Buddy: thank you and farewell

This is Isabelle’s account of her last conversation with Rogelio shortly before he was executed. I apologize for the bad translation (from the  original French), which I did using Google and my minimal French skills. It is my hope that as soon as she can, Isabelle will provide a better translation. It was Isabelle who first introduced me to Rogelio about 13 years ago, and it was she who pleaded with me that I write to him. Had it not been for her, I would never have gotten to know this amazing person. She has since become one of my dearest friends. — Juan

As some of you may have already read, Rogelio has departed. Yesterday, May 19, 2010 at 6:19 p.m. local time in Huntsville, Texas. At 11:15 p.m. last night I was lucky to be allowed to call him. What an  emotion to hear him one last time ! Norma’s, his fiancée, had provided two numbers at the Walls Unit, where the death chamber is. Rogelio had been transferred there a few hours before his execution and had been authorized to make and receive calls.  After several unsuccessful attempts, I finally reached a prison receptionist and before I knew what was happening, I heard his enthusiastic voice say: “Hey! Chavela. It’s so good to hear you,” he said. Right away the conversation moved onto a fast pace, as if we were  in front of each other during our visits in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston.

Rogelio was very happy to have me on the phone. “It’s so good to hear your voice!” he repeated, and I was amazed to feel him so close and in such good spirits. A guard had brought him his last meal and he had begun to eat enchiladas with meat and cheese and was obviously very hungry. He had not eaten all day so he could enjoy the copious meal he had ordered. “It’s been 20 years since I’ve eaten enchiladas, Chavela, and they are not bad at all!” And he continued to talk to me, his mouth full, apologetically, as if we were in the visiting room at Polunsky and not a few feet from the execution chamber … totally surreal but all too real.

He asked about my family. He wished to talk to my husband, and they did for a few minutes. When I got back on the phone, he told me that he was doing well and that he was ready to go. “It’s not like in 2008, Chavela. I did not want to go but now I’m prepared. I know my chances are minimal.

My voice must have weakened because he asked: “Are you okay? You must be strong, I’m not afraid to go.” And then he spoke of his gratitude and joy to have shared all these years with my family and me, our mutual friends, our visits, our letters and everything. I felt the tears coming to my eyes, thinking that maybe all this  was about to end. As he was  eating on with such gusto, I thought if only if could have enjoyed this type of meal before.

Then the guard informed him that his lawyer wanted to speak on another line. “Call me in 10 minutes,” said Rogelio. I hung up with a small pang in heart. The lawyer…

When I called him again 15 minutes later, his voice had changed a bit. He was calmer and his voice was lower. “The  5th Circuit Court rejected my appeal. In an attempt to offer him some hope, I reminded him that his lawyers were still going to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“They do not want to listen to me,” said Rogelio. “It’s over, Isa.”

The lump in my throat turned into tears and he heard it in my voice. “Do not cry, buddy,” he said. “I’m ready, I’m strong, I can not afford the luxury of not being. I will watch over you. If you have something important to tell, say it now Chavela,  we no longer have a lot of time” (it was about 4:15 p.m., he had  to prepare for the execution).

I must confess that I do not  remember all I told him. I know I thanked him for his friendship, trust, and everything we had shared over the last 12 years. I told him again how much he meant to me and my family,  the admiration and support he had received from many and that he would be missed.

“You too, Isa, but I will send you a sign.” And I could imagine his  smile.

A voice rang out over the intercom and he said: “I’m hanging up now, I love you Buddy. thank you, thank you, love you.”

I hung up and I let my emotions run free. Tears, many tears. It all seemed so unreal, his voice playful, the special meal eaten with gusto just a few steps down the corridor to the execution chamber. A nice moment shared between friends if this weren’t a place where something tragic was about to happen.

Rogelio approached the end of his life with a kind of relief. I sat in front of a small flickering candle, I continued to pray  letting my tears flow.  I felt a deep gratitude for those moments we shared over the phone, for the calm and peace that Rogelio  seemed to have  found. I also felt a deep gratitude that our destinies crossed.   He would have been 38 years old on May 29. What a path we traveled since his first letter to me when he was 25 years old. Buddy: thank you, love you and farewell.

