I think that, for the sake of fairness, it can be said there is no greater love than that of a loved one. I also think, for the sake of fairness, there is no greater pain that comes than when we lose a loved one. The myriad of emotions that envelope us are powerful and often times overwhelming, so overwhelming that we forget about the world around us and are immediately enveloped in the world of our own emotions. Sometimes, the emotions we go through are too much for us to bear. This is the avenue I currently travel.
July 4, 2015, was a day that changed my world and turned it on its head. It was a day I did never wanted to endure but I had to find my inner strength. When I got the phone call that my oldest son was killed, the world around me stopped. All the things I thought about as a father flooded my mind and came into vision: The times we shared, the talks we had. I saw all of that fade in an instant and, suddenly, I was forcibly jerked back into the land of reality where I did not want to feel what I felt. Honestly, at that time, I did not know how I felt. That’s because I was going through the gamut of emotions. The days came and went as did my emotional state in the time leading up to his funeral.
Upon my arrival in Virginia, I had no idea what to expect. I felt ashamed to be there. I felt—and still feel—like I did not deserve to be there as I was never really that active in my son’s life to begin with. I felt very small and embarrassed because I did not belong there. The people who truly loved and cared for him deserved to be there but not me, his sperm donor. His grandmother and aunties, not I, deserved the credit for making him the person he was. I wanted to leave, to hide, to not even be seen, but his grandmother had wanted me to be there, she had stated that, even though I had only been around him for a short time, I was still his father and I deserved to be here as much as anyone. That gave me some form of comfort.
His wake fell on my birthday which, to me, was already a bad sign of things to come. I honestly did not want to go inside the funeral home. I was very nervous and afraid, not afraid of those around me, but afraid of what I would find. What I found upon entering was my son’s lifeless body. It was a very hard ordeal for me because, in essence, I had failed him. I failed at being a father to this young man and his life was taken for my lack of responsibility! The next day was the day I had literally dreaded. I had not looked forward to this and did not want to do it but it would be the last time I physically saw my son. I am not going to lie; I was on auto-pilot the whole time. Everything that transpired within that service was a blur. I may have been cognizant for a split second or two. I had really checked out physically and emotionally during the service.
We took the ride to the burial ground to pay our last respects and commit his body back to the earth. That’s when the reality of everything really hit me: The painfully true reality of that moment was that I was never EVER going to see my son again. I would never see his smiling face, never hear his voice, never hug him, and never get to tell him I love him. I never got to tell him that I loved him before he died and that still eats at me. I utterly failed my son as a father. I failed him when he needed me the most. I failed in raising him. I failed at protecting him when he needed me to protect him. I failed at guiding him when he needed to be guided. All these failures, coupled with the loss, had finally taken their toll on me emotionally.
As they lowered my son’s casket into the ground, the finality of the whole situation hit me like a Mike Tyson uppercut. My son was gone and there was nothing that could ever change that. I never got the chance to say that I was sorry for hurting and abandoning him. The tears continued to roll as his casket was lowered into the ground and I kept getting hit with those emotional Mike Tyson uppercuts.
It has been three years and I still get misty-eyed when his birthday, the Fourth of July, and July Thirteenth come around. I look at my beautiful granddaughter and I cry uncontrollably. My tears are not just mine but they are hers as well. Because I know, one day, I will have to tell her why her father is not here.
The commonwealth attorney stated that the police officer who killed my son was justified in his use of force. Really? So you are going say that an execution-style murder was justified? There was no real explanation as to why and how this occurred and the other person who was with my son has yet to say anything as it pertains to what happened that night. His mom and stepdad were in the public eye the whole time while I stayed in the background, silently suffering without a voice to match what I felt and still continue to feel.
The loss of my son has cost me two very good jobs and has put my marriage in jeopardy numerous times. More importantly, it has caused me to question myself and my place in this world as numerous atrocities continue to happen against people of color across the nation. I continually wonder if my heart will ever heal. I am still learning to cope with loss (I have lost a father-in-law, whom I highly respected, and an aunt who loved her nephews to life, a good friend in my brother’s second wife, another young man who was like a son to me, and one of my favorite grandmothers so, yeah, that’s a lot to take in.) Is there a surefire solution in coping with loss? There is not.
It varies from person to person but I do believe it starts with acceptance (a hard pill for any of us to swallow) and forgiveness. I have asked the same question that everyone else has asked, “God, why?” I wonder if this is God’s plan: For me to travel down this avenue of acceptance and forgiveness. Will the road that I currently travel lead me to make peace with myself? Will it help resolve my anger with God? Will I truly find acceptance or will it lead me to bitterness and continued anger? Nobody knows that but me and God, but for right now, I am standing at the crossroads… waiting for Him to reveal the path I need to travel.