Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Family Death

Forgive me readers if this essay is not filled with wit, sass, or verve. Yesterday, I and the rest of my family had to lay my nephew to rest. Last week this time my phone rang at 12:30 a.m. It was my mother. The message she shared was not good. My 25-year-old nephew had been shot. It was odd to hear because, to tell you the truth, I would have been ready to hear it was my sister or brother who had suffered a misfortune, not my nephew. With few details to share with me, I got up and went to the hospital to be with my sister and her daughter.

As I approached the hospital, a friend of my niece was coming out of the emergency doors. She stopped to tell me where everyone was and where to park my car. What she waited to tell me as a guard lead me to the elevator was, he didn’t make it. He was dead. I remember covering my mouth to keep from screaming. The guard was asking me something but I don’t remember what she was saying. Dead? How could that be?

Arriving to the fourth floor of the hospital, my sister was telling everyone I was her sister and she would take me to my nephew before he was moved to the morgue. I was stunned. Was it real? Was he really not with us anymore? It was then my sister told me how many times he had been shot and where on his body. Ten shots in a straight line down the left side of his body, two in his head. Lord, help us, is what I began to think.

I went into the room and there he laid. He had left us about an hour earlier. He had also been cleaned up. Around his head was the bandage. It was wrapped like the one you would get if you had been hit with a baseball bat. He laid there looking peaceful and asleep. I got on my knees and prayed. I told the Lord, “Thank you for taking him.” Why? Because my nephew lead the life, you know, on the streets, doing the things you hoped and prayed your child would never do. He never did fit into society the way most people do. His childhood had been helter-skelter and “the life” was all he knew. So yes, I was thankful for it all being over. We could all rest now.

The hardest hit was my sister and her daughter. The two of them ended up in emergency triage. They had collapsed when he passed. My niece was hardest hit. Because of all the two of them had been through growing up, they were very close. To them, each other was all they had. Now he was gone and she was angry with her mother. Her mother, my sister, was hurt. She clutched her daughter to her breast and tried to console her. She only wanted her grandmother. It was her grandmother whom she felt understood what she felt. Her grandmother, maternal, had been the only one she felt who truly loved them no matter what. She wanted grand-momma to hold her in her arms.

We left the hospital to go to my mother’s house. She was waiting like always. She was ready to ease the pain for all. I did what I could to help. Somebody had to stay calm. The three people I knew would suffer the most after his death would be my mother, my sister, and my niece. It’s a mother and sibling love thing. Those two ways of being connected are so powerful. They can bring either intense love, or immense pain. All at once, both were dispensed.

To make a long story short, the last week was a trying time for us all. We had to make arrangements and prepare to say a permanent good-bye. After it was all said and done yesterday, we realized how little we all knew about his life. Many people came to say good-bye and we didn’t know them. Some had printed poetry on T-shirts that they wore. Because we were not part of “the life,” it was not something we expected. It was a good day for my nephew. If he had ever wondered if someone cared for him, he knows now, they did and do.

I only hope that I never get another phone call like that one. Until my son was laid off recently, I had come to grips that it was a possibility. You see my son is a police officer. Just as I was able to rest my mind soundly while I slept, I got a call.


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