Rara Issued Missions

Gather round, gather round, and ready your writing pens and paper. We’ve been tasked with sending letters of gratitude to the inmates and staff who have been watching out for Rara since she found out her husband passed. So, pick one, two, three, or all of them and send some thank you notes.


The inmates.
Here are their specific addresses and why, in her own words, Rara is grateful for them:

Stephanie Applin WE9817
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

Steph has been the leader of Ra-care. She keeps me laughing all day long. We work together and she is always dancing and giving hugs. She says “I got hugs for days” and makes hysterical faces. I would not be eating if it wasn’t for her.

Veronica Padilla WE8335
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

Vero has 3 more years to do and she is married to a David Martinez, too. Despite her life angst, she’s been a rock to me. She believes in auras and all my crazy stuff so I have a spiritually kindred soul on hand at all times. At my lowest point she refused to leave my room until my energy changed. She saved me from me.

Michelle Burke WE9447
CIW BA 1018 UP
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

Michelle has a stretch of time to do and has already been down for many years buts but is always kind. She walked all the way across the yard because she heard me laugh “wrong,” and then sat and sobbed with me when I told her what happened. She took away the bulk of the fault I was feeling.

Falisha Garlow WF0398
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

Falisha – my Fifi – is a County friend, so she’s been feet away from me all year it seems. I went to work just to tell her, because she has power prayers and I felt protected. She is God-graced and I can’t look at her without feeling… loved.

Susan Bustamante W27953
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

Susan is an LWOP – a lifer without possibility of parole and has been down 27 years. At work, she is my safe haven. Where I go when being a part of reality is too much. She is at peace always, and I help myself to her serenity all the time.


The Firehouse.
Again, here is the address and the information on her bosses. All three can go to the same address in the same envelope:

C/O Firehouse 531
Attention: Chief Joel Johnson
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

My bosses have been amazing.

The Chief was already one of my favorite parts of the job (second only to the engine.) He told me to ask for anything I need and meant it – the man is so sincere and dignified in all things that I wish I could carry him around in my pocket.

Captain Clough sat down and talked with me – about the good times. He is gentle and patient and positive. I feel healed just being around him.

Captain Dakin is older, and funny – and has encouraged me to make use of the grief services here. He tells the girls to take care of me and just – well – cares.


The staff.
For these thankyous, unfortunately, they all have to get routed through the Warden. So, here is her address and the verbiage that Radha came up with to make sure everyone on her list of awesome gets recognized for taking care of her:

Attention: Kimberley Hughes, Warden
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA 92880

“Our gratitude goes out to your institution and staff for their care of our Ra (Radhika Jaini WF0124) in her time of loss. Specifically, we’d like to thank:

Ms. Landeros (CC1): she ran all over the prison making Radha’s attendance at the funeral possible.
C/O Blige: she told Radha Dave passed in an unbelievably kind way.
Sgt. Hinostrosa: wrote Radha passes to mental health and called out so she could figure out what happened to her husband.
Chief Joel Johnson and the Firehouse Captains: have all been incredible.
C/O Franco: babysat Radha, basically and dealt with the moodiest of her moods for the first week.
C/O Mangandhi: checked on Radha hourly, until he was comfy with her stage of grief.
The Compassionate Companies Program: brought Radha a sympathy card and provided her a list of rooms she could visit should she need support.
C/O Uribe, C/O Darrow, C/O Miranda, C/O Curry, C/O Roberts, C/O Ham, Sgt. Stricklen, C/O Ayala, and Mr. Rodriguez (Education Room 6): have all gone the distance, have gone way beyond expectation or need.”

I just don’t know.

“I don’t know.”

“I just don’t know.”

These phrases dominate her vocabulary at the moment.  I’ve talked to her on the phone twice and seen her in person once since she found out her husband died, and these expressions have become her default conversation starter and go-to silence filler.

The memorial was a traditional Catholic Mass.  Words of hope and faith were spoken.  Traditions were performed.  I’m not an expert on Catholicism so I’m not sure what it all meant or represented and therefore won’t go into any great detail on that aspect of the service.  The parts that mattered most to me, were the words spoken by Rara’s sister about the kind of person Dave was, the post written by Dave explaining what it was like being married that Rara shared, and AR Neal speaking about the wonderful community of support and love that Rara has gathered around her on the blogosphere.

She spoke when I could not.  She spoke for those of us who were present in the room and those of us too far away to attend, while ceremonial candles burned and Dave’s ashes rested nearby.

“I don’t know.”

“I just don’t know.”

After the service, Dave’s father graciously invited everyone over to his home, to share in food and fellowship.  The walls of his home were adorned in artwork his son had created.  Coffee tables and counter-tops held Dave’s collected published works.  I browsed through these, skipping over the ones I’ve read and own, and picking up “The Angry Dragon.”  It was a title I didn’t recognize, and because dragon…

A children’s book, it only took me a minute or two to read.  It held his unmistakable art and a lesson that, while not fitting the situation, was fitting for some current struggles within the kingdom – the Little Prince throwing temper tantrums and our efforts to help him do so more constructively while also getting him to help clean up the messes those tantrums can create.  It was odd to find something so poignant for my life in such a place and such a time.

But, perhaps I should have long ago gotten used to Rara and Dave spreading knowledge and joy at all times and in all places.  It’s who they are…  It’s who they were.

“I don’t know.”

