If you have a heart, this letter should break it. If you have eyes, it should cause them to weep. I am about to share with you the text of a final letter from a dying Christian prisoner to his mother.
So important were its contents that he refused to post it for fear the censors would tear it up. Instead he entrusted it to a fellow prisoner who had four more years to serve. But after four years, he was not released. He memorized it and passed it on to a friendly guard, who told a soldier friend who was on his way to Tibet. The friend told his mother, who telephoned the prisoner’s mother with the text of the letter—five years after it was written, and three years after his death!
Oh, my mother, dear mother!
I have not been a good son! I have brought disgrace upon you and all the family. I hope you can forgive me. I am dying.
You brought me up to be a good boy. You gave me food, love and affection. And what did I do to repay you? I daubed an antigovernment slogan on the wall and got life imprisonment. Life imprisonment when my life was only eighteen years old. You raised me for more than this. I am sorry.
And now your son is 31. He will not live past 33. I have cancer of the intestines, and my jailers will not pay for the operation. Instead of working underground in the mine, I mind a tiny storage shed full of rusty tins and tools. I retch all day. No one comes near.
But at least I can look over the desert and watch the shifting of the sands. For eight years I never saw the sunlight. I was taken from the barracks through a tunnel to the mine. A room, a corridor, and a shaft were all the worlds I had. Now my world is bigger but it is coming to an end. There is no hope.
And so I have sat on my stool and thought for many hours. I cried many tears, mostly for the things I never did. I never kissed a woman. I never owned even a toothbrush. Never received a pay check never ate a gourmet meal, never built a kite for an excited child. Above all, I never said how much I owed you and never said how sorry I am to grieve you—until now. Boys were not made to bring their mothers such sorrow; otherwise no one would have them.
I have come to two conclusions: One is that this is not the only world there is. I cannot believe I went through the miracle of birth to live a life like this, I believe there is another world where there is a table I can choose to sit at, sip the finest wines, eat to my heart’s content, make friends with whomever I like, speak without fear, and not be marched away when the half-hour gong is sounded.
And I also believe there is someone there—who is also here—who sits at the head of that table. A fellow prisoner told me of one who said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I do not know what that really means. All I can say is when I heard the words, I felt a relief, that my death was not the end, and my life was not in vain.
My dying charge to you, my mother, is find out who spoke those words, so that we may dine together with Him. Your poor son.