Death Row Takes a Snow Day
I am fast asleep when I hear him. My son. William. His voice is sweet and small.
The shower is running. Todd is already up. I smell soap. Faintly.
Over and around me, the bed linens have achieved that exquisite warmth and softness that peaks between the hours of five and seven AM. The stool at the foot of my bed knocks against the foot board as William climbs over it. One tiny leg, then the other.
“Mom,” he says. He lays his head on my shoulder. “Look outside.”
I sit up, turn around, and take it in. The snow. And really, you’d have to live in the south to see the snow the way we see it. Beautiful, special and dangerous all at once.
The bed is centered against a large window. The shade is up. William and I rest our arms on the headboard like Charlie Brown and Linus at the retaining wall, and we scan the frosted landscape.
There are, at this point in the morning, no footprints. No tire tracks. The skateboard my daughter forgot to put back into the garage, like the Monster energy drink that was carelessly tossed into our front yard by a teenaged pedestrian, is hidden. Out of sight. Every crack in the sidewalk, every weed we neglected to pull, every sin left out in the weather, is indiscriminately covered in a forgiving six-inch blanket of snow.
School is canceled. Work is delayed.
Vowing to make the most of this gift, this catch of free time, we busy ourselves. We make pancakes. Build snowmen. I clean my closet for the first time since forever. Since the last time it snowed.
In Jackson, Georgia, about two hundred miles from us, Kelly Renee Gissendaner learns that her execution will be postponed.
Gissendaner was to be put to death this week for the 1997 murder of her husband. She was to be the first woman executed in Georgia in 70 years. But it is snowing. The execution will have to wait until Monday when roads and schedules are clear.
I think about Gissendaner on and off throughout the day. I wonder about her. How will she pass the extra days that have been granted to her by the snow? How does she feel about it, this catch of free time? Does it feel like a gift, an answer to prayer, or is it prolonging her anxiety?
I think of Gissendaner’s daughter, Kayla. She was only seven when she lost her mother and father to prison and murder. Seven. The same age as my son.
The afternoon sun warms the air, and by lunch time, the slush-slick snow slides off of our metal roof in sheets. Drips from the trees like rain. The ground, and all that litters it, slowly reappears. It is almost over, this break from reality. And I am a little down about all of us returning to our respective routines, but I am also a little relieved.