I Had Such a Friend: A Letter for Jesse

In May, a dear friend of ours passed away. Our Monday and Thursday posts will be dedicated to him. I’ve chosen to write my dear friend a letter.

“Think where man’s glory begins and ends/ And say my glory was I had such friends.”–from William Butler Yeats, “The Municipal Gallery Revisited”

Buckroe Beach at Sunset. Photo by Michael Anderson, © 2013

Buckroe Beach (VA) at Sunset, site of Jesse’s memorial. Photo by Michael Anderson, © 2013

Dear Jesse,

You were my colleague, friend, and brother. I love you, and I miss you.

It’s hard to believe that it was only eight years ago when we met. I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I met you and the Da Hype 1 at the the same time, and I liked you both right away. It is not often that I’ve met people with whom I immediately feel at home, but that’s how it was with us. We were like a nerdy “Treacherous Three”–making fun of others and ourselves, watching bad movies just to laugh, and discussing good books. We shared family stories, both hurtful and happy. We talked on the phone for long periods of time like teenagers and found that we were quite similar in some ways.

You were a brilliant, quirky, curmudgeonly, “crunchy,” generous, absolutely hilarious, witty, wonderful six-foot-three teddy bear. You had a prickly exterior, perhaps because you didn’t want people to get too close. But your bark was worse than your bite, and people loved you anyway. You showed such concern and tenderness when I was in an accident on campus. I called you, and you came to the scene. And when my mother was in the hospital, you drove over two hours to come and visit her, even though you hated hospitals.

One of the last texts we shared was about acceptance. I told you that my mother still talks about meeting you. She thought you were “good people,” but she was fascinated by one of your quirky habits–eating corn-on-the cob with a fork. I had shared many meals with you, especially at our favorite barbeque spot, and had never thought twice about it. I guess it didn’t seem odd to me. And you responded, “That’s b/c y’all took a brother as he is.” Perhaps only someone with such eccentricities could understand me with all of mine.

Although you had been ill for some time, I was shocked at your death. I suppose I knew it was a possibility, but for once I did not engage those pessimistic thoughts. So, I hoped and I prayed. You never liked to talk about your illness, and I respected that. You wanted conversations with your friends to be the way they had always been–fun and funny. Case and point: You sent out a picture of yourself being put into an ambulance and quipped about the vampire-like EMTs.

Jesse & Da Hype 1. Standing in front of W. E. B. Du Bois statue at Fisk University

Jesse & Da Realist 1, in front of W. E. B. Du Bois statue at Fisk University

I hoped that I would get to see you again and shake your hand. It was our ritual. Both of us were uncomfortable with public displays of affection, so rather than hug each other, we gave a hearty handshake when we said goodbye, until next time. . . It all seems so silly now. If I had the chance I’d give you a big bear hug, whether you liked it or not. I’d tell you how much I value your friendship and that I am grateful to have known you.

Even now, as I think about you, tears are streaming down my face. I know that you were tired of being in the hospital, tired of being ill, tired of being in pain. Now you are free from all of that. Rest in peace, Jesse.

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Wacky Wednesday: I Am Blessed for Having . . .

Da Hype1

As soon as I began this post, the words of Jill Scott’s song “Blessed” popped into my head. In fact, when things are a little rough and I need me a pick-me-up, I play that song. The hook of the song:

“I woke up in the morning feeling fresh to death/I’m so Blessed, yes, yes/I went to sleep stressed, woke up refreshed/I’m so Blessed, yes,yes” She then goes on to address how thankful she is that her grandmother almost lived to see 92, her son was born healthy, and that she has the love and support of both her parents. This song reminds me that there is so much to be thankful for.

So, what exactly am I thankful for?

I am so thankful that I made the choice to see my aunt before she died last year. Last summer, my aunt passed away, leaving a void in our family that can never be filled. She was my mother’s sister and she succumbed to cancer after a long battle. It was terribly painful to lose her, as she was like another mother to me. I spent every weekend at her home growing up. She was undoubtedly the matriarch of our family.

A couple of months before she passed away, and when it was clear that she wasn’t doing well, I packed my bags and went to visit her. My husband and little one came in tow. In fact, all of our family came from far and near. We came from Tacoma, Washington; San Antonio, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee. We all gathered in the waiting room and would take turns visiting with her. She was so happy to see our faces. I will never forget that look of happiness. She couldn’t speak, but she waved and smiled. Only she could fill a hospital room in that way.

While in town, we all gathered at another aunt’s house. We took a family picture, not knowing that this would be the last time we would all be together with both aunts.

I am so Blessed to have had the opportunity to spend those last moments with them both, and I feel especially Blessed to have the pictures to remember that moment.

We developed the picture and placed it in the room of my aunt who was hospitalized. While sitting with her, she would look at that picture and smile at the vision of her family all together. She was always happiest when she was with her family.

Da Realist 1

When I began to consider this topic, I also thought of a song, “Count Your Blessings” by Nas and Damian Marley.

I’ve got love and assurance/ I’ve got new health insurance/I’ve got strength distantrelativesand endurance/So I count my blessings

And give thanks to the master/That through all the disaster/We’re still here/Together after/Better count your blessings.

There is something wonderfully soothing about Damian Marley’s voice as he urges listeners to count our blessings. At the risk of taking the song too literally, I am blessed for having both my health and “new health insurance.” I consider myself to be in good health, although I could certainly stand to lose a few pounds. But I don’t have any major health issues. I can see my physician for preventative medicine and go to the hospital in case of an emergency.

According to Census Bureau statistics, there were 49.9 million uninsured people in the United States as of 2010. This recession has been a difficult time for many Americans. So many have lost their jobs and, along with it, their insurance. I realize that “there but for the grace of God” go I. So, for health and health care, I count my blessings.

Ok, 2Dope readers, What do you feel blessed for having?