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7 Responses to “Buddy: thank you and farewell”

  1. Christine Says:

    Merci Isabelle, thank you Isabelle,
    Thank you Juan.
    God bless you both

  2. Kiki Says:

    Dear Juan
    If it helps, I can provide you with an English translation…. I read Isabelle’s ‘testimonial’ and believe me, my tears never stopped flowing. She has a heart as big as an ocean and a soul as deep as it too…. My English is far better than my French, although neither is my mother tongue.
    This way we could offer Isabelle a tiny break.
    The translation could however only be done by Monday; we go to a funeral of a 19yr old woman today and are fully occupied over the Pentecost weekend. Please let me know what you think.
    Thank you for this not bad at all translation…. You did well, with the help of a machine…!!! God bless you, as Christine said. You are in our prayers too; it’s a week of ‘shaking the heaven’ for us.
    Kiki

  3. Isabelle Says:

    Merci Juan for this translation of my last words to our friend, very little to change. I will share your own account on Roy’s French blog too, for now my mind is quite empty although full of memories. Strange feeling of “unrealness”. Time will help, I know, it will also bring back more happy moments and words shared, all those I want to remember of our years of friendship and writing. Gratefulness.

  4. Otto Says:

    Yeah, the guy was one righteous dude.

  5. Tina Church Says:

    Roy attempted call me twice, but received my voice mail, because we were all working, and doing any and all that we could. It was probably best that I didn’t hear his voice, because I know that he was being so very strong, but my emotions were running all over the place. When Richard called me, right after his final call to Roy we comforted one another, because we didn’t loose a client we lose a dear friend. Richard voice cracked with emotion, and tears were streaming down my face. Words cannot express the gratitude that he and I both felt knowing and loving Roy. We watched him grow through so many ways over the years. I was very fortunate to have shared some very special moments with Roy, and I will carry him in my heart forever.

  6. SLG Says:

    I am not sure why I find myself reading this…May 19th will forever be in my mind and two very special men will be in my heart forever. I did not have the privledge of knowing Roy, but I did know of him.

    Reading his blog is so painful and I keep telling myself that I need to stay away from reading all this. See my son sits on death row and I can not help but to put myself through all this pain. Sometimes, I feel I have to be realistic and read. But I still have lots of hope and I do not want to imagine going through all the pain that has been inflicted by the state of Texas on the loved ones of these men.

    Five years ago, I googled my son’s name and I came to a blog written by Richard Cartwright. Richard wrote about an incident having to do with my son and the guards . I was devastated and that is when reality hit me, I knew we did not have much time to fight. Richard opened up my eyes and I have to fight to help keep my son alive. Richard’s execution was May 19. Once again, I get the courage to read a blog, Roy’s blog and he too is executed on May 19, how ironic is this.

    My heart aches so bad, I can not control my tears. I see Roy was very strong during his last hours and ready to go to a better place, but no one deserves to go through this torture. Roy, Richard and everyone who has been killed in the name of justice, you have not died in vain….we will fight the death penalty until there is no more fight in us.

    I will carry you both in my heart forever.

    RIP…Roy and Richard

  7. Isabelle Says:

    Dear SLG,
    Just read your message about your son sitting on DR, Richard and Roy executed on the same day. My heart goes out to you and I agree, this torture must stop. Death penalty has to be abolished in your country. Maybe you came across Richard´s blog and your son´s incident for a particular reason ? Never give up Hope ! Fight death penalty with all the people who are engaged in this cause. You, American citizens, are the ones who will eventually decide about it. Your testimony is important : who thinks of death row inmates´families, their own torture having to face a scheduled execution of a loved one ? Living years of pain and often ostracism. This is also a torture. I feel for you as much as I do for the victims´families. So many shattered lives. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and pain, Roy had been my friend for many years; in a small way I think I understand what your son is going through. And you too.
    Take care of you, of your son. Stay strong.

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