Though I went to Mass as a refuge from jail life, I remained defiant and angry inside. Faith in God was a question in my mind that would not be easily answered. I think Elias, an older man, saw this in me. During our discussions he mostly listened, sometimes commenting but always attentive. One day, after seeing me make the Sign of the Cross with my left hand, he pulled me aside after Mass.
“Lyle,” he said, his Jordanian roots heavily accenting his English, “Why you make the Sign of the Cross with left hand? This is bad. You should make it with the right.” He demonstrated until I nodded. “Good. You seem a nice boy.” Elias patted me on the shoulder, stern but pleasant.
I was one of the youngest people on death row at the time, turning 21 a month before being sentenced to death. This meant I got called “boy” a lot, especially by the older guys from the South. Elias acknowledged my youth, but was not disrespectful, just kind.