Kenneth Key

Eulogy for Judy Key


March 23rd, 2017

Dear Ms. Quinn

Samuel Karim gave me your name and paper, “Call for Contributions: Mourning Lost Loved Ones.” I write for a blog called and so would like to share my post written when I first learned of my mother’s passing, and you may edit it if you like:

The worst news anyone can wake up to in prison is the death of his mother. My mother died on June 13, 2016. And to top it, off I did not learn of her death through the prison administration. Nope, it didn’t happen that way.

Something told me to call a woman who has been in my life twenty-years and I consider my wife. Unbeknownst to me, she was on her way to the prison, a route she has driven man, many times over the years. She almost lost her life in several near miss accidents and now she was lost and confused trying to get here.

She received a text-message from my brother, “Mother has passed, let Kenny and Michael [my son] know.” I’m paraphrasing, but it was as cold as that. I never got that visit. She was too shaken, lost, and simply returned home.

My son and I were not allowed to participate or give any parting words in her obituary. Yes, we were buried with her, as well. There was no mention of her son, or her only grandson, who I knew she loved beyond words. Obviously driven by hatred in the hearts of others, no doubt we were not included because of me.

Why am I sharing this? Because I don’t want you to be here, and have to experience the pain, the anger, and the hurt that my son and I have had to go through.

I shared in a previous post that I am just as responsible for my mother’s death as the ills that eventually led to het passing. Over the years my decisions resulted in worry and stress for my mother. Even when I was used by a system, that set me up for failure at an early age, all contributing factors. It all took a toll on my mother, and it will take a toll on your mother and others who love you, if you continue to live on the edge in the street.

When your mom is gone, your world will change, bruh. I was estranged from my mother, not by choice, but by other influences. It really prepared me to deal with her death. Why? The influence had already entombed her, cut her off from me and my son. No communication. No visits, nothing. I never knew if she received my cards or letters. To be honest, these outside influences buried me as well the day they cut me off from her.

Who knows if my mother knew I was still alive? Hatred will make you do some unfathomable things, especially when money, property and material gain are the motivation. The influences and enablers can be seen from early on. The influences became as criminal as the most icily ever know to walk the tunnels of Stateville Correctional Center.

Be careful. Love your mothers. Strengthen your bond. Hold them high. Sit down and have a conversation with them. As I write this now, a letter comes to mind I wrote my mother a while back. I doubt she ever got it. I’d like to share it with you. Had I been given the opportunity to say something in the obituary, it would have been this letter.


Dear Mother:

I know it has been a long time since I have put into words your value to my life, but believe me, it’s not because I have forgotten. Every day when the sun rises I thank YAH (God) for you, and I recognize that you are the miracle. It is the mother’s love that is unconditional. It was this love that formed families and brought about civilizations. I was that love I now realize you were giving, teaching, showing, that we in turn would someday impart to others. I smile with gratitude when I think of all the sacrifices you made on my behalf. I watched you come home from work exhausted yet still do the dishes, still set our home in order, and still do everything possible to hold this family together. When the world turned against us and Father found refuge in oblivion, you shouldered the weight, and persevering abandonment, self-doubt, indigence, bigotry, and all of the evils that challenge human dignity. You were and are my strength and foundation. “The bitter cold of the streets is no place for you, Kenny,” you’d always be saying, “Be careful of your company.” You said that time will tell a friend, but I didn’t know it would be only you until the prison gate got slammed. Still believing, still encouraging, still loving unconditionally. I apologize for every tear I didn’t understand the meaning of. In ignorance, I took everything for granted. You taught me values, yet I did not always live up to them. You shaped my character and I pretended not to have any. You overlooked my shortcomings, while I held you accountable. You gave me unconditional love. Love that empowered and enabled me to overcome all of life’s challenges. For that, I am forever grateful. Thank you, Mrs. Judy Key. May you rest in peace knowing that each day I wake, I wake to service and to challenge lives of young men so that they will not sit where I sit and have to experience what I and so many others have experienced. And in some small way I try to share the love you taught me to have in others.


I want all of you to know that there is no love like a mother’s love.  Don’t ever take that for granted. I know that everyone processes the passing of a loved one differently, but the death of a loved one is not something you want to deal with in prison. Your pain in the open among those who prey upon weakness. To have no family is one thing. But to have a family and to be cut off is a horse of a different color.

Shalom Shalom

Your son, Kenny