The Execution of Michael Smith: A Full Account from Oklahoma

The Execution of Michael Smith: A Full Account from Oklahoma July 7, 2024

*Earlier today, I released all of my writings on the April 4, 2024 execution of my friend Michael Smith in Oklahoma.  Below is the chapter that I wrote about Smith’s execution.  The entire book “Underrepresented: Michael Smith, Oklahoma & the Death Penalty” is available for purchase here. 


Amidst horror, descriptions fail.  Towering walls on all sides holding back countless tons of dirt.  Each stone whispering secrets of imprisoned souls.  Glass doors that lead underground.  Though you can see through, you have absolutely no idea what’s coming.  Once past the threshold of hope, you wait until it’s your turn.  Sign in.  Turn around.  Spread your legs.  Hold your arms out.  Foreign hands rubbing all over your body.  The only thing apparent now is that any agency you ever is now dead.  You left it with the same officer that you gave your keys and license to.  Hope dies quickly.  Now, you’re a prisoner too.

Loudly, the door slides open.  The officer pushes you forward.  Mindlessly, you just do what you’re told.  What else are you supposed to do?  If you think about it too long…  Just keep walking.  The hallways are long.  For the guys I work with, they all lead to the same place, death.  I couldn’t think about everybody right now.  I had one objective.  Michael Smith.  After what seemed like miles, I turned the corner.  There he was.  Sitting at the table.  Tough as nails.  Smiling like always.  Quickly, he arose.  The room changed.  For a second, we were no longer in prison.  Hope returned.  We were brothers.  I think we believed that somehow the humanity we shared in that small visitation room would transcend the horrors that united us.  Maybe.  Just maybe.  Somebody on the outside might connect with what was happening.  Life.

We hugged longer than usual.  When you know that you’re giving someone what could be their last hug, I guess you want to make it count.  While this was of course a spiritual visit, we chose to define what was spiritual broadly.  Life is always spiritual right?  Michael wanted to know about the vending machines.  Unfortunately, prison officials weren’t interested in us getting any snacks.  I noticed the table was freshly scrubbed with a sanitizing wipe.  I found it strange that Michael would be so concerned about germs with less than a day to live.  But then again, that was Michael.  Each time I’d traveled to see him, I saw him wipe that table down as hard as he could.  Over and over.  I was more concerned with the ethical germs that seemed to be everywhere.  The infection of evil all around.  Whispers of murder around every corner.  I had to get my brain back.  Focus.

Michael wanted to know what was going on with his case.  I knew the truth.  Nothing.  Throughout Michael’s case, lawyers had let him down.  It seemed that whenever he got close to hope, there was always a lawyer there to snatch it right out from his grasp.  Though Michael had obvious mental delays, he was smart enough to understand it was happening again.  Repeatedly, he demanded to know what was being done.  Repeatedly, I had to say that I didn’t know.  How do you tell someone that it’s the end?  How do you snatch away every ounce of hope they might have left?  I knew his attorney wasn’t going to do shit, and that whatever he was forced to put together was going to be shit.  When I offered that we were at least going to have a rally and petition delivery at the Governor’s Office in Oklahoma City, he quickly cut me off, “That ain’t going to do shit.”  He was right.  Michael was right the entire time.  The fix was in.  There was nothing we could do to stop this thing from going off the cliff.  But hope dies last.

Eyeballs are powerful.  Michael regularly used his to get his point across.  I have no doubt that he’d won many staring contests.  This time though, his gaze began to drift.  Executions have a way of breaking down even the most focused minds.  When I began to ask Michael about tomorrow, he started talking about a phone call that he had to take later on in the afternoon.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there would be no afternoon.  The execution was scheduled for the morning.  Slowly, his focus returned.  We began to discuss last things.  I couldn’t help but notice that the guard hadn’t stopped watching us the entire time.  It was as if he thought that we were going to run out at any moment.  Even if we made it out the door, there was nowhere to go.  Door after door destroyed hope of any kind.  I wanted to tell him to chill out, but I had more pressing things to worry about.  “Do you think you’re going to heaven?”  I asked the question only because I was curious about his response.  Honestly, the only type of salvation I was worried about was keeping him from being executed.  I figured I’d let God sort out the rest.  Love always has a way of getting everybody where they need to be.  “Hell yeah!”  Michael’s response had me cracking up.  I’d never met faith so simple so strong so close to an execution.  Though Michael was often unsure of the path, he had no doubt about the destination.

