To protect the guilty, in this case, Trey’s name and California Department of Corrections number have both been changed. His crime and sentence have not. Double capital murder. Life in prison without the possibility of parole.

I didn’t know Trey in 2009. “Let’s not pretend either of us truly knows the other.” That was the assurance contained in my original invitation to began an exchange of letters. Admittedly, a difficult approach in light of the facts that he and his lawyers had systematically and strategically poured over my extensive profile, and I’d just sat through three months of the condensed retelling of Trey’s life. Trey was the accused and tried. I was one of his jurors.

There’s no need to justify, defend, explain or buffer. Truth is superior, albeit agonizing.
Grievous: The path of Trey’s life. Past.
Grievous: The taking and loss of lives. Present.
Unknown: Future.

What of the future?

As I write, we are eight years into it. Without perceiving the journey, but with the goal of simply sharing life made clear, I’d handed Trey’s lawyer my invitation before entering the courtroom. Then Trey’s lawyer delivered it to him, as we all awaited the sentencing. Twice before his final departure, Trey faced me, made eye contact, nodded his head – made his answer clear.

Trey is a more voracious reader than I, but possibly just due to his circumstantial availability. He personalized the lyrics to If I Die Young by The Band Perry and shared his assumed fate with me. Trey is comfortable being alone. In prison that’s often the safest state. Sometimes I tell Trey details of our up and down family rhythms, like the time when all three daughters blamed me for the disappearance of our cat. Mostly I purpose to go beyond the surface and authentically share internal struggles, like being angry at myself for failing to guard my own priorities – letting them be squeezed out by external demands or requests, because doing otherwise seems selfish. If being particularly vulnerable, I might risk voicing gleams of hope or shadows of a dream. From that place, Trey and I are the same. Fierce internal voices pushing us toward condemnation, lying about all things and smothering out whispers that must become screams in order to escape into freedom.  From that place, could it be that you and I and Trey are all the same?

“Let’s not pretend either of us truly knows the other” is still apropos. Simply sharing life was and remains the invitation. Knowing another person is only possible in ever-fluctuating percentages anyhow. We can only ever partially know. This quote from Stanley Hauerwas in Timothy Keller’s article speaks loudly to that fact.

“The primary challenge of marriage is learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married.”

Discovery is at the heart of simply sharing life. There are no ‘final frontiers’ within human beings. Not in ourselves. Not in others. Trey and I will carry on in our richly unique “not truly knowing the other.” That’s easy. The real challenge for you and I is to carry on in the same with our spouses, children, neighbors, friends, co-workers and beyond. These people, with whom we are most familiar and comfortable, by default, become our most frequent casualties. We predominantly neglect fresh investigation into their inexhaustible, beautiful, unfathomable, ever-renewing unknowns.

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