Browsing Category Life and Death

Say Their Names

I cried this morning. After saying my morning prayer and thanking God for waking me, I cried for people who won’t see the new day.

I cried for George Floyd, the most recent poster man for police abuse. I cried for Sandra Bland and Philando Castile. I wept for all of the people listed below whose lives resulted in unnecessary and senseless deaths at the hands of rogue law enforcement officers, and as in the case of Trayvon Martin, wanna-be-cops.

I no longer watch the video showing a policeman with his knee, pressing George Floyd’s neck to the ground, applying his full body weight, squeezing the life out of the helpless man lying prone with his hands cuffed behind his back. Once was enough. I am tired of seeing videos of black people, particularly black men being murdered by the boys in blue, who, without courage fueled by a badge and gun, might otherwise be quivering cowards.

All seasons are open season on black people. Some cops – and I emphasize some because not all of them are bad – appear to take pleasure in using lethal force and lethal weapons against unarmed black men. You need a license to hunt animals, but black men are fair game. Shoot them. Stun them to death with a taser. Hang them in a jail cell or suffocate them on the street. Hands up, hands down, hands cuffed behind their backs, it doesn’t matter to corrupt officers. They spot their prey and slay it.

The unmerciful killing of black people is happening in cities across the country. Will it ever stop? Amerikkk have you no conscience?

On May 24, The New York Times ran a list of people who succumbed to COVID-19. How about we start compiling and publishing lists of the black people who have been murdered by law enforcement officers or hate monger racists like those who killed Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr?

In these contemporary times, high-profile police brutality cases draw public attention and protests. Still, I suspect that numerous cases are so well covered-up that the public never learns about them.

It doesn’t matter if brown-skinned targets happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or the right place at the wrong time. Any time or any place can be a kill zone for a cop on a mission, including one’s own home.

If you have a relative or friend who you haven’t seen or heard from for a while, do not, I repeat, do not call the police and ask them to do a wellness check. Last year, a neighbor of Fort Worth, Texas resident Atatiana Jefferson, after noticing her door ajar, called the police and asked them to look in on Atatiana. According to reports, a responding officer saw a movement through the window of Atatiana’s home and fired. She was shot dead — in her own home. In September 2018, Botham Jean was murdered by a Dallas policewoman in his home. She claims she thought it was her apartment. In February 1999, Amadou Diallo was mowed down by four plain-clothed police officers. They blasted him with 41 shots as he was preparing to enter his apartment building. They claim to have mistaken him for a rape suspect, a claim that was never confirmed by any evidence.

When I began researching this subject, I was determined to find and list enough related cases to produce a list at least half as long as the corona list published in The New York Times. A list of black citizens who have been haphazardly murdered for decades would surely fill up several issues of the paper. In that regard, Coronavirus ain’t got nothing on us.

While researching the subject, I read so many stories about people who unjustly suffered death by cop until I couldn’t read anymore. Every story tugged at my heartstrings. My emotions were too raw for me to complete the task. In some cases, the officers were charged and convicted, but many times, they were not criminally charged. I read the line “No officers have been charged with a crime,” so often, I thought I’d vomit. Many rogue cops get off Scot-free to live to kill another day. During a recent newscast, I heard a man say, “Being black in America should not be a death sentence.” Oh, but unfortunately, it is.

If you aren’t familiar with some of the names in the list below, Google them. Read their stories, pray for their soul, and say their name.

 

Akai Gurley

Albert Davis

Alonzo Smith

Alton Sterling

Alvin Haynes

Amadou Diallo

Andre Larone Murphy, Sr.

