Ken raised his three sons in a squeaky-clean suburb of Los Angeles. He envisioned fatherhood as coaching their sports teams, taking them to church (where he was the pastor), and visiting colleges one day. Instead, he got an education on the street names of opioids, fluency in rehab vernacular, and an insider’s view of the California prison system, when his middle son, Lucas, accidentally killed a man with his car while high on heroin. Ken was tormented by doubt. What did I do wrong as a dad? Will my son ever be okay? Will my marriage survive this trauma? Estranged from his son, Ken strived to rebuild their relationship. Face-to-face visits made them feel like they were in a fishbowl and phone calls were interrupted with inmates screaming. Letter writing turned out to be the best way to connect. Writing the letters proved cathartic for Ken. And they were clarifying for Lucas, as he made sense of losing his way, ultimately writing a heart-wrenching apology to the widow of his victim. The written word became the perfect medium for a father to reconnect with his son—and himself. Ken is most revealing, however, about the impact all this had on his faith. To go from the podium to the back pew and then out the back door disoriented him. How could he redefine his faith outside the four walls of religion? With a distinct voice and disarming honesty, Letters to My Son in Prison offers a candid snapshot of fatherhood, a refreshing take on marriage, and a creative vision of faith.
In 2010, I co-authored a successful business book called Beyond the 401(k). Personal writing, however, didn’t start until 2016, when my son was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, DUI. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. Early in Lucas’s incarceration I journaled just to keep my sanity. Then I began writing letters to him and we reconnected in a beautiful way. Eventually this led to my soul-baring memoir, Letters to My Son in Prison, How a Father and Son Found Forgiveness for an Unforgiveable Crime.
Long relationships know the ricochet of blame and the circularity of grace. I will do plenty in my life to deserve blame. And if I want grace, then I need to give it. Don't be arrogant, Ken. Don't allow the log in your eye to get in the way of removing the splinter in my partner's. Be humble.
Letters to my Son in Prison
But I have no idea what Joyce thought at that moment. And to be honest, I don’t think I could’ve handled it if she’d said that. I was just too fragile; I think I would’ve broken down right there. But, like me, Joyce had been humbled by life and parenting. We were two chastened souls, and she was in no mood to point fingers. She knew the ricochet of blame and the circularity of grace.