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days the guards had strictly enforced a rule allowing only one person to stand at any given
time. But now, the atheist guard suddenly permitted us all to stand so that we could hold
hands. I truly believe the Lord acted to move him to allow this. We stood, held hands and
bowed our heads in prayer to God. I can't be sure, but I think two of the guards behind me
may have been praying along with us. I remembered Luke 11:9, "So I say to you: Ask and it
will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." I
sensed that the Holy Spirit was with us all in that conference room. When I looked up, I
saw the eyes of the atheist guard were fixed and all business. He told me to start saying
good-bye. I hugged Peggy, and she left with a guard to face the indignities she would have
to endure. Next, I hugged my 16-year-old niece, a courageous young lady, who was
physically sickened by the death-watch experience, but wouldn't be kept away. Then I
kissed my little sister, whose only complaint was that I couldn't give her a bear hug because
of the waist chain. If the execution proceeded, I would see my little sister again soon, as
she was one of those I had selected to witness my death. Nancy is extraordinary in that she
met all of the challenges and. hardships of this situation with the grace of God's love. I was
left with fifteen minutes to say good-bye to my love, my soulmate, my best friend. This
kind and gentle woman, who holds my heart, had kept her promise to me and stayed by my
side to the very end. We had been through much together since God allowed us to fmd each
other, and I hoped we would be together when the miracle we prayed for was delivered.
This was not to be. We said good-bye not knowing whether the next time we saw each
other I would be strapped to a gumey and only moments away from death. The guards
separated us ten minutes early. My loved ones were ushered out of the visiting facility
and escorted to the prison gate. Reportedly, the associate warden passed them in the hall as
they left. He walked right past them, entered the conference room and announced that I
had a stay of execution. I was engulfed by a wave of relief at God's deliverance. Amidst
the lingering surreal and stale presence of evil which always shrouds the prison when there
is to be an execution, His reality came clearly into focus. As I was escorted back to my
cell, I noticed the atheist guard seemed visibly upset, and he admitted to me his
disappointment that the execution was off. In retrospect I feel that, throughout my death-
watch experience, I was engaged in a spiritual battle with this particular guard. I did my best
to remain faithful and present the positive message of faith. He resisted God's message of
love. Throughout this incredibly intimate experience, he sought to show no emotion and
seemed uncomfortable with human intimacy or any show of affection. However,
occasionally he had slipped and shown signs of compassion. An inner spirit dwells within
every man and woman, even a self- proclaimed atheist. I pray for this man's soul and hope
that he listened when we spoke of Jesus Christ and God's love. God's miracle was not
limited to that small, sweltering prison room. Great efforts of love and prayers were
directed for me by people of faith everywhere. So many recognized the evil and came out
to help me, and I am humbled by that. I hope the guard also was touched by what he
witnessed, which I do believe was a miracle of faith. Perhaps he left that execution detail
less certain of his atheism--perhaps merely an agnostic.

T. M. Thompson 8-24-97 2