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Archive for the tag “mourning”

Young, Black and Alive

A friend I grew up with died last week.

Me and the crew knew this guy for years. He lived around the corner. He was quiet and reserved, even though he was probably one of the most athletic and intimidating-looking guys if you were opposite of him on a football field or on the wrestling mat. He followed that path of strength and bravery into the U.S. military, and there he inspired other people beyond the borders of our small, sleepy town. 

I immediately think of senior awards night in 2000, when he called me Lauryn Hill, because as Hill swept the Grammys that year, I raked in scholarships and accolades in preparation for my college life, which prepared me for the life I’m living now. He told me he was proud of me. To see a sista no less, be honored and have to walk to the podium multiple times that evening, it was a highlight, he said. He was not at the top of the class in studies, but he always had insight. As me and my friends swap stories, I found that he stood up for people using his common sense through humbling, thoughtful words when he could have handily whooped ass. I guess coming from him, it had such impact, the bullies would back down.

He was at my sweet sixteen– handsome and physically looking way too mature for his age, his muscular frame his facial hair, a cool, and natural relaxed confidence his peers couldn’t quite master just yet, but were aching to. 

My father even asked me who the grown looking young man was. I had to assure him he was 16 too.  He was in the circle of friends who shared limos for junior cotillion and senior prom. Basement parties and bbqs he held up the wall with the cute boys, well-dressed and popular, but still pleasant and accessible. He cheered us on as we achieved success. We saw him become a devoted father and husband over the years. And it looked good on him. His life milestones reminded us single, childless friends of what was to come.

But now I can see the reason why our friend had the job of being a parent and husband as soon as he did. His life would be short and that family would be his joy and inspiration until the end. They needed him and he needed them.

Now, he goes before us into something unknown again. He reminds us of what’s to come and to embrace what we’ve got in the time between. 

As a grown man, he served his country, taking many trips to the battle field in the Middle East. He had a wife and two children who he wanted the best of everything for. Cancer took him far too soon. I can say that I’m glad he is no longer suffering, and I don’t want him to, but I wish he had more time, I wish he had more time to be healthy and be there for his boys to teach them lessons only a good dad can. So all I can do now is pray for his family.

I told a dear friend of mine that this was the kind of man people needed to see out in front. Someone of strong will and spirit and values. He knew how to be loyal, he knew how to stick to his values and do what was right even if it was of great inconvenience to himself. No one is perfect, and people tend to romanticize folks when they’ve passed on. So I don’t know what his grand faults were-he had plenty, I’m sure- but as I knew him, he was good people. Period.

So I’m going to the funeral this week with a heavy heart. I will be surrounded by my closest friends and we’ll mourn together. I even demanded that later that evening we celebrate together the fact we are “Young, black and alive.” We’ll count our blessings, and we’ll allow ourselves the opportunity to say the things we usually don’t to each other because we take for granted it’s understood. But after seeing our young friend laid to rest, the words will come so naturally and so easily for me anyway.

“I love you.”

“I admire you.”

“Thank you.”

Now, I think around last year I’ve been on a kick about saying these things to the people in my life, and this situation brings it home even more.

Rest my friend.

The Reality of Your Parents’ Mortality

One of the harshest realities of getting older is the fact that everyone is getting older too, including your parents.

I’m not even 30 yet, and I’ve already had a number of friends lose a parent or be faced with the challenge of standing by and taking care of a parent who is seriously ill.

A good friend traveled to see his father in the hospital recently and while he was there, it seemed his father improved. Unfortunately, his father has gotten worse since he left town and he told me simply, “What it comes down to is he’s dying and the most important thing is to keep him comfortable.” He said the family will have to now start looking at hospice options and prepare to say goodbye.

My friend is trying to take it all in stride, while being a rock to his siblings.  I told him if he needed anything to please let me know, but I’m sure there is nothing I can do or say to give him enough comfort in such a difficult moment.

Sometimes my father tries to talk to me about his concerns after he is gone and I really can’t stand it. It makes me uncomfortable, it scares the crap out of me. I’d hate to think that my superman will ever leave me. Aside from Jesus, he’s the only man who has NEVER let me down. I’d hate to think that someday my mom won’t be able to make me hot tea so perfectly when I come home or feel her hugs. Who else will tell me bluntly, when I’m just not on point as I should be?

As our parents age, and as illness comes, the tables start to turn. We become protective of them, we admonish them to take better care of themselves, some of us even go as far as physically dragging them to the doctor ourselves. Maybe these actions are our desperate attempt to possibly outwit the inevitable, but we do whatever it takes to keep them here forever.  No matter how grown we are, our parents keep us grounded, our parents make us feel safe and they give us their strength and wisdom. When we stop being stubborn and difficult, we accept those gifts and we cherish them. They remind us to be better people. They take pride in our successes and they build us back up when we fail. Even in the face of old age and or illness, our parents continue to prepare us throughout our lives, for our lives. If we are blessed to have them in our adulthood, they are working even harder to prepare us for our lives without them.

When we lose them, there is a pain that can’t be described, I am told. Those scars remain, and I notice that on holidays, birthdays and special occasions, while my friends who have lost their parents do their best to carry on, there is a private part of them that is solemn. You may catch them quickly in a special thought or memory looking out with a faraway gaze. When I notice it, I dare not disturb it. It is fleeting and they’ll usually sneak back into the groove unnoticed. Even for my parents, while my grandparents may have been gone for decades, I know there are times they really miss them still and wish they were around to guide them or share a moment.

My sister often jokes that when she goes to visit our aunt’s grave, she imagines our Aunt Mae telling her, “Girl, stop looking at this piece of stone in the ground. Don’t stay too long, because you have to go out and live your life.”

For some reason, I think our lost loved ones do believe that wherever they are. It is more than alright to remember (it is our duty), but we must not linger too long, because we must live the lives they wanted for us and to live them well, filled with happiness, because one day, all too soon, we too will be gone.

Side note: I don’t want anyone to take this blog too literally to apply to biological parents. Whoever was a parental figure to you, grandparents, aunts, uncles, foster parents, adoptive parents, this is for everyone. 

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