Monday, April 13, 2009

If Looks Could Kill . . .

I went to jail on Good Friday.

No, seriously, I went to jail. The Frau and I hauled my cello over to the Women's Correctional Facility and played for two Good Friday services - one in the medium/maximum section, and one in the minimum security section. As the Frau (who used to be a police sergeant) always reminds me, criminals rarely look like they are someone who would kill you. And while there were a few "rough" looking folks there (especially in the medium/maximum section), most were just nice, friendly ladies that made you think - what in the world did they do to end up here?

During the second service in the minimum security area, I actually had an accompanist. One of the inmates was a very accomplished pianist - a young Asian girl who was clearly very intelligent and friendly, in addition to her musical talent. Again, I wondered, what did she do? And memories of a rather tragic story kept tugging at me. But I'm in the MINIMUM security area. The chaplain introduced us and told me she had gone to a high school in a neighboring affluent district. We quickly established some folks that we knew in common. And that nagging memory resurfaced. Could there be two Asian girls from the same high school, the same age, who were talented pianists in the same prison? And if so, how could a sweet young girl like this, who didn't look like she would hurt a fly, have stabbed her mother to death? And if it was, indeed, her - how did she end up in the minimum security area? This girl did not have the look or the attitude of a killer.

But it was the same girl.

Playing for a Good Friday service - where we read scripture reminding us that Jesus was crucified in between two thieves. Poignant doesn't begin to describe the setting.

I found out a few more details later. There had apparently been a lot of abuse in her family, and while she was tried as an adult, and I don't mean to excuse the crime, even the prosecutor who fought to try her as an adult apparently had some compassion regarding her family situation. The final sentence and plea agreement attest to this. And she did start out in the maximum security section and "worked" her way into the minimum area. I can only imagine what those first months or years were like for her as a 17 year old.

I could have sworn she told me she was 23. But I have been so drawn to this girl's story that I googled what information I could find on her trial, and I don't see how she could be older than 20. In fact, based on her sentence, she will probably be released when she is around 23. So I either misunderstood (likely), or she is so focused on her release time that she finds herself thinking she is 23 . . .

I can't stop thinking about her.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Passover with a Christian Twist

We had a Seder at church tonight - the BAPTIST church.   Since this is one of those unusual years when the Christian Maundy Thursday service and Passover coincide (sort of - Passover began at sundown LAST night, but who's counting), we decided to have a traditional seder meal (sort of - I don't think the spaghetti has a long history for those "get-the-heck-out-of-Egypt-and-through-the-Red-Sea" Jews of the Exodus) with "bitter herbs" and sweet apples/dates and roasted eggs (sort of - rather than roasting them brown, we boiled brown ones) and Matzo ball soup and matzah bread and "fruit of the vine" (sort of - grape juice - but then again, we were to be leaving the leavening - yeast - so that might have been fairly accurate - if very Baptist) and a passover cake.   The passover cake (I assume it is reasonably authentic, but who's to know?) was very good - made with coffee, and chocolate and crushed almonds.   We joked that what with the "mad Exodus" there was no time to make coffee, so it was just cooked right into the cake.  And although we may not have been completely true to every aspect of the meal, the seder (or "order") was pretty close and gave a neat perspective on our Christian tradition of Easter.   It was nice to be reminded that Jesus wasn't a Christian - he was a Jew.   And so much of our Christian communion comes right from the Passover tradition.   In fact, I had always thought of eggs at Easter as a pagan tradition that got "thrown in" as a "teaser" for pagans.  It would appear that it has legitimate roots in the Seder as a reflection of new life to come.   Go figure.  The third (of four) cups of "fruit of the vine" is the cup of redemption and the one attributed to Elijah who is to usher in the Messiah.  It is believed that it is this cup that Jesus used for his symbolic statement during his last seder with his disciples.  It was truly a fresh and refreshing look at the moments leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection.   One I hope to repeat.