My name is Teresa and this is my story.
I am a survivor of prison. I was never in prison except for the day I was born. I am dedicating this testimony to my mother. She was an amazing woman. I was born on Friday the 13th in prison. I was born illegitimate and an inmate. At that time, you were allowed to keep your baby, and I was with my mom for six months. I was then put in a foster home and not returned to her till I was three.
Families struggle just as much as the inmates do
I wish I could say that is where my story ends. My mom was in and out of prison my whole life. I feel that she always did the best she could for me and my younger sister. Unfortunately the things that she did, well, tended to take her back to prison. They say that there is survival in all kinds of illnesses like cancer, leukemia, but nobody ever says you are a survivor of prison. There should be. Families struggle just as much as the inmates do. I missed my mom when she went away. She missed so much of our lives. My mom took her life in 1999 because she was again facing incarceration.
Since the day I was born, they said I was guaranteed one day to end up in my mother’s shoes. I didn’t. Because the one thing I think that she taught me was that I was worthy of a better life — a better life and a better destiny that I could build on my own. During the times my mom was out of jail and my sister and I were out of foster care, my mother always made sure we had a roof over our heads.
Christmas in a Station Wagon
One Christmas we were living in a station wagon. As my sister and I slept, my mom spent the night decorating the car with Christmas decorations. We woke up to Christmas with presents. It wasn’t much but it was also everything to us. That was a special moment that I will always think fondly of.
I chose to embrace the positive experiences I have had rather than the destructive encounters. That is the choice you can make, and that I made. That doesn’t mean that you stop loving your inmate (your loved one.) It just means that you have the right to make choices in your life to make them better. I will never forget my mother and all the love that she has given me. She was amazing. And she raised an amazing daughter. And I know that she loved me. So I am worthy to be my mother’s daughter.
My mother’s family turned away from her. Maybe because she lied, stole, cheated; it hurt them. I guess that is what happens when your family member is an inmate. But my mom taught me something – that family never turns away from family. Love is deep when it comes to your blood.
Kairos Brought Me Closer to God
When I attended a Kairos Outside weekend, the love and support I received was amazing. Being able to talk to other women with similar stories made me feel not so alone. Most importantly, it brought me closer to God. My mother was an atheist and God was not a word in our lives as a child. But the funny thing was when she needed childcare, she always sent us to churches that offered care, maybe because it was cheaper. Well that is where I first realized God’s love. And because He forgave us for our sins, I knew I had to forgive my mother’s sins. With her and God’s love, I knew I could break the cycle that was given me the day I was born.
My destiny was prison. The prison that I lived in, in her shadows, and behind bars. My mom may have been in prison, but I was the one serving the sentence. But with the support of Kairos, I found a new destiny. And that destiny is being able to tell my story. By sharing it with you, I feel like I am breaking the chains that have held me for so long.