Ahmaud Arbery

Anthony Ashford

Artago Damon Howard

Arthur McDuffie

Askari Robert

Asshams Manley

Atatiana Jefferson

Bettie Jones

Billy Ray Davis

Botham Jean

Brandon Glenn

Brandon Jones

Breonna Taylor

Brian Acton

Brian Day

Brian Pickett

Bryan Overstreet

Charly Leundeu Keunang

Christian Taylor

Christopher Kimble

Cornelius Brown

Dajuan Graham

Dante Parker

Darrell Brown

Darrell Gatewood

Darrius Steward

David Felix

De’Angelo Stallworth

Denzel Brown

Deontre Dorsey

Dominic Hutchinson

Dominick Wise

Donald Ivy

Dontre Hamilton

Eric Garner

Eric Harris

Ezell Ford

Felix Kumi

Frank Shephard III

Frank Smart

Freddie Gray

Freedie Blue

George Floyd

George Mann

India Kager

Jamar Clark

James Carney III

Jason Moland

Jerame Reid

Jeremy Lett

Jeremy McDole

Jermaine Benjamin

Jonathan Sanders

Junior Prosper

Keith Childress

Keith McLeod

Kevin Bajoie

Kevin Garrett

Kevin Matthews

Kris Jackson

Lamontez jones

Laquan McDonald

Lavante Biggs

Leroy Browning

Leslie Snapp

Lorenzo Hayes

Matthew Ajibade

Michael Brown

Michael Lee Marshall

Michael Noel

Michael Sabbie

Miguel Espinal

Natasha McKenna

Nathaniel Pickett

Norman Cooper

Paterson Brown

Philando Castile

Phillip White

Rayshun Cole

Reginald Moore

Richard Perkins

Roy Nelson

Rumain Brisbon

Salvado Ellswood

Samuel Dubose

Samuel Harrell

Sandra Bland

Spencer McCain

Tamir Rice

Tanisha Anderson

Terence Crutcher

Terry lee Chatman

Terry Price

Tiano Metron

Tiara Thomas

Tony Robinson

Trayvon Martin

Troy Robinson

Tyree Crawford

Victo Larosa III

Walter Scott

Wayne Wheeler

William Chapman II

Zamiel Crawford

 

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Contemplating Unfinished Agendas

Sometimes life body slams us so hard that all we can do is cry. Kobe Bryant’s death had that effect on people worldwide. It even brought grown men to tears. Like most people, I am equally saddened about the other eight people who lost their lives in the copter crash, including one of Kobe’s daughters. But I can’t count how many times I heard repeated, “Kobe was the man!” I have no qualms about that. Deservedly so, the entire world is giving Kobe props.

From an early age, we learn to set goals, not only because it is a wise thing to do but because it gives us a sense of direction and some control over our life. I emphasize some control because the word control is worrisome to me. I regard it with the same reservation as I do another impractical word – fair.

I remember reading a while ago, and I can’t recall where I read it, but the author was spot-on when he wrote that “Fairness cannot exist because nothing is fair.” That statement reverberates in my mind whenever I hear someone say how unfair it is that Kobe died so young. Not that I disagree, but as I see it, the concept of fairness is as conditional as the notion of control. Think about it. Are we ever completely in control of our life? Anyone who believes that we are, probably believes that fairness is a reality, too. Contrary to the myth, all is NOT fair in love and war or life.

And speaking of goals. Kobe had goals beyond those that he had already accomplished. What he did not have was control over his life. Fate took charge of that, leaving an unfinished agenda in Kobe’s book of life.

I often record information in an appointment book, digital calendar, or a personal organizer. Many other efficient people do it too. We log into appropriate timeslots activities like community meetings, doctors’ appointments, or hairdresser. For less urgent tasks, we make a mental note or jot on our to-do list:  Straighten the linen closet. Get the car washed. Finish reading War and Peace.

I am a positive realist (aka a call-it-as-I-see-it person).  I maintain a positive attitude, but I also acknowledge the fact that no matter what goals we aspire to, there will be challenges that may prevent us from achieving that goal.  So many things depend on extenuating circumstances, so I don’t harbor the illusion of being in control. Fate sometimes undermines our plans. Robert Burns understood this even in the 18th Century when he wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

We’ve all heard stories about people who experience life-altering situations and we acknowledge their situation as either good fortune or bad luck. Consider the unemployed husband of five. The day after he loses his job, he wins the biggest jackpot in lottery history. Good luck, right? On the other hand, we also remember the family outing that turned tragic when a mother lost nine family members including her husband and three children in a Duck Boat accident. Neither the father of five or the mother, suddenly of none, had control over what happened.