There was a sign above our heads telling visitors what to do with the snacks they bought from the vending machines.  Empty all contents on a napkin on the table.  No closed packages are to be kept by prisoners.  Such rules seem foolish.  I considered the meaning of such words amidst the present juxtaposition, but I was distracted by rat shit a little ways down.  Immediately, I was so thankful that Michael scrubbed the table.  Using a paper towel, I wiped the table one more time before I moved the elements of the Eucharist between us.  “So, that’s my snack?”  Michael and I talked about the meaning of each part.  Now, Michael’s eyes were fixed somewhere beyond where we were.  He looked straight up, but it was clear that he was seeing something else.  I didn’t ask.  The moment was too important.  “This is my body.”  The words struck me from every direction.  The State of Oklahoma had every intention of destroying the body of Michael Smith.  Yet, the body of Jesus illustrates that the body can never be destroyed.  I was trying to make sense of it all.  Michael just looked up.  “This is my blood.”  It’s strange to talk about blood when you know that the blood in front of you is about to be spilled for no reason.  Michael lowered his head.  His eyes were closed.  Yet, somehow, I was aware that Michael was seeing more clearly now than he ever had.  He never opened his eyes.  He just devoured the bread and wine.  “This is all the food that I need.”  Michael had more faith than I did.  I was desperately trying to figure out how to keep him here.  Yet, his soul already seemed to be somewhere else.  The end already seemed predetermined.  Yet, Michael wasn’t done.

“Time’s up.”  There wasn’t much time to say goodbye.  We both had places to go.  I slipped as I tried to stand.  I think the guard thought I was going to resist leaving.  “Time’s up.”  Other guards came to the door.  Ignoring the collective ignorance, I leaned in to hug Michael.  “You’ve got this!”  I took my thumb and made the sign of the cross on his forehead.  “God is with you.”  He pulled me close.  “I love you bro.”  As I turned to leave, I wanted to make sure that everybody heard me, “I love you too.”  And just like that, I was swiftly escorted out.  Door after door slammed behind me.  When I asked the guard how he was dealing with being this close to an execution, he said it plainly and firmly one more time, “Time’s up.”

The cruelty of the sun burned.  It was a reminder that this day was fleeting, and tomorrow was dead.  I jumped.  I sat.  Then, I pointed my car toward Oklahoma City.  I rushed to see if there was anything to be revived.  Little did I know, hope already bled out.

Some people drive to take a break.  Not me.  Not this day.  Every bump brought new disturbances.  Every sign was a clue as to what more could be done.  Every mile a reminder that Michael was still alive.  Every breathe a reminder that time was running out.

There are always final petitions to the Governor.  You run up the steps in hopes that your voice might be the voice that stops the insanity.  Of course, the Governor never hears these petitions in person.  I’m not sure it matters.  When you go to the office, you talk to a secretary.  While they say your words will get to the Governor, it feels like the conversation is more of an opportunity for advocates to vent than it is to legitimately try to save a life.  Something of a loud blubbering self-help group for activists.  We repeatedly talked about Jesus.  Despite the horrible Christian music playing softly in the background or the numerous displays of civic Christianity, Jesus wasn’t there.  In fact, you had to leave your Jesus at the door.  The real Jesus would probably never even get through security.  We begged them to save Michael, they just smiled politely.  That’s their job.  They’re professionals at leaving their feelings secured in the glovebox of their car.  After a surplus of tears and raised voices, it was over.

In the hallway, I became aware that Michael’s lawyers had lied once again.  Dishonesty is something that folks on death row are accustomed to.  From my experiences, I’d come to realize that the lawyers that represent the condemned in Oklahoma are some of the worst in the nation.  Regularly, they miss deadlines and tank cases.  The only thing that they’d offered Michael was to grease the rails of his impending execution.  He hated them.  I’d grown to feel similarly.  Anyone with a soul would.  His helpless cries in the night festered.  Though they’d promised Michael that they’d file a final appeal to the United States Supreme Court, we were told at the last minute that any such assertion was a misunderstanding.  Of course, such a characterization was a lie, just like all the so-called misunderstandings before.  The family couldn’t figure out what to do at this late hour.  Can you imagine if these lawyers just nonchalantly dropped the last chance there was to save the life of someone you loved?

