He wrote in an almost nonchalant way about how he would go to his death. The number of days remaining and other grim details were accepted as normal by everyone around him on death row:
My cell (one of three) is next to the execution chamber so I won't have far to walk. There's another guy down here with me, his execution is set for two weeks before mine so assuming he doesn't get a stay I'll have a front row seat to how the final days and hours play out. Aren't I lucky?
Van Poyck discussed the practical aspects of his death, though he admitted they were a little disconcerting:
On Tuesday they came and measured me for my execution/burial suit. Sometime soon I'll be given the details on how "the body" will be disposed of following the legally required autopsy (will my cause of death really be a mystery?). I understand the state will pay for a cremation should I choose this form of disposal (I do) and my ashes will be available at a Gainesville funeral home; but don't quote me on that yet.
He pondered the moment of his own death and the people who would bear witness:
I understand there are usually about two dozen witnesses to these executions and I sometimes wonder about those who will be at mine, unknown, faceless men rooting for me to die, happy to see me breathe my last breath. I wonder about men who do not know me, have never met me, never broken bread with me and who know nothing about what's in my heart, who nonetheless are anxious, eager, happy to see me die.
It does not bother me, but I wonder if it will ever bother any of those men (and yes, it's almost always men, with their lust for blood; women seldom indulge in this), perhaps in their sunset years when they reflect back on their youth and wonder about their imperatives. I hope, for their sakes, that one day they will be ashamed -- or at least disappointed -- with their naked blood lust and will determine to henceforth set a better example for those following behind them.
And what it felt like to find out that a non-death row inmate had hanged himself:
The irony wasn't lost on me that while three of us on death watch are fighting to live, this poor soul, living just 10 feet above us, stripped of all hope, had voluntarily surrendered his life rather than continue his dismal existence. When nothing but a lifetime of suffering lays ahead -- with no hope, no promise, no opportunity to change your fate -- the idea of utter annihilation can come to look appealing in contrast.
He watched as an inmate was scheduled for execution and won a last-minute reprieve:
That's gotta be a hell of a transition; you are hours away from execution, you've had your final visits (imagine how emotional that is), made your peace with the inevitable, perhaps eaten your last meal, then, in a finger snap, you're told you won't be dying after all (at least not that night) and you are back on a regular death row cell talking with the fellas.
I've seen a number of guys go through this over the years, one of whom was just 20 minutes from execution in the electric chair when he got his unexpected stay. They moved him next to me and I was startled to see that his hair had turned almost entirely white during the six weeks he was on death watch.
He died quietly in his sleep from a heart attack about six years later, right here on this floor.
He described what happened when death changed from an abstract idea to an absolute:
I got little sleep the first week, perhaps two hours a night and then I was up and wide awake at 2 a.m., mind racing, thoughts all a-jumble, despite my best breathing and meditation techniques. I'd finally get my mind onto some mundane subject and then, bam, my gut would knot up as the thought suddenly elbowed its way into my mind, these guys are going to take me next door and kill me in x-number of days! This still happens a dozen times a day, and more at night.
Over the years, Van Poyck had contemplated many things about his life. He had all the time in the world to think. Here is what he wrote on Mother's Day this year:
Today is Mother's Day, and as I usually do this time of year I open my photo album and look at those old black and white photos of mom (God, she was beautiful!) and wonder how my life would have turned out differently if she had not died when I was a baby, if I'd had a mother to love me, raise me, guide and nurture me, a mom I could love, look up to, and be determined not to disappoint. These are, for now, unanswerable questions, but when I pass over to the next plane I hope to get some answers. If nothing else I'll be with mom and dad and that is what gives me such peace.
Thursday, the news of Van Poyck's execution appeared on "Death Row Diary." This time, the entry was the voice of his sister, who'd traveled to Florida to meet her brother for the very last time.
His last words were, "Set me free!" and his soul is indeed free now. Awaiting him were my mother and father with open arms and other family members and friends who went before. William's reunion with his loved ones is a joyous event.
Media reports said Van Poyck declined to make a final statement, but the world has not heard the last of him yet. His sister wrote that she expects two more letters from her brother that have not yet arrived in the mail. She intends to publish what will presumably be William Van Poyck's last words.
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