20 Years & Falling Apart: Death, Dying & Losing People Who Loved You (Originally written on October 31, 2019)

3 days after my 11th birthday, I woke up at my Grandmother’s house. I tried to sneak and play my aunts Nintendo before anyone woke up. Turns out, everyone was already awake. My Mamal called me down to the living room of her split level home. As I came down the stairs she told me to sit down. She carefully explained that my dad was out with friends the night before. Some people were shooting into the crowd outside of the place where my father had gone to hang with friends and to dance the night away. My dad had been shot. I asked her if he would be ok or if we could go visit him in the hospital. She told me no.

3 days after my 11th birthday, I woke up to a day full of promise only to find out that my father was murdered. It was the winter of 1999. November 20th, 1999. It took a week to burry my dad. My mom sang at the funeral. I wept in my Great Great Aunts lap

In 20 days, it will be the 20th anniversary of my father’s death. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that ever since late August of this year I have been falling apart. Emotionally, I have been all over the place. Reeling. Upset at the thought that my 31st birthday is around the corner, and all I can think about is my father’s life being taken away from me.

In 20 days, I’ll still find myself dealing with some recent deaths. Two people from my church passed away recently. One person in his own opinion was “…just a dumb country boy who learned how to paint for a living.” He sent me and my daughter on our first real vacation together. We stayed in his Florida condo for free and we were able to take one of our church buddies with us. As we drove down, he called to check on us and to make sure we were being safe. He made sure he purchased our tickets to Disney World a few weeks in advance. It was one of the kindest things a man had ever done for me without me asking. He checked on me for several weeks following that as he painted and made minor repairs around the church. When he passed, I sang at his funeral. It knocked the wind out of me.

The other member of my church who passed felt like family. She was my circle sister, chancel choir singing, compliment giving, recommendation letter writing, leave a little make-up on your birthday card giving, sorority sister, grandma, aunt and friend. It’s strange to think of a 90+ year old woman as your friend. But when she looked me squarely in the eyes as frequently as she could and told me how much she loved me, I knew that she was divinely sent to me to be a friend. That’s partially why when her health declined, I silently refused to go see her. I couldn’t bare looking her in the eyes anymore because I knew that God was going to eventually call her name. When she passed, I sang at her funeral. Strangely, it gave me peace.

The loss of my two church friends who I know loved me in differing ways reminded me of all the ways we can show people how much they mean to us.

Dealing with death at any age is traumatic. Like the time my Uncle Brian and my Great Grandma Doris died in the same week, so I attended a funeral on Friday and a funeral on Saturday. I wasn’t right for weeks after that. Or like the time when my younger cousin Tamia and her baby passed away. Seeing her and her baby boy in the casket nearly took me out. I had nightmares for several days after that. Dealing with death at any age is traumatic, but when I was 11, my family had no clue how to deal with a grieving child. That wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t really anyones fault. They did the best they could do.

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