Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.

Sitting as silent witness as my birthday celebration


“What did you do for your birthday?”

“I sat as silent witness.”


tdcj-adam-ward-execution“I sat as silent witness at the steps of Texas State Capitol, as Adam Ward was executed at Huntsville Death House for killing a city inspector.”

“That doesn’t sound like fun.”

It wasn’t. I sobbed as the church bells rang at 6 pm, the moment when Adam was tied to a steel bed frame and forced to receive his lethal injection.

It is hard, every time I sit. It doesn’t get easier over time. I grieve the loss of every precious life. I mourn our inability to support our children growing up into adults who are able to include all needs. I suffer from our inability to use protective force, instead of punitive.

I lost my excitement to eat my birthday apple pie with friends afterwards.

Yet the awareness of our impermanence also seems fitting. What better way to appreciate the life I’ve been given, than by reflecting on the preciousness and vulnerability of it? What better way to value the love and support I receive from my family and friends, than to mourn those who grew up without love and support? To grieve for the children who are left to the violence of their caretakers? How better to celebrate my blessings, than to show up for those who have come to believe they have none at all?

For Adam Ward, sitting as silent witness is a completely ineffective action. We sit at the moment he is killed. Our sitting has no impact whatsoever on the proceedings of his execution or on his life. Hardly any driver at Congress and 11th takes notice of us, or reads our simple sign: “Stop Executions”. Of those who see the sign, one puts out the down-turned thumb. Another wildly gestures “no” in aversion of the idea that we would stop killing the killers. A third rolls down his window to yell “KILL THEM ALL”. I bow to them and their responses. They are my teachers of the human experience. In my aspiration to expand my compassionate heart, I wish to include everyone: those that agree with me, and those that don’t.

And some people honk in agreement or wave their hands. One woman walks up to us and says: “We don’t believe in that punishment either. We are Catholics. We care for life.”

I cry.

At my birthday party, I am not alone. Others care too. I have a small group with me who also grieve the loss of another precious life.

Yes. This is how I want to celebrate the precious life I’ve been given.

You want help to honor your life? Contact me, 512-589-0482 for a free, discovery session.

Thank you, David Nayer, for editing this post during your travels. I am inspired by your shaping of words, the clarity and focus you bring to my writing, and your dedication to contribute!

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping mission-driven professionals bring their lives into balance. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I'm currently in an ICF-coaching certification program. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

2 thoughts on “Sitting as silent witness as my birthday celebration

  1. Oh Elly, you are so strong to be able to do this. I admire and honor you.


    • Hi Susan, thank you. I haven’t been clear enough (since I didn’t write it, I edited my post to include more facts), that I didn’t witness the actual execution. I would only do that, if the inmate invited me. We sit on the steps of Texas State Capitol, while the execution takes place in Huntsville Death House, 2 hours and 40 minutes to the East.


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