71. Beautiful Music

71. Beautiful Music

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Happily Ever After

Beautiful Music

If you’re never scared or embarrassed or hurt,
it means you never take any chances.

~Julia Sorel (Rosalyn Drexler), See How She Runs, 1978

Paulette, a divorced mother of two, began volunteering at a state prison in 1992 by helping organize a speaking group for the inmates. After a few months, she was asked by the prison chaplain if she would consider joining the prison choir — The Heavenly Voices. Loving to sing, or as she puts it, “making a joyful noise,” she jumped at the chance to join the all-inmate, all-male choir. It wasn’t long before Paulette became an integral part of the choir members’ lives as well — writing letters for them, contacting family members on their behalf, or just listening when they needed to talk.

One of the inmates she grew close to was Reggie. In 1990, Reggie had received a twenty-year sentence for drug trafficking. Because of his incredible voice and ability to command respect, he soon became the director of the prison choir. The choir rehearsed every day, and the members had to be particularly dedicated in order to belong. In addition to concerts and programs, they sometimes put on plays or had special anniversary parties for some of the members. The choir became a family of sorts within the confines of the prison walls.

In 1997, Reggie had his sentence reduced and was ordered to attend a drug and alcohol treatment program that assisted inmates in their transition back to society. Reggie was instructed to find someone to be his “host” during the program. He wrote letters to three people he thought would accept the responsibility, but he only received one reply — from Paulette.

During their years in the choir together, Paulette had grown to respect Reggie and she didn’t feel that she could refuse his request. After passing inspection by the state as an appropriate host, Paulette was cleared to assist Reggie in his journey back into society. At first, restricted by the few free hours he had a week, Paulette’s responsibilities were merely to act as Reggie’s taxi driver to choir rehearsals, as The Heavenly Voices also had an “outside” choir made up of several ex-inmates and their wives. Soon, however, Reggie had more and more free hours as the intensive transition counseling began to lessen. Paulette often included him in family events. She heard from more than one relative and friend that she and Reggie made a “perfect” couple.

Her first reaction was to laugh off these comments, but she soon found herself more and more anxiously awaiting Reggie’s weekend visits. She told herself it was because he was such a dear friend, one whose company she cherished. It wasn’t until the day that Reggie was to be released from the program that she realized the true extent of her feelings.

She and her teenage son arrived at the halfway house at 5:45 A.M. to pick up Reggie and his belongings and to take him to live in the basement apartment of her home. Instead, she was told that Reggie still had something on his record in his home state. Reggie was taken back to prison for possible extradition. Paulette, usually calm and in control, began to cry. She got in her car and raced home to begin a series of phone calls to find someone to help Reggie with this new legal entanglement. Ultimately, Reggie was delayed for only another week before being released into Paulette’s custody. She realized then that she could no longer hide her feelings for him.

Although it had taken her more than five years, Paulette had finally realized that she had slowly but surely fallen in love with Reggie. If he hadn’t known her feelings before, Reggie certainly knew when Paulette kissed him the day he was released. Paulette braced herself for the negative comments she was sure would come her way, but not one family member or friend said anything negative. It seemed Reggie had won the hearts of everyone in Paulette’s life, including her son’s and daughter’s.

Reggie and Paulette were married on Valentine’s Day 1999 and are still making beautiful music together with The Heavenly Voices. Some would argue that the chain of events that brought Reggie and Paulette together was just coincidence or fate, but Paulette firmly believes God planned it from the start. How else would Reggie have had a long prison sentence miraculously shortened?

Reggie is now serving a life sentence with the woman who is, above all else, his best friend.

 

~Kimberly Raymer
Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul

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