Far From Home: Christmas in a Jail Cell
By Kathryn Brooke Sauer-Jones
This will be the tenth Christmas I’ve spent in prison. It’s hard to recall how I felt each year at this time. Time is really weird in here. You want it to pass by super fast so you’re closer to going home, but then as the time passes, you are faced with the reality of all the things you’ve missed out on. The last Christmas I spent with my kids, they were 2, 4, 5, and 10. This year they are 13, 15, 16, and 20, with a grandbaby on the way.
Before I gave my life to Christ, I was selfish this time of year. Christmas was all about presents, money, and food. These days I make a point to constantly remind myself that it is about remembering that God sent His Son here to this earth for me—that Christ was born here to ultimately die as a sacrifice for my sins. It is not about money, food, and presents. It is about God’s amazing love.
After speaking with some ladies here in the prison and thinking deeply about how this time of year truly makes me feel, I guess the best way to sum it up is this: Christmastime makes many of us think of old Christmases with family and friends— the smells, the decorations, and the food. It also brings up emotions of guilt and anger with ourselves for the choices we’ve made that got us here and for missing out on yet another memory we could be making with our children and loved ones. We all agree that the faster this time of year passes, the better.
The other side to this season of waiting is that we have the time to hope and daydream of future Christmases, of new traditions we want to make, and how wonderful it will be to be home again. I look forward to seeing all the Christmas lights and filling my house with fun decorations and good smelling candles. My kids and grandkids can decorate any way they want, and at night I’ll turn out all the lights in the house except the tree and just sit in the glow snuggled next to my husband with a mug of hot chocolate.
I will buy gifts and food for families who are struggling. I will go out and personally bring the homeless blankets, warm food, and drinks. I want to make a conscious effort to never take another moment for granted that I have with my family and friends or pass up an opportunity to help someone feel God’s love through me.
This Christmas and all year, I am so blessed to have a wonderful support system. My husband, mother, children, aunt, siblings, and friends all visit the prison regularly and send cards, emails, and money. On Christmas I won’t feel the same as many women here do: that they are forgotten in this place. Of course, we establish friendships and even care for each other in here like family at times. We eat Christmas dinners and desserts together, give each other small gifts of candy or soap we’ve bought from the canteen, and try to be cheerful in saying “Merry Christmas” to one another.
But in the end, that doesn’t make up for the fact that some women have no contact with anyone outside of here. They can’t call anyone and don’t receive mail, money, or visits. They don’t know how their kids are or if their family is struggling and missing them too. They feel unloved and lonely. There are also people here who will never be released and have no hope of another Christmas at any home but this one.
We may not truly be forgotten and unloved here, but it can be easy to listen to the enemy’s whisper in your ear when you’re spending Christmas with no possible way to be home with the people you miss and love. As a Christian, I know we are never alone or forgotten by God; however, there are many women here who don’t know Christ. This year I will make a conscious effort to be praying daily for them, and I ask that you please remember those women and men who are incarcerated as well.