Anguish took over.  Questions ricocheted off the marble.  I couldn’t let it go.  Looking at Michael’s brother, I suggested that the group go to the lawyer’s office and demand that the lawyers file the appeal.  Before I knew it, I was standing with dozens of people outside a narrow hallway that led to Michael’s lawyer’s office.  I stepped back.  Sometimes one must unleash the whirlwind and let God take it from there.  Nobody wanted any trouble.  Everybody just wanted the lawyers to do what they said they were going to do.  I knew it was important for the family to take the lead.  When the lawyers saw all these folks standing outside the door, they immediately locked it.  Cowards.  They wouldn’t even face the family.  Instead of engaging the issue at hand, they did what white people most often do when faced with a large crowd of black people, they went and got a black person of their own.  This guy shows up and says that he was there to keep the peace.  No justice.  No peace.  How could we feel any differently?  Promises made.  Promises broken.  Promises don’t mean shit in Oklahoma.

Remembering.  I raced to bed.  I was so excited.  I was a young child.  When you’re young, hotels are the types of places that dreams are made of.  It was my first vacation.  I remember sliding into the covers.  Something snagged on my skin.  Ripping the covers off, I realized that something was clinging to my leg.  It was a yellowed toenail.  I screamed.  Ever since then, I’ve hated sleeping in hotels.  So, I don’t know what I was thinking when I chose this cheap hotel to stay in.  I was dreading that bed the entire time I was driving back from Oklahoma City.  Then again, I do know what I was thinking.  I was broke.  I take very few donations to do the work that I do.  I have a strong belief that money poisons everything.  When I got back to the room, I noticed something that I hadn’t seen prior.  There was blood on the comforter.  It was the middle of the night.  This was a cheap hotel.  There were no quick solutions.  I was exhausted.  So, I just left all my clothes on and laid down.  Once I cleared the blood from my mind, Michael took back over.

Horror.  Desperation.  Pain.  The night before an execution is the sum of all fears.  The words of Christ became the words of Michael.  “Stay awake with me.”  I was so tired.  I’d given everything that I had.  Yet, I felt such a duty to stay awake.  I didn’t know how to pray.  I just knew to pray.  Michael was my only focus.  I tried to push any distractions from my mind.  The fact that I still didn’t know whether the attorneys actually filed the final appeal or not gnawed at me.  Nevertheless, I prayed.  “God stop this insanity!”  “God draw near to Michael!”  “God show me your face!”  These were less requests and more demands.  After an extended amount of time, I fell asleep.  I didn’t mean to.  I just couldn’t help it.  When I woke up, I knew I’d failed.  When I looked at my phone, I realized how bad.  At 2:48am, Michael had sent a text message trying to figure out how to make his attorneys file his final appeal and asked me to make a public appeal to help.  He was clearly scared.  He was clearly in agony.  He was clearly in pain.  I’d clearly fallen asleep.  I hadn’t stayed awake with Michael on the most frightening night of his life.  Pulling myself into a sitting position, I sat on the edge of the bed and cried.  The blood hadn’t been enough to keep me awake.

The water couldn’t wash away the guilt I felt.  When Michael needed me, I was asleep.  It was hard to determine whether I was awake or dreaming.  My eyes were open, but I wanted everything to be a nightmare.  Regardless, I guess it was.  I grabbed the Gideon’s Bible.  Strangely, I’d made a habit of using the Gideon’s Bibles from the hotel rooms I stayed in.  Something about it made me feel like I was using something new for the guys.  Think about it like an athlete that wears a new pair of cleats for every game.  I also knew that the pages would always be clean, and I’d be able to write whatever I wanted to in it.  Anyways, I kept packing the car.  It was colder than I thought it would be.  Maybe that was just the condition that I felt in my heart.  I’d let Michael down.  I was frozen.  I had to get going.  Everything was packed.  Come what may, I was prepared to make my escape immediately after it was all said and done.  I didn’t want to stay in Oklahoma one second beyond what was necessary.  I’d had enough.  I’d had more than enough.

Sulfur smells permeated doors and windows.  I knew that I was getting close to the epicenter of evil.  The place where demons played with life and death and called it justice.  I’d been instructed to park in a small lot right next to Oklahoma State Penitentiary.  The contradictions tore at my soul.  Was I supposed to be here?  Michael needs me.  Was I supposed to run?  This place felt so far from God.  Before I could make up my mind, I saw one of my escorts waving at me in the distance.  Turning around, I saw an officer close off the parking lot behind me.  There was nowhere else to go.  I asked if I could take a second to finish preparing the oil that I would later anoint Michael with.  I didn’t wait for a reply.  I just finished.  Grabbing the Bible and the oil, I walked through multiple huge doors that slammed behind me.  There was no turning back.  I was sick to my stomach.  “ID!”  I was startled by the woman demanding my driver’s license.  Her tone made it clear that she hated me.  Then again, they all acted just like her.  When I got to the conference room, I immediately went to the bathroom.  Dropping to my knees, I spewed out everything in my stomach.  I guess you could say all the anxiety collectively balled its fist and punched me right in the gut.  As I sat on the floor, I wondered how I was going to keep it together.  Then, I heard a knock at the door.  “Are you ok?”  I did my best to answer convincingly.  “Just a second.”  Of course, I knew better.  I jumped up, washed my hands and splashed my face with cold water.  Be brave.

