By Dana DiGrolamo
For about six weeks I had served in a Relief Society calling at the prison. I loved the women. You could tell who really wanted to be there, the ones who attended meetings just to get out of their cells, and the ones who wanted to be there to sit with their friends.
Little did I know I would have an experience that week that would turn my world upside down. My beautiful oldest son, who was thirty years old, died unexpectedly. I received much-needed help, love, and support from my own ward. I didn’t even know many of the women who helped. It was the hardest day in my life. He passed away on a Thursday, and I went to the prison the week after. I was asked to talk that day about my son, whose death had partly been caused by a drug overdose. Many of the women were in prison for drug-related crimes, and the Relief Society president thought perhaps I could reach some of them.
As I stood at the front of the class, I had the biggest lump in my throat. I talked very openly and candidly about my son. I told the women if they didn’t turn their lives around, it would affect the people that loved them so very much. I was old enough to be many of the inmates’ mother. After a very tearful lesson where the Spirit was there in abundance, every one of the inmates got into a line and came and hugged me. It was a feeling and a moment I will never forget.
People who serve at the prison are told not to take anything from the inmates. The prisoners in Relief Society had wanted to make me a card, they said, but had been unable to. I told them it was okay. But I guess my husband didn’t get the same memo. When we got home that day, he said an inmate had given him a card for me. I called the Relief Society president, who called the bishop. He told her I could keep the card. It was beautifully handmade and printed. It is so special to me it is glued inside my scriptures. It reads as follows:
“I heard a woman speak about love today. She said nothing in this world is perfect. Her son had just died. She loved him very much, and to her, although he had human frailties, love had made him perfect.
“It was wonderful to hear—to feel—her love for him. ‘He was perfect to me,’ she said in tears.
“Love, I believe, teaches to overlook faults, to be patient. To forbear and understand. It teaches forgiveness. Love is a strong desire to help others. No matter the price. Love is a crucible where those who throw themselves into the flame come out more pure. More alive and rich and whole.
“It’s the reason we are, our purpose and promise in life.
“Love is . . .
“Mary loved her Son as much as you love yours. He’s smiling on you and he is proud of you. Remember to laugh. Keep teaching your lessons. Don’t ever lose your light. Let it shine. It’s real. Your family is lucky to have you. Smile—today is a good day. Look at Easter this year in a new light.
“The Artist, aka ‘Pastel’”
I had met this awesome sister on a Friday night as we had an art class for enrichment. I was so stunned and humbled. I fell to my knees and thanked my Father in Heaven. That letter is one of my most precious possessions.