Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Last week, my daughter came home and told me that the Pre-K class pet had died. The parakeet named CJ was the first death many of the children had experienced and the teachers used the event as a teaching moment. My daughter said, "Dad, CJ died," and she seemed pretty OK with it. She went back to watching TV with Mom.
Two days later, I got the news that my grandmother of 91 years passed away the previous night. When I got the message, I said "Oh my God!" and my daughter and wife came running. They said "What's wrong?!" and I told them the news - "Grandma Freeman died." My daughter immediately burst into tears, and seeing that sight suddenly made me do the same. The reality and gravity of what that meant was understood all too well by my 4-year old. After a few seconds, I regained my composure and immediately got on the phone to contact family members and to console my mother and uncle for their loss.
Five minutes later, my daughter regained her composure as well and went back to the business of getting dressed for the day. I thought maybe she was OK, having dealt with the loss of CJ so well. I was wrong. It's been 11 days since then and she has cried everyday. This is not continuous crying, but still it's no fun to watch her smile and then suddenly frown, knowing exactly what she's thinking about. She misses her great-grandmother. And why shouldn't she? She's not mature enough to appreciate the faith that Grandma Freeman is free of pain and in a better place with her Creator. All she has are pictures and memories, and those things can tear you up inside if you let them. Thank God she has a huge family to surround her with love and support. I'm thankful she got to know Mary Freeman (1918-2009) when she did. Aimée was the only great-grandchild she knew, and was therefore a princess among royalty.
When Aimée was born, my grandmother set up a pearl necklace program for her through a prestigious jewelry store. On her birthdays and on Christmas, Aimée receives a single pearl in a box that by her 21st birthday will be a full pearl necklace. My grandmother wanted a special heirloom for Aimée that she would be able to appreciate and cherish for the rest of her life. Of course, the pearls cannot replace the real treasure, but the gesture is profound nonetheless.
This marks the end of an era for me. My whole life has been peppered with trips to Washington D.C. to visit my grandparents, and now that's over. While I'll still visit D.C. for other family members, it obviously will never be the same. I've only ever associated D.C. with my grandparents for they showed me the entire city during my childhood - every museum, memorial, and monument. I went to the White House, Capitol Hill, the Library of Congress, and even the FBI building. My grandfather was a well-respected business man, having established the first African-run insurance companies in Ghana, and therefore, my brothers and I were princes among royalty. He was James Bond in my mind. Just way cooler, and black.
Now, going to Wasington D.C. without them being there is like getting off a plane in Rome, and Rome not being there.
On the morning of my grandmother's funeral, I woke to the sounds of the television reporting the plane crash in Buffalo that took 49 lives. In the final seconds of the landing, something went wrong and the pilots never got to inform the passengers. Just boom, it's over.
Today, we learned that a student I taught three years ago died unexpectedly. She was a junior in high school. She was found outdoors hours after leaving a party. Most of the members of the junior class who knew her in Middle School are naturally distraught. Counselors are everywhere trying to help and extra advisor meetings are planned to help students deal with the loss. It seems that death is all around us.
Yet, I live today with purpose and joy in my heart.
I am alive - This is real.
I have only today - This is real.
I must love myself today - This is real.
I must show someone love today - This is real.
I am blessed - This is real.
And no matter how long I'm able to enjoy this life, one more thing is real . . .
Death Is. And it's not evil.
Death is the period at the end of the sentence. You are the subject. Go and live the predicate.