The seats were just comfortable enough.  Then, one of the state officials that I’m closest to appeared.  I guess you could say that he was an escort of sorts.  More than that, we were friends.  For over a year, he’d been a source of encouragement.  Theologically, we were on opposite ends of the spectrum.  But on a heart level, we were very close.  While I suspect that he’s opposed to the death penalty, I don’t know.  But one thing I do know is that he’s interested in making the life of this world a little gentler.  We began to talk.  The conversation quickly turned to the horror to come.  Ever so subtly, he began to inch toward what I was going to say.  Finally, I let the cat out of the bag.  I was planning on reading a modern rendition I’d constructed of the beginning of John 8.  In the narrative, an adulterous woman is brought before Jesus who the authorities planned to execute.  Jesus’ response continues to reverberate through time and space.  “You who are without sin caste the first stone.”  In my rendition, Michael Smith is thrown before the executioners.  Jesus looks at all who are gathered to execute Michael and says, “You who are without sin inject this man with poison.”  When I got done reading the rendition, my official friend quickly reacted, “Please, don’t read that.”  I didn’t figure he’d approve.

Before I knew it, the huge prison doors were closing behind me.  Whatever light there was outside, was gone.  I mumbled prayers to myself.  I’m not sure anyone heard me.  The huge doors slammed behind me, one after the other after the other.  It was as if each slam was one more ring of hell that I had to pass through to get to Michael.  I kept going.  Eyes peered through the peep holes of cells.  Others imprisoned at Oklahoma State Penitentiary were used to this ritual.  They knew exactly what was about to happen.  Occasionally, I saw a fist.  The symbol of resistance reminded me that I too had a job to keep up the resistance.  While there was nothing that I could do to stop the execution, I could be a presence, a symbol that what was happening was wrong.  When the last door slammed, I heard my friend and prison escort say, “I’ll be right here when you get back.”  I was somewhat startled.  I’d almost forgotten he was there.  When you walk through pain, it’s hard to remember that you are not alone.  I climbed the large steel steps.  Looking down through the grates beneath my feet, I could see the floor grow further and further away.  When I arrived at the top, I noticed a big group of prison officials. Quickly, I realized that this was the team whose job it was to strap Michael down to the gurney.  When they saw me, they scattered.  There is a fear that pervades everyone that is involved in these executions that what they do might reach the sun.  I guess there is a fear that I might make that happen quicker than they desired.  When they pulled back the curtain and brought me to the door of the execution chamber, I saw a familiar hooded face.  In the execution chamber, there is someone who stands next to me whose job it is to drag me out if I do anything to remotely disruptive.  This was the third time the same hooded face had escorted me into the chamber in Oklahoma.  When I remarked that he looked like a ninja, or the same as he did when I saw him last time, he immediately slammed down any small talk.  “You are going to…”  Cowards that live behind masks don’t have the strength for real human interaction.  The words he uttered next were drowned out by my fear of what was behind those doors.  “Do you have any questions?”  I knew that if I had any questions, I’d ask the officials in the room.  Ultimately though, I was struggling with a soul question, “What are you going to do to resist the evil behind that door?”  Rightfully, Michael expected more from me than just to stand there mumbling meaningless words.  He expected me to be something…a prophet that he knew would proclaim that what was happening to him was wrong.  “You’ve got to stand strong for me, Jeff!”  With multiple responsive knocks, the door opened.  Questions would now become answers whether I liked it or not.

