Laura Sheehan in London’s Human writes

November 2, 2009
Laura  Sheehan
Hi all
I hope everyone is well.
I went to a human writes conference (the charity that sets up penfriendships to inmates) in London yesterday. They had asked me in advance if I would talk for a few minutes about my friendship with Mark. This is the speech I prepared. I’ve sent a copy of it to Mark and I wanted you all to read it too. It’s not perfect because I’m not a natural writer or public speaker! and it probably didnt come out exactly how I wrote it because I was really nervous (there were a lot of people there!) But I put my heart into it and the copy is below:
Take care, Laura x

I have been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, about what I should say and what I should talk about. I have a lot of stories I could tell you, some sad, some funny – though don’t even get me started on anything political! Just say the words ‘Lockdown’ or ‘Johnny Sack’ to me, and I’ll more than likely talk for hours on end, with some fury I should add, about what I think and what needs to be done to bring about change.

I was halfway through writing, admittedly it was all broken sentences and vague anecdotes which I couldn’t really do any justice to within a 3 minute speech as such. Ultimately, what I really wanted to talk about was my friend Mark. This month he turns 40 and I thought, what better way to pay tribute to him? I was struggling to find the perfect words because, maybe I’m just illiterate – but I couldn’t find words that can emphasize just how important and special Mark is.

Then today, (Tuesday), on the day I resolved to finally sit down and write – I heard that his federal appeal had just been denied. I was expecting to hear the results at any time but somehow it still managed to floor me. I don’t know what the future holds, or what is around the corner, so for today, I’ll put the stories on hold and I’ll just try and explain to you as best as I can, how awesome my best friend is.

Proverbs 18 verse 24 says, ‘There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ and I am very blessed to have such a friend.

I will always be grateful to Human Writes, without whom, I would never have met Mark.

Mark has been on Texas death row for 8 years and I have known him for 4. Our bond was instant thanks to a shared love of rock and roll, and I know it will last forever. This was confirmed the very first time I went to Texas to meet him, the familiarity made me feel as though I had known him all my life and we spent 2 very happy visits laughing and talking as though we had all the time in the world. This made saying goodbye even harder, the time went so fast but it strengthened our friendship and our letters became more frequent. I went to see him again this year, and once again had a great time. Unfortunatley our visits were cut short due to the swine flu outbreak, we had managed to get 4 visits this time around but when I returned to the unit on the 3rd day, I was turned away. It was the saddest thing to have to leave but I’m glad I got to see him at all, as some people missed all of their visits with their friends.

Mark is truly an amazing man, it may sound clichéd but he really does have a heart the size of Texas, he is warm and very very funny, sometimes It will take me forever just to read one page of his letters because I’m laughing so much. He is very smart and he has taught me some very interesting things. He also has a very generous and giving nature. The very little that he has, he would give to anybody he felt had a greater need for it – It would probably embarrass him if I told you, that if he see’s anyone going without commissary, he’ll share his, or that every year he see’s to it that a birthday present arrives at my door. Last year, money for a tattoo, this year a wonderful gift he put so much thought into and paid for even though I don’t expect him to or want him to knowing that he needs it but he never ever puts himself first. And he does the same thing for all of his family and loved ones.

Because of him, my life has been enriched, as ours is a friendship that before, I did not know existed, it is a friendship of unconditional love like that of family.  I always know without fail the exact day that mail from him will come through the door, we seem to have a habit too, of writing letters to each other on the same date! I call it Mark radar, he calls it spooky, either way we’re on the same wavelength!  Because of him I am a stronger and braver person, there is no way I would have ever travelled all by myself anywhere, let alone Texas but I did it to see him. There is no way I would be standing here and talking to a room full of people but I am doing just that!

Everybody, who meets him, loves him, myself included and I am very proud to be his best friend, as he is mine.  I am also glad that he has the love and support of many brilliant people, a supportive and loving girlfriend called Dani, friends he has known since way back in the day  and new friends he has met along the way.

There is one lady in particular, who I have had the pleasure of meeting twice now. Her name is Irene. I’m sure those of you who have visited the Polunsky unit have met her too. Irene is a spiritual advisor to many of the inmates on death row. She is in her eighties and up until recently, she has without fail, visited the unit on a daily basis for many, many years. She had a bout of ill health which meant she had to very reluctantly stop visiting for a few months but as soon as she felt well enough, she was back visiting again. She is a remarkable woman and I have great admiration for her. She is an advisor to Mark and provides him with words of comfort and encouragement, reads the bible to him and is an all round wonderful friend to him. She will be there with Mark if they ever take him. Mark asked me last year if I would be there too on his final day, I hope and pray that day never comes but I will be by his side if it does, though just thinking about it breaks my heart.

As I said before, I do not know what is around the corner, what I do know is that we will ride out the storms together. He will ALWAYS have a friend in me, come what may, and a part of me will always belong to Texas. I love it there and even though I’ve only been twice, I hope to go many more times – it’s like my second home. I have an affinity with the place, and I just so happen to be best friends with the coolest Texan there.



Speak Out!

September 4, 2008

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