Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Last Meal

Its customary in many countries, to give a death-row inmate the option to request a last, special meal.  Although, after one such prisoner ordered a buffet-like table recently, the powers-that-be in the state of Texas declared that his was the last last meal.  From now on, Texas inmates will eat what everybody else in the prison eats on their last day.

It is an interesting custom, letting a prisoner choose his last meal.  He can do that and choose to see a religious figure, a priest, a pastor, whomever his beliefs require.  I guess it’s the prison systems way of extending some display of graciousness and hospitality before they put a person to death.  It must be important, too, the news reports of an execution always include the menu of the last meal.  The varied choices are interesting, ranging from lobster to chicken fried steak to cookies and candy bars.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who wonders what I would choose for my last meal.

Not declaring a position for or against capital punishment, I can see the attraction of being granted a last meal.  With certainty, the prisoner knows that the events of his last few days and hours, like the months and years before it, will be out of his control.  He will make no decisions about what he will wear, where he will go, what he will do in his remaining days.  As he ponders his mortality, he has two decisions that he can control.  One, has he made his peace with God.  Two, what is the last thing he’s going to eat before going to see God (or not).

These two thoughts can occupy a man’s mind quite fully.  Hours, if not days and weeks, can be spent coming to some conclusion.

 Do I believe in God?  Steak or fish?  Such fundamental questions may require a person to go back through the feelings deep in his soul.  What is it that they believe in, what do they hold to be important and true.  Do they believe in an omnipotent higher power?  Are they making the world a better place by not eating red meat? 

After the chicken and the sweet potatoes and rice, a last meal wouldn’t be complete without dessert.  But all desserts aren’t made the same.  Generally, the best ones are laden with the most sugar and the most fat.  A great dessert would be one that someone else takes on all the calories and you can just enjoy the sweetness.  What if there was that kind of dessert?  Do I accept Jesus as my savior?  Chocolate chip marshmallow toffee ice cream or fat-free, low sugar apple pie? 

Do I want to go to heaven?  Will I be reincarnated?  Iced chai latte or Red Hot cocktail?  Soon after the meal is over, the person will enter perpetual sleep.  The decisions he makes before he closes his eyes will determine what happens after that.

It’s a lot to think about.  But at least the inmate has a good guess on the day and hour by which he needs to decide.  Milk and honey or Devil's Food?

No comments: