I look at life different that most of you. I don’t think life begins when we are born or ends when we die and I don’t think we go to some magical place called heaven where all are problems are gone and all we do is worship a god. I believe the people in our lives we have been with before. Sometimes we feel a connection with people and sometimes we don’t, and those people you do, you’ve been with before, although not in the same context. How many times in our lives have we said to someone, “I feel like I’ve known you forever,” and you become instant friends?

We work through our problems in life, and we do it over and over until we get it right. We live in heaven on earth and we live in hell on earth. It isn’t somewhere we go when we die. Jamie is in my life for a reason and I am in his life for a reason. I wouldn’t want to imagine his life now had I NOT been in his life these past ten years. That was my purpose. He fell in love with my daughter and had a son he can’t be with, but that happened because he needed to meet me, because he needed me to teach him the things he needed to learn to get through these years. I may not be making much sense to some people, but when you learn what the meaning of cause and effect is, you gradually learn what the meaning of your life is. It learning the entire meaning of “You reap what you sow” instead of it just being a phrase you were taught.  You have to actually live it to understand it.  Why do you reap what you sow?  What happens when you don’t like what you reap?  What do you do about it?  Your faith should enable you to have a happy life, no matter where you are – in a prison cell or a hospital room. If you aren’t, then you have to examine what it is you actually believe.

Jamie is reaping what he sowed and so am I.  Different religion say the exact same thing but we don’t take it seriously.  We have to take responsibility to change what we sow because we are to blame for every single thing that happens to us – good and bad. No one is testing us. It is no one else’s will that we suffer or be happy.  Everything is our own fault.  We have to change things, not think something outside ourselves will change it, no matter what you were taught.  We have to take control of our lives.  When you understand that, your life opens to greater possibilities.

Please make sure you follow this to the other blog and finish reading the poem.

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Sonni Quick

im crying, sonni quick. karma, liver transplant photo source: crazy4images.com

I’m crying
Why can’t the world hear my crying?
Tears for all the years that passed
seeing dreams that never last.
beyond the time you can see
and when you open up your eyes
the dream has passed
It’s now too late
to dream that dream again
my heart is torn it can not mend.
My dreams are dying
and I’m crying
for all I have that’s left is pain
I lost it all with none to gain
I look in the mirror, I see myself
hoping to see where the years have gone
I made the cause, I was so young
Sharp turns to the left
that way was wrong.
tears fall, say please
as they stream down your face.
a longing look at the piano keys
I wrap my arms around my knees,
Crying tears of loss
Crying tears of pain
No one takes a…

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