I’ll be there tonight

May 19, 2010 | 6 p.m. EST

Dear Friends:

This afternoon I had a 25-minute conversation with Rogelio. He was already in the Walls Unit, in Huntsville, in a room next to the execution chamber.  With him was a chaplain. He was drinking sweet iced tea and had asked for a cigarette. They had offered him some cookies from a tray nearby but he refused because he wanted to save room for his last meal: beef and cheese enchiladas, two cheeseburgers, fried chicken and strawberry cake. He hadn’t eaten all day because he wanted to be able to eat everything.

He was in amazingly good spirits, at peace understanding that even though technically it was still possible for the courts to intervene, he will likely be dying at 6 this evening. He spoke of “three amazing days” of visits with his beloved Norma and his family. The days were divided into 10-15 minute visits with each of his siblings and Norma. Pictures of them together were taken and he promised that Norma would share them.

“It was good,” he said. “Very, very good.”

He spoke of his sister’s breaking down during one visit and his admonishing her not to. “Don’t tell me not to cry,” she shot back. “I raised you and I’ll cry if I feel like it.”

“’OK,’” I told her. “’OK, cry, go ahead.’ She needed to get it out of her system. I can understand that. But I can’t do that, I don’t have the luxury.”

About his execution, he said: “I’ve always been a realist, so I knew this was coming. But I don’t feel any fear. I’m proud that I’m OK. I won’t allow myself the luxury of weakness. If I die, I will die with my head held high. If I have to go, it is what it is. I’m going to a better place, better than what I’ve been in all these years.”

I told him about the many wonderful comments and prayers on this blog site and he asked that I pass on his gratitude “for everyone who reached out to me, who understood, who supported me. I appreciate it and thank you them for it. An injustice was done but I’m a big man and I have held my head high.”

He said that the last time he came close to being executed he wasn’t ready. “But I’m ready this time.”

After our call, he was planning to speak with his siblings, Isabelle, Tina and his attorney. And, of course, Norma.

“I don’t have any last words thought out,” he said. “Of course, I’m going to express my gratitude.” He expressed regret that “it’s going to mess with them (his loved ones who will witness the execution) bad.”

He said he’d been talking to the chaplain about the drug administered to put him to sleep before they administer the lethal injection. “He said it is just like when they put you under for surgery,” he said. “You don’t feel a thing.” And he talked about “los queridos” (the loved ones) who have gone on before him.

“They will be waiting for me,” he said. “I’ll be there tonight.”

Later, he said he is sure there is a God, “and I have to get right with God, whatever that Supreme Being is.”

His cigarette arrived, a Marlboro Lite, and he lit up. I could hear him inhaling and savoring. “Man,” he said, laughing. “I’m smokin’ now! That’s the first cigarette I’ve had in 17 years.”

I asked how it tasted.

“Man,” he said again. Then he started coughing. “This stuff is bad for you. Cigarettes will kill you,” he said, then he started laughing at his own joke.

He talked about the conversation he’d had with the warden when he arrived, when the warden explained the procedure to him. He told the warden that when 6 o’clock came he was not going to walk into the execution chamber.

“I’m just going to lie down and they’ll have to carry me in,” he explained. “I’m not going to walk in there voluntarily. The warden said he understood.

Finally, he thanked me for my friendship and support. “Wherever that it is that I’ll end up, I’ll be looking down on you and taking care of you. Well, maybe not down, but I’ll be looking at you, and taking care of you.”

When I found out last night that I could speak to him today, I was not looking forward to it. I was scared. I had heard he had been in bad shape during the first part of the week and I didn’t know what condition he would be in, and I didn’t know what condition I’d be in. But within seconds of the start of the conversation, I was at ease. It was as if I was sitting in front of him, looking through the plate glass partition on a regular visit. I have been dreading this day for weeks, and my heart has been heavy with grief, but following our conversation, I feel as if a great weight has been lifted. It got an opportunity to say goodbye to my friend and he reassured me that he is OK.

When I got home a while ago, there were two letters from Rogelio, his last two, with several blog entries. I will post them later. I don’t have the strength to do that tonight.

I just heard that the Fifth Circuit Court had turned down Rogelio’s appeal. It is being appealed but his lawyers don’t have much hope, so in about an hour, Rogelio will be carried into that room. He’ll say his final words and he’ll be gone.

