CHASTITY'S STORY ~ HOLIDAY SEASON: BITTERSWEET
The devastation of losing a parent to incarceration weighs heavy on the hearts of children and adults all around the country. A parent’s love and affection is so vital to our lives as humans and the natural bond is unmatched. When a person is incarcerated, their family is incarcerated as well, it is absolute punishment and torture. Growing up as the child of an incarcerated parent was a very painful and traumatizing experience that has impacted me in ways that I am only beginning to discover as an adult.
One of the most difficult times to be the child of an incarcerated parent are the holidays, a time that is supposed to be filled with happiness and love, shared with your family, feels empty. How can I fully celebrate and be cheerful with this sinking feeling sitting in my stomach? How can I wake up happy to open gifts in the morning when my Santa aka my Dad is sitting in prison? And what about thanksgiving? I have to sit in the living room with my entire family, extended family included, waiting for my father to call. We all get a turn to talk to him, but the call only lasts a few minutes, and now, back to my reality of a fatherless thanksgiving. Wow, am I really thankful today? Well I’m not really sure, but I continue my night with the rest of my family just wishing my dad could share this moment with us. I just know he would be the life of the party, I know he would make everyone here so happy, but he is not here.
One thing my father always managed to do for me, even in those circumstances, was keep me positive, so although he was not there with me physically his lessons were echoing through my mind, just stay positive and be grateful for all that I have. He was always so cheerful, he always called me as soon as he could. He was not with me when I woke up on the holidays but he was the first one to call, that kept me going and kept our bond strong. I knew I was loved and I knew I was thought about on these days I should of been spending with him. I must say, the hardest part for me during the holidays as the child of an incarcerated parent didn’t have much to do with me. It was for him. I knew my father was a great person, I had never met another person like him in my life. He is kind, empathetic, smart, and charming. My father, of all people did not deserve to be there. He did not deserve to be taken away from his family and stripped of his freedom, he was a GREAT father when he was home AND in prison, he actually enjoyed being a father, he loved helping people, why was god making him suffer this way? I felt his pain in addition to my own, it was overwhelming to think, feel. I did not want those feelings. I did not ask for them.
What I realize as I became more aware is although my father never deserved the punishment he received I do know that God works in mysterious ways. I like to look at it like this, my father got to serve as an angel in that terrible system. I missed my father for 15 years on holidays, but someone else was gifted his presence during these special times of the year, someone who probably needed him more than I did on that day. My father is a special guy and you don't get to meet many people like him in a lifetime, there were certain lives he had to touch and a certain lesson we both had to learn. My Father’s presence and lessons have been so powerful to me before prison, during prison, and to this very day. I did not always feel this way but I was always taught to find the silver lining, by no one other than, My Father.
My Father is home now and we got our first holiday together on Thanksgiving 2016. I didn’t have to wait for that call and feel the pain of hanging up a rejoining my family without him. He was right there by my side, the way it was always meant to be.
Chastity Michel, a 27 year old woman, is the daughter of a formerly incarcerated man, Frantz Michel - sentenced to life in prison for a non violent drug offense and served 15 years. His sentence occurred during the very crucial stages of Chastity’s childhood development - ages 11-25..
She currently works with non profits, Guns Down and Hope House which both directly service the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated community. She co-created the initiative Lexi's Promise which provides a full prom experience for the children of an incarcerated individual. She also started, The Chastiea - a tea company launching in January 2019.
Chastity is a We Got Us Now ACTIONIST in pursuit of a dual Masters/PHD for Positive Developmental Psychology and Evaluation with the intention of bringing about nation wide change, and changing the story of mass incarceration.