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clifford being visited by alan austin
Reflections on Cliff and Our Friendship
picture of connieMy name is Conny Krispin, I live in Germany with my husband Thomas and our 3-year-old daughter Lena. This is a short account of what the friendship with Cliff meant for me, how it has changed my life - and how I changed his.

What can I tell you about this man you just saw on your TV screen - a killer that has been one of my closest friends, like a brother, whom I watched growing from an indifferent un-caring brutal murderer into a compassionate man able to share the Grace that he had received - and who seemed to revert back into old patterns of behavior as his short life drew to a close... Who became my mentor and teacher in growing as a Christian and whom in the end I had to show "tough love" in not compromising with things that were clearly hurtful to others - whom I saw almost slip away from his Faith before he finally slipped into the hands of his Savior.

How can I tell Cliff's story without excusing anything he did and yet emphasize the changes he went through - how can I do this without causing more hurt? Maybe that's not possible at all.

We started out as pen-pals, very superficial, at times naïve - just two young people trying to get to know each other's circumstances and share a bit of the worlds we lived in.

For the first few years, I had been one of Cliff's primary contacts with the freeworld - and then one of those very rare visitors. Over the years, we felt like we were "growing up" together - we both became Christians (and that was the major turning point in both of our lives), we both had to deal with issues like forgiveness, anger, self-control etc. We discovered that we were very much alike in many areas, such as childhood experiences with various forms of abuses etc. Thus, we were able to help each other get on with our lives. And it was a mutual help. I had more access to books, counseling material, etc., he had more time to really think through things, and for a while this was a good team work.

However, conflict is prone to happen in any kind of relationship, and ours was no exception.

Looking back, I think one of the major threats for Cliff concerning our friendship was when my daughter was born. He had been depending on me for a lot of things, especially reassurement of his worth as a human being, and even sometimes for his salvation.

Now, when I had this baby, I suddenly did not have all that time anymore to write him every other day or at least once a week. Also, I had not expected that becoming a mother would change my life so much - one of those things that you simply have to experience to understand... But there she was, and my focus shifted from caring for my friend on Death Row to caring for my baby, though of course I still did care for Cliff. It was almost as he had been dethroned from his position of the only child by this new baby (though it took me a long time to realize that) - and he fought this, of course.

It was not until two days before his execution that Cliff was able to admit that he had been jealous of Lena and her place in my life. Maybe it did not fit his image of being a friend to be jealous - it certainly was not the reaction of a mature man, but of a hurting little kid wanting love and attention so badly, and I understand about it - but the emotions were there and they were real. We were finally able to deal with them, very, very late, but better late than never.

Besides Lena and the jealousy, there were so many other things to deal with in these last months and weeks - I often wondered about my position in all this, what my job was - and what it really meant to be a friend to a man on Death Row whose days were very explicitly numbered, and who was hurting in so many ways that he seemed like kicking around in panic - and mostly kicking those he loved, for the things they did out of love for him. It is one form of detaching oneself from relationships in order to make it easier to go - though it was a tough one for those that stayed behind and had to deal with the additional hurt.

I realized that my "job assignment" was not so much the encouraging and supporting of the early years anymore, but pointing out the unresolved feelings of anger and resentment that were surfacing in many areas, admonishing and correcting him wherever it was necessary. It was not easy, and I got to wanting to quit many times. But then, what is a friend? Who, if not a friend, could rebuke in love and help with the repercussions... I found some personal encouragement in the Bible "Wounds of a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses." (Proverbs 27:6) - and I was not disappointed with the results of this tough love. About eight hours before Cliff's death, we were able to reconcile, to cry over hurts we had been inflicting on each other, to forgive and to let go. Yes, I believe with all my heart that Cliff had peace at the end of his journey. And I did, too.

I know that for the victim's families it is not all that easy, and I do understand. I have seen the photos of the crime scenes, I have heard Cliff's confessions in details he never had shared before - and I know that there is nothing that can be done anymore than to ask for forgiveness.

One of the last things Cliff asked me was "Do you regret ever meeting me?" and I can say now as I said then, no, for I have learned a lot about life and death, about the value of time together, about how important it is to teach our children acceptance and values, to discipline them in the right way in the right time in their lives - and most of all, that people CAN change, that God is able to break hardened hearts and soften them in the healing process, and how important it is to stay on track with it, to not shy away from the tougher issues that need to be dealt with - and all of this will keep on playing an important part in my life.

A final note about not attending the execution:

Of course I had always thought I would attend the execution, if it ever would come that far. In the process of preparation, however, I came to the realization that it was not necessary for me to be there. I know that might sound strange. Let me explain: I knew Cliff would go in peace; I knew his soul would be with Jesus - there was not the slightest doubt about it.

He also said it would be almost easier for him to go if he would not see those he left behind grieving. I had sought a lot of counsel about this decision, and finally, I felt God speaking to me, reminding me to a song I had written a few years ago called "When I close my eyes", where it says

Do we weep for the flesh
Or rejoice for the soul
Here's a decision to make
How do we choose
When it comes to the final exam
Of our hope, of our Faith, our beliefs
For we all have to close our eyes
So basically I chose to focus on what happened with Cliff's soul rather than what was done to his body. Again, this was no easy decision, but a healthy one that I have not regretted. I know that for others it was important to SEE that Cliff was "dying well" and in peace, and that is ok, of course.

I hope I could provide you with some additional insights into the life of Clifford H. Boggess - thank you for caring enough to read this.

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