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Essay: "Courage"

by Perry A. Austin
Some say that to know the exact date and time of one’s death and yet still be able to walk calmly to it, with head held high, takes an extraordinary amount of courage.

In a state where the assembly line of death has sped up while other states have slowed down or put there’s on hold, where the legislature and judicial system and where the majority of its citizens are so rabidly pro-death penalty, most of us know deep down that the chances of a reprieve are very, very slim. That we too will eventually take that final short walk to the gurney and face what everyone in this world will one day face in the end.

The constant specter of death hovers over us all here on death row, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Yet the men and woman on death row continue to fight, continue to hope, continue to live for another day.

Some say that courage is the ability to face death calmly, or without fear. But to me, it takes more courage to live. Courage to wake up each day with the certainty of knowing that nothing has changed, that your future holds nothing but more pain and heartache, more loneliness. Courage to wake each day knowing that even though you are surrounded by life, by hundreds of other human beings, you are still alone with yourself, alone with your past. To me, death would be a welcome relief from the daily gut-wrenching pain of despair and hopelessness. A simple step. But do I have the courage to take that step? No.