As I adjusted myself uncomfortably on the couch, the crying of my mother and sister became more apparent. My entire family was saddened by the passing of my grandfather, but seeing my loved ones crying conjured a deeper array of feelings and emotions in me.
My grandfather died of prostate cancer, and during his passing I couldn’t help but think how the Mazal family, victims of the crimes of my youth, handled Harry Mazal’s passing due to cancer. I was reminded of news articles, which alluded that my theft of Nuremberg documents had hastened his death.
During my 6 month prison stay I had to wrestle with the guilt and shame those accusations caused. But now, seeing my own family struggling with a loved one’s premature passing, it hit me much closer to home.
I’ve written a lot of articles & blog posts about my experience in prison, but they were always centered on what I’d learned while locked up. Those pieces were filled with lessons learned as I experienced a side of life unknown to most people. They gave me a chance to provide value & offer wisdom to outside readers.
The majority of the articles I’ve written on the subject were for sites that thrive from expanded readership. In order to serve their mission, I needed to share my lessons. However none of these amazing opportunities offered me an outlet to be truly present with the impact of the sins I’ve committed. I never used my authorship to publicly acknowledge, nor apologize for my transgressions.
But this is my site. MansalDenton.com is my personal forum. This is not about sales. It’s about sharing with my friends & family…and anyone else who cares to stop in.
I wanted to write a post about this topic on Dec 1st, the 1 year anniversary of my release from prison, but I procrastinated and spearheaded a charitable campaign instead. It was easier to “do good” than face and apologize for a tumultuous part of my life.
In fact, I try not to dwell on this part of my life much. I feel a lot of guilt and shame, which at times can derail my entire day. Even as I write this at 6:17 am, I feel tense and on high alert because I have always felt attacked when discussing the subject.
And it is no wonder I feel attacked; many of the news articles make me sound like pure evil. There are comments from people who talk about sending me to prison forever or even hanging me for my crimes. I like to think of myself as a resilient person, but the knowledge that someone wrote those things can be emotionally taxing. So I try to push it aside or ignore it. It doesn’t serve me, so it isn’t welcome in my experience.
But sometimes, I realize, it is important to revisit the past. It’s important to reflect & think about the things I’ve done, the people I’ve hurt, and what my next steps to make amends must be. Nobody ever said reminders of past transgressions were easy or fun, but sometimes they’re a necessity.
I betrayed the trust of a man who dedicated his life to preserving history and combating evil. My theft destroyed his life’s work, which undoubtedly impacted his health negatively. In doing so, I hurt him, his wife, and the entire extended Mazal family. I rarely had an opportunity to see their grief, but in my own grandfather’s death from cancer, I could feel it.
Beyond the Mazal family, I hurt my parents, grandparents, and sisters. During my time in prison, my grandmother struggled with the stress of knowing her grandson was a convicted felon, lost her appetite, and lost a lot of weight. My sisters, often too young to understand what was making mommy cry, were confused and saddened that their brother “was going away for a while”. They had no idea that their college funds were gone, emptied by my parents in a desperate attempt to protect me from a harsher prison sentence.
Even now, as I write about my their experience, tears well up in my eyes. From that sadness a new layer of shame emerges. Another box of guilt & atonement I’ve yet to fully unpack.
I’m not even sure how to go about all this. I think the only thing I can do is to apologize; to the Mazal family, to my grandparents, to my parents, to my sisters, to people who trusted me, and to all those people who will be affected in the future because of their association to me.
Will I ever be absolved of my transgressions? Probably not. I’ll face this in some form or another for the rest of my life. There are plenty of benefits of that, so I am appreciative, but at the same time it weighs on my conscience. I only hope that people can see & judge me for the man I am now, rather than the foolish boy I once was.
And for those who don’t forgive me, I understand and empathize; I know you’re doing the best you can with what you have been given, as am I, just like everyone else.
I pray that you’re able to find peace & rest from the bitter gifts I’ve given you, and fully appreciate the precious moments of life before another loved one is lost.