On this day of dead, November 1, 2022, I would like to honor my ancestors. Without their blood, I wouldn’t exist. Without their courage, I would be nothing. And as long as I am alive, I will speak their names. They will never go unfed and not remembered. I will nourish them, savor their love and my love for them and continue to tell their stories until I join them.
It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting here watching a marathon of the television show “Snapped” and crying. As usual because I’m thinking about my lost ones and is filled with sadness, anxiety, and anger.
Earlier this year I read an article about Caroline Kennedy and it was written right after her brother John died in that plane crash along with his wife and sister in law. The topic was about being the sole survivor of your immediate family and what a terrible burden that had to be. As everyone knows, her father was murdered in 1963, her mother died of cancer in 1994 and then her little brother died in 1999.
I broke down after reading the article because it explained what I couldn’t articulate what I was feeling and is still feeling at the time of my brother’s death two years ago. American culture doesn’t like to ponder on painful thoughts so it really hasn’t been any research done on this topic. The impact of being the sole survivor of your family is overwhelming. At times, I thought I would end up in the psych ward but I’m still here, holding on to my sanity by sheer grace and will power.
I find myself clinging to my memories tighter and tighter as the days go pass. I listen to the music of my youth and young adulthood because my family were still alive when that music was created. I take a longer route to go home from work because I like to ride through the Bronzeville neighborhood I lived in from 1988 to 1992 because my mother and brothers were alive then and we all lived together.
I’m still coming to terms with the realization that the people with whom I had formed my earliest memories with are all gone and it’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not a religious person but I’m hoping that it’s a place where our souls go when we die and I will see my people again. Everyone will be restored to their full glory and they will greet me with love and joy.
My family migrated to Chicago during the 1940s and they told the most marvelous stories of living here during that era. From dranking at juke joints in Bronzeville to eating the good cooking at various Black owned restaurants scattered throughout the city. Then I have my own stories of growing up on the South East Side. Memories of hot summer days, running through open fire hydrants and buying icee cups. But I’m starting to hate the city of my birth because of the violence. It’s barely two weeks into the new year and it’s already bloody. Pregnant women getting shot down like dogs. What the fuck is going on!!!!
It’s something sinister in the streets of Chicago. Its become a place where life has no value and anyone can become a casualty of thugs. Believe or not, it was actually a time in Chicago when the elders, women, and children were considered off limits to gang bangers but something changed in the 90s. The thugs decided that anyone could get this heat and and since then, Chicago has become a cesspool of ignorance and violence. And Black folks in this city have no one to blame but themselves because they coddled this shit. Nurtured this shit in the name of racism instead of looking in the mirror. White folks aren’t coming into neighborhoods such as Englewood and South Shore where violence is a daily ritual. Nah this is strictly a Black thang. Black people are committing these crimes and Black people are protecting these criminals.
If it wasn’t for my grandson and future grandchild, I would move to Las Vegas and never look back but I have to be an integral part of my grandchildren’s lives. I have to live near them, see their faces up close on the regular. Touch them and sniff them like a mother cat does to her kittens. So for now, Chicago is where I’m at. I’m praying for the day when this madness will disappear.
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been both terrified and fascinated by the specter of death. I became obsessed with death after spending the summer with my grandmother in 1980. She had moved to Wichita, Kansas to reside with her daughter, Aunt Annabel, and we spent hot summer days together with her telling me tales from her youth.
She was a Southern Baptist and believed that the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ was going to happen in the year 2000. So I analyzed the situation, well as much as a nine year old girl can analyze and decided that it would be cool for everyone to die together at one time. Although I would only be 30 at the time, at least I would die in the company of my family and friends. The thoughts that children have.
In the years that have passed, I’ve learned a lot about death unfortunately. I’ve lost so many friends and family in the past five years that it’s surreal. Especially the deaths of my original family, the family I was born into. My brother Randy died in 1994, my mother Gertrude in 2006, and Larry in 2020. My father wasn’t a part of my life so it was just myself, my brothers, and my mother. Now it’s just me and it’s been one of the most difficult journeys I’ve taken. Although I have children, a grandson and a new grandchild due in the spring, and a ton of cousins and friends who love me, I still feel so alone at times. I’ve come to the realization that this feeling of loneliness and despair will never go away but it will always be a lingering bitterness.
Now I’m obsessed with dying these days. Worried about leaving my children motherless. Worried about what would happen to them if I should die. Wondering who’s going to love my babies like I do. My mother had three children and I’m the only one who is left. What kind of shit is that? Why am I still here? And how does it feel to be dead. Is there really an afterlife and a place where souls go when their journey on Earth is over? Will I see my dead loved ones again? Totally morbid as fuck and unhealthy but it is what it is.