Prompt: Hand on my tender heart

Last words from Quintin Jones

Hi friend,

I write today with a heavy heart. My friend Quintin Jones was executed last night around 6:40 pm, Texas time. Just before he entered the execution chamber, he called me for the last time. In his final minutes, he told me he was so grateful for everyone who fought so tirelessly on his behalf. It brought him hope until the very end and a measure of peace.

A couple months ago, when I told him someone had offered pro bono legal counsel to help him seek clemency, Quin’s voice broke. He said, “I’m not used to people caring about me.” What everyone has done collectively has helped show him that the hard won transformation he achieved in his 21 years on death row did not go unnoticed, and that his courage and his vulnerability and his hope—both in life and in death—have not been in vain.

Justice was not served. The world is not a better place because Quin is gone. May his needless death fuel us to fight for a better, more compassionate, more just, more equitable, more tender-hearted world.

In parting, Quin told me he was sad, but he was so grateful that his story had touched those who didn’t even know they needed to be touched. He hoped people would pick up the pebble and throw it into the next pond, and let it ripple out. His last words, to me, to all of us: “Keep doing the good work.”

It has been a long month, and I’m going to take some time off—to rest, to grieve, to figure out where to go from here. If you’re a paid subscriber, we’ve rescheduled this week’s Studio Visit with Melissa Febos. We’ll be meeting next Sunday, May 30, at 1pm ET instead. We’ll send more information soon.

And instead of sending a prompt this Sunday, we’re sharing one today, inspired by a poem by Cameron Awkward-Rich that I came across only hours after I learned Quin’s clemency petition had been denied. It made me reflect on how difficult it can be to keep a tender heart—to open ourselves up to great love, and to the possibility of great loss. But I am certain of this: we miss so much beauty if we armor ourselves against the hard things.

We sent Quin off the best way we knew how, with a second-line through speakerphone. Thank you to everyone who supported Quin—who wrote him letters, who signed our petition, who listened to his story and let it touch your life. May his memory expand our capacity for grace and mercy.

Hand on my heart,


“Meditations in an Emergency”

by Cameron Awkward-Rich

I wake up & it breaks my heart. I draw the blinds & the thrill of rain breaks my heart. I go outside. I ride the train, walk among the buildings, men in Monday suits. The flight of doves, the city of tents beneath the underpass, the huddled mass, old women hawking roses, & children all of them, break my heart. There’s a dream I have in which I love the world. I run from end to end like fingers through her hair. There are no borders, only wind. Like you, I was born. Like you, I was raised in the institution of dreaming. Hand on my heart. Hand on my stupid heart.

Your prompt for this week:

Write a meditation that you can return to in your most difficult passages. Write of the beauty you see in the world—the things that bowl you over, break you open, and touch the tenderest part.