At times life’s unpredictability hits close to home.  A few years ago, a friend of mine walked from her apartment to the communal laundry room, which was mere steps away from her door. She was carrying a plastic laundry basket containing a few items of clothing. A light load. She placed the laundry into the washer, turned it on and then returned to her apartment. Suddenly feeling ill, she was rushed to the hospital by a family member and within minutes was in the ICU. By the time the washer finished its final spin cycle, she was dead.

Every morning when we are fortunate to wake up, those of us who are religious thank God for the blessing of seeing another day, and then we go about our business. Off to work, shopping, or doing whatever we have planned for the day. I don’t dwell on the “what if” something bad happens; nevertheless, I am always aware of the fact that there is the chance that in a flash, a quirk of fate can change all plans. Phone calls go unreturned. Emails unanswered. And laundry is left unclaimed in the washer.

I repeat I am a positive realist. My life’s experiences have led me to embrace the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (and I am paraphrasing), “I always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

When I was a child growing up in LeDriot Park, I sometimes heard an angry parent yell at her misbehaving child, “Keep it up and I’m going to hit you so hard you’re gonna wake up dead.” That idle threat was more intimidating than, “Do it one more time and I’ll knock you into the middle of next week.”

My mother never said anything that mean to my siblings or me, but hearing other people say it left naive me wondering – after we die do we wake up dead and do we know that we are dead?

There is so much about life – and death – that is a mystery. But one thing is certain. Regardless of what we plan, each individual’s lifespan has a timeframe. There are no retakes and few second chances. I think of life using the analogy of a horse race. Once out of the gate, we may stumble and then get back on our feet, but we cannot turn around and start all over again. We must run the track – until we can’t. Life is a one-way trip from the cradle to the grave over which we have only limited control and sometimes we leave unfinished agendas.

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Pushing Up Daisies

I’m sitting here thinking about putting a light spin on what is a dark part of every one of our lives. It’s something that no one wants to discuss. That unwelcome visitor that everyone knows is coming who makes us want to snatch the welcome mat from in front of our door. That one-way trip that we will all take eventually whether we want to go or not. That journey to the valley of death.

Since I’ve got more years behind me than before me, I’ve been giving the subject a lot of thought. Certainly, after I fall into the big sleep, I won’t have a say over anything concerning my former self, so I am herein expressing my last wishes for funeral and burial.

Before I continue with details, let me reiterate what I have often said – that I hate attending funerals and avoid them when I can. But as we all know there is one funeral that we won’t miss. Our own.

About funeral-goers. I put them into three categories. First, there are the truly bereaved mourners who have lost a loved one, relative, or friend. Second are the curious, casual acquaintances of the deceased whose ulterior motive for attending the funeral is to get a copy of the program, with the hope of learning things that they didn’t already know about the deceased. The third group attends funerals because it is a social gathering. During the hour or two, while they are attending the service and the repast, it breaks-up the monotony of their otherwise mundane life. I’m not judging. I’m just calling it as I see it.

Skepticism aside, we all have limited time on earth. Before my time comes to be the grim reaper’s reluctant guest of honor, I want to make my last wishes known to my family. And family, don’t feel guilty if you do not comply with these requests because as I’ve learned over the years not everyone’s last wish is granted. It is the living, not the dead who have the final say over the dead body. I’ll give you an example.