Noises pulled me back.  The door opened.  I wasn’t prepared.  Who would be?  Isn’t murder always unexpected?  Even when it’s scheduled?  Humanity shouldn’t feel so confident in trading in life and death.  But there we were.  I was part of a theatrical presentation.  I was a character.  I was to play a part.  Something pushed me through.  The director of the execution stood in my way.  Michael was right behind him.  It was as if the director had to assert his power over the process one more time before letting me comfort the person that he was about to kill.  Words slowly spewed out of his mouth.  I don’t know why he kept talking.  I knew the parameters.  I knew what I could and couldn’t do.  I knew that I needed to ask him before I did anything.  The more he talked to me the more I felt like I was simply part of his production.  When he finally got out of the way, I quickly moved to Michael’s side.  The first thing he asked me was beyond clear, “Did the attorneys get the appeal filed?”  I didn’t know.  But what I did know was that they weren’t even going to consider it until we showed up in mass the night before.  “We pushed them in every possible way that we knew how.”  Michael made it plain.  “They ended up being like all the rest of them…just rats holding out for that paycheck.”  I didn’t know what to say.  I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit there and apologize for them.  Most of his lawyers were, are and always will be, pieces of shit.  Instead of continuing down the path of past and present shit, I said the most powerful words I could think of, “I love you very much brother.”  Michael started to cry.  Tears gently streamed down the left side of his face.  We were there.  All of each of us was there.

The anointing oil had exploded in my pocket.  It was because of the cheap plastic container I had to carry it in.  Everything was so heavy, I hadn’t noticed.  Now, I was very aware that my thigh was now all oiled up.  I got as much of it in my hand as possible.  As I leaned over, I whispered in Michael’s ear, “God lived for you.  God died for you.  God rose again for you.  God loves you more than anyone or anything ever can or will.  In this hour of peril, know that God is going to see you through.  God will be waiting on the other side with arms wide open.  Know that these words are true as you feel this oil on your forehead.  I bless you my dear friend and brother in the name of God, who is your creator, redeemer and sustainer.  Amen.”  The oil went on thick.  Streams of it went down both sides of his head.  Light reflected off of every contour of skin.  The smell was powerful and filled the room.  I guess I hoped it would reach a few other hearts in the room too, but I wasn’t holding out hope.  Execution chambers can make even the most faithful believers struggle for hope.  Before I backed away, I told Michael, “God loves you.  You are about to experience love forever.  Don’t forget to hold the gate open.”  In typical Michael-speak, he replied through the tears, “I got you bro.”  I put the oily plastic container back in my pocket.

Stepping back, I placed my hand on Michael’s ankle and began to read.  Psalm 23.  “Even though we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.”  John 8:1-11.  “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.”  John 14:1-4.  “Do not let your heart be troubled.  Michael believe in God, believe also in Christ.”  I read it all over and over again.  Everything disappeared.  It was me and him.  This wasn’t his first time hearing these words.  I could see him whispering them.  For Michael, these were no longer just words, they were a path to something beyond the horror.  Right before the execution commenced, he made me promise to tell his mom and brothers that he loved them.  While he thought they might be there, he wasn’t sure.  I was.  They’d already made it clear they weren’t going to be there.  But I simply acquiesced to everything he said at that point.  I didn’t want his last words to be ones of disagreement with me.  In the midst of it all, he kept going back and forth about whether he was going to make the last words he’d planned.  The attorneys had failed him so bad, but he didn’t want to go out with that being the last thing that he said.  “Fuck them.”  While I didn’t know what those words meant, I knew they meant something.

Curtains are a means of passage.  The movements start the show.  The movements end the show.  When the curtains move, you move or you’re moved to leave.  There was no turning back now.  The curtains controlled my reality.  The curtains controlled me.  While I did my best to keep my eyes on Michael, I couldn’t help but see Attorney General Gentner Drummond.  He was front and center.  While I don’t know if he was proud of what was happening, I do know that he wanted to be the star of the visitation gallery.  Maybe a better way of saying it is that he was seated in a place where he couldn’t be missed.  Just like always.  On some level, I can respect someone who doesn’t run and hide from the terror they cause.  But on the other hand, Drummond was now unquestionably the self-appointed Butcher of McAlester, how can anyone respect that?  Michael wanted to make him feel it.  So, did I.  I’d already told Michael exactly where he would be.  When the curtains were raised, I looked directly into Drummond’s eyes.  I stared so hard that he became visibly uncomfortable.  I wanted him to be as uncomfortable as possible.  “Don’t you dare close your eyes.”  I wanted him to have to turn his eyes back at Michael.  He did.  The tears had never stopped.  Can you imagine looking directly into the eyes of someone that you put on that gurney?  What do you think of in those last moments?  I hope that he saw the hell that he helped wrought.  I hope that Michael’s face terrorizes him every night.  Curtains can reveal so much about the hearts of humans.

