Changed Forever
by Karen Sebung
Executive Director    

I can't even really tell you when I met Michael Sharp. It was through a letter sent in a letter from Gene Hathorn--- probably nearly 2 years ago. We were discussing the LHP already back then before I had gotten involved. Last January I made the decision to commit my "free time" to the LHP and that's when Michael and I got to know each other really well. I figured if Michael could take a stand on behalf of the other prisoners which cost him his freedom, then I needed to take a more activist stand on working against the death penalty .After that, Michael and I were in constant correspondence. He and I worked so well together that I teased him that we would be absolutely dangerous together in the free world. The amount of work he and I could put out together was phenomenal--always with Michael shouldering the greater load. Over time, we became the best of friends.

It still seems unreal that they killed him. I sat at the cemetery last Saturday and cried "How could they have done this to you???" The death penalty is strictly about vengeance perpetrated to further political goals. Even murder victims' families are further victimized by this insanity .The grief process has been outlined by Elizabeth Kuebler Ross, an expert in die field. The stages are: denial & isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Many victims' rights groups keep people stuck in the anger stage. And as long as one is stuck in that stage, healing cannot occur . People do not realize that this it what is happening to them. They are also made to feel guilty if they move on from their anger. If they don't stay angry, maybe they didn't really care enough for their loved one. But only compassion and reconciliation can bring the healing for which they yearn.

My life was changed forever as I watched them kill Michael. A person gets a new understanding of what it meant to sit at the foot of the cross. I was horrified to see how quickly a life which God has given could be extinguished--and that all being very legal. What a waste!! On so many counts. Had someone been there to help Michael all those many years ago when he was struggling with some very difficult issues, he would never have had to go to death row. The papers portrayed Michael as a heartless killer with a deep- seated rage. The truth is that was not at all what was at the core of Michael's being. Michael was a beautiful child of God. God doesn't make junk. Not EVER! ! Deep inside Michael, the little boy which God created was always present. Yes, he lost his way over time. Many extremely hurtful experiences filled him with so much pain--many of those experiences garnered during Michael's first stay in TDCJ. When the pain became too much, Michael expressed it as rage. And that type of rage is experienced by only the most sensitive of men. The greater the rage, the greater the sensitivity underneath. Michael was both saint and sinner, as are we all. When Michael began his walk with God, he let go of much of the pain and all of the rage. He let the Lord quiet his soul, heal his wounds so that they became scars, and he found peace in his heart and soul. Michael truly had the peace which passes understanding.

And let us not forget the victims who are most often forgotten in this ordeal--- Michael's family and friends. Michael wanted me to learn from witnessing his execution. I learned so much in that short time. I learned how things must change NOW! !--even as the executions continue. -I learned that it isn't right for people not to be able to have photos of a loved one until they are DEAD! ! I saw them touch his corpse. All of us wanted to finally touch him. The first time in over 15 years that his family had been able to touch him--after he was DEAD! ! That is wrong! ! I know his friends would have submitted to the most intrusive body searches imaginable if it meant that they would have been able to give him a hug before the execution. I suspect his family would have felt the same. I seriously doubt that any of us would have presented any threat at all to security . People talk about closure for the murder victims' family .What about closure for the family of the executed? Are they any less important? Is their grief and loss any less real?

The greatest thing which Michael did for me was to teach me to pray with others. So I leave you with this prayer.

"God of compassion and mercy whose presence is felt even in the darkest of times, the Almighty who knows all and understands all, I thank You for the life of Michael Sharp. I thank you for letting his life touch mine. For Michael's guidance in helping me and so many others grow in our faith in You. I join You in celebration of Michael's new life in Christ Jesus, who loved Michael and had compassion on him.

I pray for the families of all murder victims. May they feel Your healing touch and Your presence in their lives so that they may fwd acceptance and peace and be open to reconciliation. I pray for the men and women on Death Row, that they may be kept safe from any harm and that they learn to know your love and the peace which comes with the knowledge of Christ as Savior. I pray for the family and friends of those on Death Row. Comfort these people as they struggle to support their loved ones and battle for their lives. I pray especially today (12-9- 97) for Michael Lockhart and his loved ones. Give them strength and courage as they face Michael's execution this evening. Comfort those who love him in their sorrow. I pray for all guards and employees of TDCJ--especially those who work on the Ellis Unit. Help them to always act professionally and compassionately in their dealings. Help them to see that respect will be met with respect. I pray for those who execute prisoners, that they be forgiven for this sinful act. I pray for our politicians. Help them to be leaders who work for the good of all people in our society.

I pray for all those whose hearts are cold and filled with hatred for murderers. If their hatred stems from their own pain, I pray that they will fwd healing and then find love and compassion. And I pray for those in our society who have yet to become murderers. I pray that some gentle soul will reach out to them in their pain and lead them to Your healing touch before their pain leads to a rage which is destructive. Lead us in healing our society at its very core. Help us to spread Your peace and love in every aspect of our lives.

I look forward to the day when I will be reunited with Michael at the everlasting feast at Your table, Lord God. Lead me and guide me in Your way until that day of celebration comes for me. I ask all of this in the mane of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen" And Michael, I hope you haven't forgotten to ask God if you can be the LHP angel!! :-)