— Juan Ramon Palomo

Washington

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16 Responses to “I’ll be there tonight”

  1. Christiane Bitz Says:

    …just to say that I’m by your side Rogelio..
    Love
    Christiane

  2. mat Says:

    I only knew Rogelio from reading this blog. I must say it sadden me, what is happening. He seems like a nice person. Everybody makes mistakes, and taking someone’s life is just never right. I never posted in comments here before, so i guess its time to say a final thank you to Roy for sharing his thoughts and you other folks who gave atleast a little sense to his life and also for making it possible for us – strangers, to read this blog.

    mat from europe

  3. Petra Says:

    Thank you Juan for sharing this very personal phone conversation you had with Roy. I’ve been thinking about Roy all day.

  4. Marie Says:

    God bless you and your family and friends

  5. Françoise Says:

    Thanks to you, dear Juan, we were with Roy, this night, and we still are! As I wrote right now on Isabelle’s French blog, it is still not yet 01.00 a.m., is it?
    Thank you so much and thank you to Norma for her beautiful prayer. We all are with Roy and with you, hoping until the last minute.
    Love to all Roy’s family, sisters, nieces and to Norma.

  6. Toni Says:

    Roy was such a caring person. I am sickened bout what is going to happen to him tonight. I will contnue to pray for him and his family.

  7. Kiki Says:

    Dear Juan;
    a tremendously big THANK YOU for having been such a wonderful friend to Rogelio. By my time he is NOW no longer with us and I will pray for his voyage to a better place. I will pray again and again – for Norma, his family, his many, many friends and hope that all those broken hearts may mend – sometime…. I shall comment more when I am in better shape. just THANK YOU AGAIN for everything you’ve done for Rogelio. You were and are an astonishing friend and ‘solicitor’ to him – being at his side and being his mentor!
    Love from me and my husband too.
    Kiki

  8. Tina Church Says:

    God bless you Juan, Isabelle, Norma, and all. to be absent of the body is to be present with our Lord.

  9. Petra Says:

    I just heard the sad news. Rogelio is now in a better place. My thoughts are with his family.

  10. Françoise Says:

    Tina, Petra, do your last messages mean that our Rogelio left?
    Is Rogelio “Present with our Lord”.
    We have had the privilege to know him. He let us share some of his thoughts, some emotions and terrible moments of his life. We respected and love him so much for that. Our sadness is so deep but let us be happy for him : he now will know that better world and finally be in peace.
    All our affection to his beloved.
    We keep you forever in our heart, dear Roy

  11. Susana Says:

    @Juan, sir my respect n condolences to u. This site has so helped me change my mind about the death penalty, thank u for opening my understanding.

    @Norma, I know very little about u, only that u r in pain. My heart goes out to u.

    To you both, I will be praying for you both n ur families that God will heal your hearts

  12. Jan Says:

    Juan: You courage to walk with Rogelio is a real ministry, not just to him but to so many other people that see, hear and are moved. Thank you for giving him a voice.
    Jan

  13. Nickie Says:

    Juan – thank you for sharing, you have been such a wonderful friend. At least Roy went peacefully, knowing peope cared and loved him, with dignity and even a fine sense of humor.
    Warm sympathy to his family and friends.

  14. Christine Says:

    Dear Juan,

    I don’t know you, but I want to thank you for this blog, for your friendship and honesty with Roy. I am happy he is gone in peace and dignity, and that he could say good bye to his beloved, also to you. I think of Norma and all family members. Thank you for this sharing of humanity.
    I wish you the best for the future and take care of yourself
    Friendly regards, Christine

  15. Kiki Says:

    A special warm hug for Norma who will be going through hell…..
    a big Thank You for allowing this blog, the sharing of ‘what is going on’ in those cells, the atrocities here and there, for telling about things we couldn’t even imagine; I feel so sorry for the unhappy human beings who are trapped in their hate, narrow-mindedness, their lack of forgiveness and understanding and I pray to God that I will never be in a situation where I cannot forgive.
    And again; THANK YOU to all of you, family, Juan, Isa, Tina and all those I could read in the past times, all those who did good for this man, who opened his understanding, who taught him…. A tremendous THANK YOU to my dear friend Isa who introduced me to Rogelio. She is one of the warmest, most honest and truly most wonderful people I’ve met in my whole life.
    Love to all
    Kiki

  16. velda garcia Says:

    To Juan Thanks for being there for Roy and his family it is good to know that he had you by his side. He really was a good person and that is good that he went to be with his mom and the good Lord. He will no longer have to suffer and go through all those bad things that they did to him.

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