In my early days of knowing John Lee, before anyone else in the family met him, his situation on Death Row was hard for me to deal with.
One day, in need of somebody to talk to, I called my daughter Andrea in Sarasota. I had not mentioned John Lee to her so far, but when I heard her voice, “What’s up?” I talked for almost half an hour non-stop.
When I drew breath, she said, “I’ll write to him.” Just like that.
A week later, a breathless letter fell into our mailbox: “Your blood daughter Andy wrote me!”
She came all the way from Florida to visit, brought her little boy Lachlan along. Andy and John Lee clicked instantly. So did John Lee and Lachlan.
John Lee called him “Lil Man.” He made quacking sounds like Donald Duck and entertained him with pictures torn from magazines. L’il Man was the first child to come into his life for sixteen years, and the two of them were delighted with each other.
“I am really glad your blood daughter Andy liked me!” John Lee wrote. “ And I am glad that she is going to keep on writing me, and hopefully she will come to find me someone special too. I know I will like her a lot . . .”
All this may seem extraordinary on Andy’s part, but it is true. She took John Lee into her heart as simply as she had taken in three broken little Korean orphans, helping me to raise them like a second mother
“But,” she told me later, “life moved on. I moved away, went to college, got married, had a son. I couldn’t be there for them as much as when I lived at home. So when John came along and the girls related so strongly to him, I was grateful.
“He and I are very similar people, nurturers. He has that patience, that understanding. It was as though he had taken over my role. Selfish, I know, but ironically also a perfect fit, and I did not feel so bad about not being able to spend the time and emotional giving I had been able to before.”
“But,” I asked her, “you didn’t know he’d be this sort of person. He was just a man in prison, a stranger who could have been dangerous.”