After mother died, a few days before her funeral service, my sister and I carried the outfit for her to be buried in to the funeral home. On the day of the funeral, I arrived shortly before the wake was scheduled to start. When I looked in the casket, I was beyond upset. Mother’s chemo-thinned, silvery hair had been nicely pressed, curled, and styled, BUT that was not the issue. She had worn a wig for years before she died, and while on her deathbed, when she was suggesting to my sister and me which outfits we could bury her in, she said, “And don’t forget my wig.”

We had placed the wig neatly on top of the clothing in the bag before carrying it to the funeral home. The undertaker’s grave mistake was that he or she inadvertently forgot to put mother’s wig on her head. That’s what I mean when I say that the dead don’t always get their last wish fulfilled, but there was a twist to this.

Mother’s wig was ultimately retrieved by the undertaker after the first service and was placed on her head before her body was transported over 200 miles away for a graveside ceremony and burial in her hometown. My cousin, who had attended the first service and then followed the hearse to the burial site, later told me that when the casket was opened for the graveside service, she was surprised to see mother was wearing her wig.

I repeat. I do not want an open casket funeral. I don’t want people walking up to my casket gawking over me and then later telling others how I looked. I know that people mean well, but during my lifetime, I have heard (and overheard) too many obtuse comments made about dead people.

“Ms. Estelle sure looked nice. She had on a hat and gloves, dressed like she was going to church. They even had her usher pin on her lapel.”

Or here’s another one, “LaQuita looked good in that white casket. Her weave was tight, and that purple eye shadow matching her lavender shirt was nice. Her boyfriend should not have did that to her.”

It is the female corpses that get scrutinized most, but occasionally comments are made about the males. “Why did they bury Mr. Johnson in his glasses? It’s not like he’ll be able to see where he’s going.”

Undertakers deserve credit for doing their best to make corpses presentable. Still, the thoughtless remarks that some people make after the services bothers me. The sad fact is that no matter how well they are laid out, the bodies of dead people look just like what they are – lifeless and dead. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I say that with much respect.

Like every other corpse, I will have no control over what I am wearing, how my hair is combed or whether my lips have been fixed to look like I am smiling on the way to eternity or pissed off because I am in the land of the dead. Therefore, I repeat, I do not want an open casket funeral. Sadly, I make that request knowing full well that I won’t have the last word about that. You, my family, will.

I tell you what, let’s not have a funeral for me. Services and headstones are expensive. Use that life insurance money for something else. Cremate me. I don’t care. Cremation is cheaper, and think, in the future, you’ll be able to truthfully tell your friends that I had a smoking hot body.

And another thing. I’ve seen insensitive people take pictures of the deceased when they go to view the body. Not only do I think that is inappropriate, but it is downright disrespectful to the family and the deceased. The deceased deserve the dignity of going to their final resting place without a photo op.

If you have a service for me, please call it a funeral. Do not call it a homegoing. I know that term is popular and frequently used. But I never liked it. I understand the concept of homegoing to a heavenly home. But when I think of home going I envision myself taking out my key, unlocking the door, and walking into the place where I live, not transported in a hearse to a cemetery.

In the great scheme of things, we are all insignificant. When and how we are born into this world is the luck of the draw. We have no say in the matter. Who will be our birth parents? Was our birth planned and eagerly anticipated or a fluke? Will we be born a rich child, into a wealthy family, or a poor child in poverty? How we fare in life is a game of chance, and it is pretty much the same when we depart. We don’t know when or how we will leave here. Natural causes. Murder. Accident. Suicide. It’s paramount to live our best life and celebrate it now. When we come here, how long we stay, and when we leave is not a choice.

The Bible prophesizes, and people can speculate all they want, but who on earth can say for sure what happens to us after we die? Christians believe that depending on how we live; we will ultimately ascend to a heavenly home or spiral down into a hellish abyss. Who knows? The hereafter is as perplexing as the present day and time. The goal, oh yeah, and a song you can play at my service if you wish is Stayin’ Alive.

This composition began as a personal letter to my family, but while writing it, I decided to post an alternate version with the hope that it might make someone smile about a subject that is often taken deathly seriously.

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