When the death warrant was read, I was reminded of all of the horrors that Michael participated in.  While I’d been unable to sort it all completely out, he’d made very clear that he’d done a tremendous amount of things that he wasn’t proud of.  You can’t help but be torn into the past in moments like this.  Pain is so visceral.  Yet, it is the past that reminds you why the present is so wrong.  Murder was wrong then.  Murder is wrong now.  I noticed that the execution director’s hands were shaking.  In the gallery, I noticed that the reporter who’d regularly trashed Michael and his fierce complaints about his attorneys.  Yet another sack of shit.  Executions bring all sorts of demons together.  Michael still had small tears streaming down the left side of his face.  I felt so connected to those tears.  I prayed that they would offer some sort of redemption.  When the time came for his final statement, I’d be untruthful if I didn’t say that I desired for him to bash everyone who’d treated him so bad.  I wanted him to let people know that the horrors they’d committed hadn’t gone unnoticed.  But Michael decided differently.  When the execution director asked, Michael simply replied, “Nah, I’m good.”  I thought I saw a smirk.  In the nonchalant way he answered, I realized that he’d won.

Poison flowed.  One of the cruel tricks of those final moments is that you don’t know what’s happening until it happens.  In fact, you have no idea when the condemned will go unconscious until they’re unconscious.  Whatever you need to say, you better say it quick.  I quickly added that I loved him.  “I love you too, bro.”  Tears still formed and fell.  Michael closed his eyes.  I told him that I was there.  He nodded his head.  Psalm 23.  “Even though we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we will fear no evil.”  John 8:1-11.  “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.”  John 14:1-4.  “Do not let your heart be troubled.  Michael believe in God, believe also in Christ.”  I jumped around and tried to read as much as I could.  Repeatedly, I reminded him, “God loves you, Michael.”  It didn’t matter what I said, he never came back.

Michael closed his eyes and chose when he would leave.  I’d never seen anything like it.  In the midst of an execution, Michael chose his own time.  As his eyes watered, mine did too.  I removed my glasses.  While still reminding him of God’s love, I lifted a fist.  I told him that we would stand together in resistance until the very end.  When Michael asked how he would know that we were resisting together, I told him that I would raise my fist.  I kept it up until my arm felt like it was going to fall off.  Michael snored and gargled for much longer than I expected him to.  He sounded like he was slowly being drowned.  It was if he was being pulled underwater by his ankles until he was dead.  I’d heard the death pangs before.  Michael’s were very loud and clear.

Witnesses leaned toward the glass.  I wondered if they were proud of themselves.  So many people sitting in that room could have stopped all of it.  Their eyes got bigger and bigger.  I guess they were just enjoying the spectacle of it all.  I still had my fist up.  Movement slowed.  Noises stopped.  The hooded ninja pulled me back.  I’d almost forgotten that he was there.  Somehow though, the touch of his hand on my arm brought me back to reality.  Michael was leaving and I was to remain.  The doctor shook Michael to make sure that he was completely unconscious.  I stepped forward to read John 8:1-11 as many times as I possibly could.  “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.”  “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.”  “Let you who are without sin cast the first stone.”  The ceiling opened.  In the distance, I could see all of the other guys I’d accompanied to their executions before gathering around Michael.  A great cloud of witnesses of hope.  Michael was not alone in his journey to God.  No matter whether evil prevailed for a moment, love was always going to win in the end.  I saw it.

I saw one small tear drop down the side of Michael’s face.  I knew he was gone.  I was terrified.  Too much was happening all at once.  It was as if I felt like the drying of that tear could be the end of our relationship.  We all fear endings.  Before the tear dried up, I saw it glimmer.  My attention was directed back to the opening in the ceiling.  “We got him.”  “Behold, I am making all things right.”  Then, I was back.  Staring at the bright white light above the execution gurney.  Had it been real?  I didn’t have time to think about it.  The director of the department came out to announce that the execution was over.  Of course, he called it a success.

As the body of Michael Smith grew cold, I once more gave his soul to God.  I saw the tear glimmer once more.  I thought one more time about what I saw.  Then, it was gone.  It was time to go.

I ran out.  Not literally of course.  I was just ready to go.  I hugged the department official to thank him for not leaving me alone.  Even though our beliefs were different, I knew that he cared.  The doors kept slamming.  As far as I was concerned, let them slam.  In fact, I felt like they couldn’t slam fast enough.  When the last doors finally slammed, the light was overwhelming.  I did my best to recount everything that happened.  I still don’t know if anybody heard me.

I drove home alone.  In fact, I was more than alone.

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