The Final Visit: Minutes with David Hosier

The Final Visit: Minutes with David Hosier June 11, 2024



The Final Visit: Minutes with David Hosier


Prisons are all the same.  You hurry up to wait.  Nothing happens when they tell you it’s going to.  You are forced to just sit.  The process of my final visit with David Hosier was anything but smooth.  You don’t dare complain.  They could very easily kick you out.  Through it all, you are just left alone with your thoughts.


Though I’d had such final visits before, this one was different.  David Hosier was unsettled.  I wracked my brain around what I should say.  When the last door finally opened, I decided to be ready.  Sometimes life is nothing more than a choice to be ready.


David looked horrible.  Though he’d told me earlier in the day that he wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t expect him to look like this.  His face was devoid of color.  There was a greyness that permeated his entire being.  The booth was cold and sterile.  I picked up a phone to talk to David through the glass.  Each word seemed more labored than before.  I could tell his heart was weakening.  In fact, I knew it was breaking.


Before I could jump into planned words, David wanted to talk about the lawyers.  “Have they filed anything that might stop the execution?”  I shook my head.  “Are they still trying to beg the governor to reconsider the clemency decision?”  I shook my head.  “Is there any chance that this thing might be stopped?”  I shook my head.  The mood changed.  It was as if the head shakes allowed us to rest in a space of finality.  When your direction is certain, I guess it’s easier to settle in for the journey.


We started with a reading of Psalm 59.  I knew that David would be invigorated by the intensity of the language.  The Psalm is filled with phrasings of a great battle between good and evil.  “Deliver me from my enemies, O God.”  “Save me from those who are after my blood.”  “Fierce men conspire against me for no offense or sin of mine.”  “For the curses and lies they utter, consume them in your wrath.”  “You, God, are my fortress.”  The truth is that I will never know who killed Angela and Rodney Gilpin.  The only thing that I know is that David was 100% convinced that it wasn’t him.  It’s not my job to change his mind.  It’s my job to meet him along the way and walk with him for a time.  I knew Psalm 59 would help him continue walking.


Though his breathing grew more labored.  We went through a liturgy of repentance.  If we’re conscious, I think it’s only right that we all get the opportunity to confess any last things.  When I asked David if he had anything he wanted to confess, he asked if we could do a blanket confession for both of us.  I didn’t hesitate.  Together we read Psalm 51.  “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out all of our transgressions.”  I wanted to make the meaning of the Psalm very clear.  “David Hosier, God has granted you absolution and remission of all of your sins.  The grace and consolation of the Holy Spirit guide you now and forevermore.”  I don’t think he was expecting me to make the sign of the cross over him.  David isn’t exactly Catholic.  When I finished, he asked if we could read some of the New Testament.


Time was drawing short.  I quickly flipped to John 8.  The passage is famous for Jesus’ admonition to the religious authorities who were gathered to execute an adulterous woman.  “Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”  I could tell that David felt every word.  In fact, he said, “How many of the executioners tonight will be without sin?”  One of the pieces of the story that people often miss is that Jesus gave his famous admonition from the dirt with the woman.  If the execution had commenced, Jesus was prepared to die with her.  I assured David that Jesus would be there with him on the gurney.  Indeed, closer than he could ever imagine.  David’s reply came quickly, “You will be too.  But I need you to keep on living.  There are a bunch of other folks out there who need you too.”


Sensing the tears welling up in both of our eyes, I pressed on.  I wanted to make sure I got to everywhere he wanted me to.  John 14 is Jesus’ vision of heaven that he blesses us with.  I read it at every execution.  It moves my heart so.  David and I have read it many times over the last few days.  “Let not your hearts be troubled.”  “I go to prepare a place for you.”  “I am the way.”  I am the truth.”  “I am the light.”  Though familiar, the phrases hit differently.  David began to heave and weep.  When I asked if he was ok, he told me to keep going.


The guard was growing impatient.  I knew it was time to go.  So, I stood up and read his favorite verse, 2 Timothy 4:7.  Only this time, it was explicitly for him, “David you have fought the good fight, you have finished the race, you have kept the faith.”  I put my hand on the glass.  We were both crying.  I told him that I’d see him tonight.  I told him he wouldn’t walk alone.  I told him I loved him.  I told him…. Then, it was all over.  I felt the guard guide me out of the booth with her hand.  Quickly, I turned around and blessed him, “In the name of the God who created you, redeems you and will never leave you.”  The prison was so much colder when I left.  I couldn’t wait to get outside.


Right before I exited the building, the receptionist encouraged me to, “Have a great day.”  For a second, I stopped and turned, “Don’t you think that’s a weird thing to say when y’all are about to kill someone?”  I didn’t wait for a reply.  The weather was hot.  So, I sat in my car for a good minute to allow my soul to thaw back out.




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