Messages of Life

MESSAGES OF LIFE from Death Row - Pierre Pradervand

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A young inmate imprisoned for murder at the local Geneva jail was so moved by the book Messages of Life, about Roger McGowen’s amazing experience that he organized a collection among prison inmates for a women’s foundation (www.woman.ch) which Roger admires immensely and to which he contributed several years ago some of his very modest funds.

Roger’s amazing experience has been transforming lives left and right, often very deeply, as attested by the innumerable letters I continue receiving from everywhere, seven years after the publication of the first French edition. ‘Roger changed our life. He made us really penetrate life. We were skating at the surface of existence, he revealed to us its depth and splendour,’ writes a leader in a French youth organisation, which since then has been spreading his message to young people all around Europe.

A therapist writes to me, ‘I think it is impossible for me to find the words to explain to you what I feel. It seems to me that such beauty calls for silence.’

‘God has something wonderful planned for me’

Sometimes the changes in people’s lives are very modest, albeit meaningful. Roger mentions in one of his letters that he never kills the insects that crawl around his cell because they too have a right to live as expressions of the universal Life. One reader writes to me, ‘Tell Roger that since reading his book, I let the spiders in my home alone, and that it has become impossible for me to complain.’

That last point is one of the most fundamental one’s readers make constantly. Here is a man in jail for 23 years for a crime we know he never committed, who lives in less than ten square meters in conditions of pure hell writing that he has learned to thank God for everything! After visiting Roger for the first time in 1999, I made the vow to myself that I would never again complain – a vow I believe I have kept. In February 2001 he wrote to me, ‘I must admit that being in a place like this prison tests one’s love and one’s commitment to continue to bless, but everything that happens in our lives happens to teach us. Blessing is something I love doing  and feel good while doing. Actually things have gone smoothly over the last month, and I recognize it is because of my blessing everyone day and night, no matter who they are or what they have done to me… Yes, things are a lot easier here, not because the officers have changed, but because my outlook has changed. I look at things with a renewed sense of love and understanding, I try to look for the goodness and perfection in all of God’s children… I know that God has blessed me, I know in my heart that God has something wonderful planned for me. Yes, God’s plan for us all is perfect, but knowing and understanding that is another matter altogether. We have allowed the illusion of separation from God to cloud our judgement…’

A constant, daily source of inspiration
I cannot say in words how much Roger has transformed my own life. He is a constant, daily  source of inspiration for me – as he is for hundreds and probably thousands of others. However, he is no saint. He has had to work through the initial years of deep revolt and at moments near despair, and he still occasionally has to fend off attacks of depression – which he does without Prozac, with a method he developed himself.

Prison conditions have become worse and worse over the years, and around 350 people have been executed during his 23 years in prison, some of them close friends. But what is remarkable is that he has used trials as tools to grow, rather than submit and give up.

His message of complete forgiveness and unconditional love has literally been carved out in hell, which is why it is so powerful and touches all readers at the heart level. There are so many gurus of all colour and hue running around the world spouting formulas. Roger shares truths he lives daily. As I write these lines, I am going through one of the greatest challenges in my whole existence – and Roger is my prime source of inspiration, especially the above quoted statement on God’s perfect plan!

To a French friend, he wrote early this year, ‘I believe it is my ray of love that increases my faith to the point that I have no regrets being here. If I could have gained the same experience some place else, some place less oppressive, then by all means I would have chosen it. But the universe doesn’t always give us the chance to choose the lessons we learn from it, so we do the best with what is given us… Smile.

I deal with each moment as it comes and try to do what is pleasing in the eyes of God. Sometimes I don’t get it right but that too is part of the lesson. I think my mission – as I believe the mission of us all – is to be the best we can be at all times and do the best that we can with what life gives us. In this life we are only given so much space, and it is up to each of us to make sure that space is filled with love twenty four hours of every day. That is my mission: to keep my space filled with love at all times.’

Dear Cygnus reader, may you and I join in living my favourite quote by Roger:

‘Love is only one thought away. It can never be depleted. Remember to use it often.’
Pierre Pradervand

pierre@vivreautrement.ch