“I just don’t know.”

She is worried about her future, uncertain of what lies ahead for her, and concerned that she will never return to who she was.  What will she do when she is released in a couple months?  She no longer has a home to go to.  She will be a felon.  She is now a widow…

Those of us who gathered on Saturday to support her, spoke softly of time, and firmly of her strength of character.  We offered our shoulders.  We gave hugs.  We gently reminded her that she didn’t need to worry about the future yet, and it was okay for her to mourn, it was okay for her to not know: what each day would bring, what to say, how to act, anything.  There is no script that has to be followed for death and learning to live after.  We did our very best to assure her that she is loved and that she will have plenty of people looking out for her when she gets out.  We will make sure she is okay.

She nodded along, appreciative of our words and their sentiment, but…  It was too early for her to accept the truth in them, and none of us were the person she wanted with her, none of us were her husband.

“I don’t know.”

“I just don’t know.”

Before the service started, early in the morning before I’d even headed that direction, I got an email from Rara’s sister asking if I could get a song onto my phone in case there was a time for music.  I downloaded the song immediately and let her know I had it.

It was a song that Dave was partial to, and had wished he could have played at his mom’s funeral.  It didn’t dawn on me until after the service was over that I could have stood and played the song during the time people were encouraged to share stories about Dave.  I should have played it while Rara and her sister were up front sharing their stories.  I should have joined AR Neal at the front and played it while she was talking about the blogosphere in glowing terms.  I should have stood on my own and played it.

Those moments and opportunities have passed, however.  So, instead, I’ll share the song here with all of you, and I’ll remember Dave as the notes and lyrics of the song tell their own story.

Jimmy Eat World – Hear You me

“I don’t know.”

“I just don’t know.”

Dave’s Service

I don’t have any words of my own yet…  I’m sure they will come, they almost always do.  But, until then, you can read what Deb and AR Neal had to say about the day.  Deb it was a pleasure chatting with you again and meeting your amazing family.  AR Neal, it was great to meet you “in the real” and I hope next time will be under better circumstances.  Thank you both for being there today.
Also, in lieu of my own words, I’m sharing below something that was written by Rara and her sister, Lachmi, and spoken during the service:
He smelled of cigarettes and carried an attitude of knowing. He had a love for art; and his body was just one of many canvas that he decorated. He had a way of drawing and painting that reflected a raw soul that not everyone related to, but was special nonetheless. His love of Ska music was unparalleled. His love for authors like Vonnegut and Palahniuk reflected his cynical, philosophical syndrome.
He taught us how to swear like a pirate and how to conduct ourselves in a way that we would never have to apologize for; who would be the first one to shake his fist at the stupidity of human nature, and yet have the patience to hold the door open for a gaggle of old ladies. He was the boy who picked at boned meat, could eat cheese by the block, and never managed to use a napkin for its true intent. He was tremendously complicated, and one could only comprehend him by facing his contradictions. He was a Sinner, a Saint, a Hero, a Victim, a Father, a Student, a Teacher, a Brother, and some weird combination of everything else that you could imagine– corporate with joke-book humor, immensely tough yet vulnerable and loving. He would be the first one to tell you that he hated children; yet, could always be found at the children’s table or asking to baby sit. And we know without a doubt that Flash and Perdita never had a better father than Dave.
 He thought nothing was impossible, but was often impossible himself; constantly citing literary scholars  or some obscure sci-reference that only a true geek would fathom. He insisted on ferocious sense of morality and ethics that, if you were caught on the sharp end of his barbs, you most likely would not fully fathom his insult until days later; a casualty we’ve all endured. We learned not only our sense of what was right, but the importance of defending it…and even sometimes when we weren’t right, we learned to defend that too.
He was never one to let the world tell him who he was, or what he was. He was empowering and had reins of his life as he would always be quick with a theory or an invention that would solve whatever situation he thought was a problem. He wanted to sell cool phrase flashcards, misery cookies to give those in misery, and pity pillows to throw at those wallowing in self-pity. He was the one who sneaked our little sister out to teach her how to drive, who stayed up the entire night creating a Christmas wonderland for his nieces, who always knew that sometimes the right thing to say wasn’t always the right thing to do, and who had unwavering support whenever we needed it. He loved Radha so directly and so deeply that love became redefined for everyone that knew them. They were indispensable to each other, they thrived off each other’s attention, love, respect, a mutual unparalleled addiction to the arts.
Dave, Grayson Queen, or however you knew him—touched so many lives. He will be remembered as a  loving husband, a quirky brother, a super hero, a very loving uncle, a blogger, a writer, an artist. Thank you for taking time to celebrate Dave. Thank you for the endless love being sent to my sister.

Rara sends her love

Originally posted on The Monster in Your Closet:

Does it look like we're miserable? With Rara in orange and Dave in the middle

I met Rara and her husband, Dave, a week before my second son was born.

Rara went to prison a couple of weeks later. Innocence doesn’t pay attorney fees.

She’s still in prison.

She was there when Dave posted that he had an infection a few weeks ago.

She was there when he died soon after.

Today, my husband, sons and I drove to Dave’s memorial.

My five-year-old, Li’l D, couldn’t understand how Rara had ended up in prison.

My husband and I answered Li’l D’s many questions until my husband finally said, “Some bad guys fight with swords. Other bad guys fight with paper. She met the kind who fights with paper.”

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