Inside the world of the walking dead

Tom Bartolomeo
Christ the King B 2012
Daniel 7: 13-14 Psalm 93;
Revelation 1: 5-8; John 18: 33b-37
Reproduced with Permission

I have a letter I would like to read to you.

Dear Father Tom,

Only you and a few others know anything about the trouble I have had, and I never thought it would turn my life around in this place. I wouldn't blame you, either, if this comes as a shock after we last spoke two years ago when you visited me and when in so many words I told you to "mind your own business". Your visit surprised me. I knew it had to be Kathy's doing. At the time I thought I would escape the worst of it or that's what my attorney told me. He was wrong. I still have the Bible you gave me and didn't take it out of its box until recently. Couldn't say I didn't have the time. Fact is I now have all the time in the world, 15 to 25 years. I was so desperate then. I didn't know what would come of me. So many miscalculations, I thought.

Then I remembered your advice. I began with Mark, the shortest gospel, 16 chapters, and actually began to understand for the first time Jesus' difficulties. For many years at mass I heard short excerpts of the gospel but never put it all together or thought about it on my own. Then later reading John's gospel what struck me most was Jesus' stated intention to die. I heard what you and other priests had said before, how Christ had to die for our sins and the rest but didn't make anything more of it. Why wouldn't there be another way, I thought? I didn't know, and never gave it another thought until now. Jesus was determined to die, repeatedly told his disciples, but they refused to accept his decision. He stubbornly made it clear before Pilate washed his hands of Christ when Jesus told him that his "kingdom was not of this world", that he "was born for this . . . had come into the world to bear witness to the truth." When Pilate quipped, "What is truth?," sounded like something I would say.

Kathy and I had big dreams when we married, a big house, living the good life etc, more my dream than Kathy's. I wanted more, then came the kids, debt and a mortgage. We tried to keep our relations "safe" (you know what I mean) without realizing we were slowly sacrificing not only our faith but our lives just to get ahead. That's all I knew of life on the outside besides the distractions ESPN football and other things. How most people lived, I noticed. Politicians and news people told us how good we were. Before long I was slowly drawing away from my family and children, missing meals and leaving all the family work to Kathy. I was working on getting ahead and too tired after work to think about it. We bought a new larger house with almost nothing down counting on my promotion which never came through.

Then it happened -- late mortgage payments, debt and more worry about debt-and then "money I borrowed from the company" (which they knew nothing about) thinking I'd pay it back before the quarterly audit. That part you didn't know. After I was arrested I plead guilty in exchange for a suspended sentence. No one knew except Kathy and mom. She divorced dad years ago, and I haven't spoken to him for years. I was too busy getting ahead. Kathy didn't tell the kids, but I'm not still sure they didn't know. Kids know a lot more than you think. I did when I was their age.

Then this happened. I tried, but I couldn't get a job like the one I had before. Your criminal record follows you. After a while, on a job interview I would tell the employer straight out my story. He would find out sooner or later. Most said, "they'd get back to me." Then the job at the airport rent-a-car business came through. The owner said, "he'd take a chance because he didn't think I would jeopardize the lives of my wife and three daughters by going to prison. I wouldn't get a quick trial and a suspended sentence a second time, he said." I knew that, and he needed a good manager at a salary he could afford and I would take. I knew that, too. My oldest girl was just twelve then and wanted everything her friends had, and I felt I had to make up to her and the family out of my guilt. Put a happy face on everything, family, friends and everyone else.

Kathy decided she would work, too, even though our two other daughters were still in grade school. We rarely saw each other after that, missed dinners together and when home I watched too much television. The girls like their friends were wired and 'had their own cell phones.' A family plan for five cells saved a little. Kathy and I soon realized that our daughters were more often by themselves, like their friends with their cell phones. Our conversations, when we had them, had to do with our separate lives. I didn't realize it, but my children were becoming me.

My wife would call me out on it before I went to work or when I had to fill-in for a 'no show' rental clerk or retrieve an abandoned rental car at the airport. Kathy's work hours and the girls' school and social schedules conflicted. I think our oldest daughter was dating. I was busy keeping my 24/7 schedule on track. We adjusted our expenses but not enough, and our debts grew. After paying off my legal bills from my arrest we lost our house and my car would soon be repossessed. Maybe, I could ask the boss, I thought, if I could borrow a rental car "permanently." Well at the time I thought that was funny. Then the boss was on vacation, and I did a crazy thing. I took the Friday bank deposit and a Monte Carlo from the lot and drove to Las Vegas. I was going to solve my family's financial problems at the black jack table. 'And now',as they say, 'you know the rest of the story'.

Saturday nights here we get to watch television usually the program, "The Walking Dead". Maybe you've caught some recent episodes where the few normal people find safety from a world of zombies outside the prison. I tell you it works, and that's the truth.

"What truth is" -- is real life. I am learning that, and its more real here in prison than in the world outside. No great ambitions, envy and vanity here, and it is liberating. I never knew. I now try to explain this to my daughters. My oldest rarely visits me, but I write. I've left Kathy with such a big job after we first had our kids. I just wasn't there for her or the girls as I should have been. Too much concern for what the world had to offer us and look where it got me and my family. I wish I knew this before. I wish my parents gave me better advice than, "Whatever makes you happy, son". I now understand all those hard things Jesus had said which I never thought of before:

Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, Mark 8:35 [and]
He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life, John 12:25

Yours truly,


I suspect many if not most of you were wondering who sent me this letter. I made it up . . . partially. For those of you who remember the television show "Dragnet" you may recall the opening announcement, "The story you are about to see is true". Many of the elements in the letter are true. I remember the call I received one Tuesday morning, "Hello, is this Able Rent-a-Car? We have one of your cars here in Las Vegas and the driver as well. Do you know him?" I filed a criminal complaint and entered a secret agreement with the prosecutor that he drop the charges upon conviction and sentencing as long as my former employee was contrite and promised to make restitution. His wife and daughters were relieved. I hope I did the right thing.

"What is truth"-real truth? He is Jesus Christ, "the way, the truth and the life." Only his "truth . . . will free us" from this world or the world of the walking dead, John 8, 32. Pilgrim, we celebrate his kingdom at his death and God willing at our own deaths for this reason. Anyone here believe he will live forever? So why do so many act as if they were going to live here forever? That would be hell. Pilgrim, were you born for his kingdom? Then follow his way, truth and life. He is the only truth which will free us from the world outside.