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March 2024 Issue [Readings]

Up and Down Together

From letters written from and to Terry Lynn King, who has been an inmate on Tennessee’s death row since 1985. The correspondence was included in Death Row Welcomes You, by Steven Hale, which was published this month by Melville House.

terry king to a woman who was paralyzed at age twenty-two

I hope and trust this letter finds you doing well. As for me, I am doing great. As you may know last night I had the privilege of meeting your father and brother. We had an awesome visit. I wish you could have been there. I hope I get to meet you someday.

I would like to begin this brief letter by saying I know what it is like to feel as if life is over with. When I was twenty-two years old I was sentenced to death. I have been incarcerated for thirty-six years this August. I know what it is like to be twenty-two and believe that life is over with. I know what it is like to be twenty-two and feel trapped with nowhere to go. I know what it is like to be twenty-two and hear about friends doing things that you can’t. I know what it is like to be twenty-two and believe life is passing you by. I know what it is like to be twenty-two and feel everything you do seems hopeless. I know what it is like to be twenty-two and feel trapped in a prison. I know what it is like to be so depressed that it hurts even to get up out of bed. I know those things because I have experienced them but I have outlived them all.

I am here to tell you that there is hope, joy, happiness, peace, and freedom that awaits you. I have all that in spite of my circumstances . . . I write you from prison sitting on death row and my life is so blessed. I truly believe in my heart you will never meet a more blessed person than me. God is so good to me.

Please believe me . . . I have never been more free and at peace in my entire life. I know without any doubt in my mind that I have been forgiven and I thank GOD for that. My prayer for you is that you find happiness and peace regardless of your current circumstances. I assure you that many blessings are right around the corner.

king to death row inmate edmund zagorski, days before zagorskis execution

I wanted to put a few of my thoughts on paper for you. First, I want you to know my heart is sad concerning you. For reasons I may not be able to tell you in this letter (because I don’t have the vocabulary) and most certainly I can’t muster the words in person, but my heart is just completely broken and I am struggling to find the words to say that “I MISS YOU RIGHT NOW” even though you have not gone anywhere.

You need to know that this ENTIRE unit is having a difficult time accepting the possibility that the state may kill you this Thursday. I am trying to think of ways I can help you.

I want you to know that I have drawn strength from you by witnessing what a strong man you are. This afternoon I watched as you went to Corporal Amazon and thanked him for allowing you to go around the unit speaking to different folks. Watching you interact with others I get a quick look into how you seem to be handling everything. Seeing firsthand the peace and resolve you have gives me hope.

I was recalling today when you and I used to order ice cream at the old prison. You ordered it one day and I ordered it the next so we could have ice cream twice a week. Do you remember that? :–)

I have enjoyed our conversations over the many years. Has it been thirty-three years? That sure is a long time. I also recall when you would say “Terry can you hook me up with one of those Disney movies?” I just asked you to wake me up when you were done watching them, remember? :–)

Well I guess I will close this out and no matter what may come PLEASE KNOW I will have you in my prayers always. Also I wanted you to know my family is praying for you. Take care and stay strong, my brother. I love you, my friend. GOD BLESS YOU.

death row inmate lee hall to king, sent in a christmas card days before halls execution

I’ve known you longer than anyone here, since 1994. So I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your friendship. You’ve done a lot for me. You’re like a brother to me. We’ve both been up and down together. We did football and baseball playoffs. I cherish a lot of those memories of knowing you. I hope you get the break you’re looking for in the courts sooner or later. Thanks for everything. I hope you have a good holiday under any circumstances. I hope the holiday goes well for you and I hope you enjoy the concert.

P.S. I’m going to be pulling for your Bills all the way.

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March 2024

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