While mom and I were at the private viewing on Friday afternoon, Felicia drove out to Newark airport to pick up my brother, Michael.
My brother, Michael, told me exactly what I should write about him. He told me to start his story in Southern Ohio, where he was when he heard the news about Kesner. He wanted me to tell you about how he couldn’t sleep. He was angry all week about the death of his “future brother-in-law.”
He told me to tell you about his mentor, “The Master Sergeant,” who encouraged him to get to New Jersey so that he could provide support for his mom and his sister. He even told me that I should call this chapter of the story “The Man,” because that’s what mom and I kept calling him….
and this would be true.
Michael is a special guy. He cares about people. He cares about family. Michael is my youngest brother, we are eight years apart in age. When I left home at 18 to go to college, he was only 10. Thus, he was etched in my mind as my ‘baby brother.’ But Michael is no baby, he is every bit of a man, and this experience showed me that….
Michael couldn’t sleep; all of this had been happening in New Jersey and he wanted to be with mom and me. Michael and I had been in contact earlier in the week and he could tell that I was in bad shape; I didn’t have much conversation for him over the phone.
He initially called with all that jargon :”God is Good” “God has a Plan…”
and that was all the stuff I wasn’t trying to hear. He was trying to minister to me but it wasn’t working. So he decided that he just needed to come and be present with me, maybe not try to say anything at all.
At the time, Michael was a graduating senior in education at Central State University. He is passionate about working with children who have learning disabilities because he was diagnosed with a learning disability when he was a child. He is also passionate about working with children from structurally disadvantaged communities. He has served as a Freedom School summer counselor and as an ambassador in education with the Kettering Foundation. And beyond his passion for education, Michael has a call to ministry, but he’s decided to be patient and wait for God to lead him in his call, in the meantime he is focused on teaching.
But little did he know that this experience would be an exercise in ministry.
He never stopped trying to reach me in my grief and when he realized that the Jesus catch phrases weren’t working, he adjusted his approach to one of being present, and being silent.
This is the making of a good minister….
So Mike was on his way. He flew to New Jersey, one-way, with plans to drive my car home on Sunday after the funeral. This was such a relief to mom and me. We were so thankful to have another family member there with us, and his offer to drive my car home lifted a huge burden.
After such a full week, mom and I were hoping to fly home to Cleveland on Sunday after the funeral. My Aunt Carole had arranged for first class tickets for our return, the only issue was my cat. How would we get Diva home to Cleveland?
Mom and Aunt Carole joked about hiring a car service to drive Diva from New Jersey to Cleveland, but clearly this was unrealistic. Before we knew that Michael was coming, we thought we would be making the seven hour drive to Cleveland ourselves; neither of us was looking forward to that.
Michael was truly a God Send.
So on that Friday, the plan was for us all to meet at my apartment in Trenton. After the viewing, mom and I went straight there and Felicia, Talithea and Michael were close behind.
It was so good to see him; it was good to see all of them. My experience at the funeral home had really shaken me up. It was one thing for Kesner to be dead, another for me to have found him dead, but a whole other thing to think that I would have to be in competition with another woman for him in death. Oh how I wished that Kesner was there to set all records straight and make it known that I was indisputably his woman.
But he wasn’t.
Kesner was still dead, and there was a picture of another woman in his casket. I was overwhelmed. Thank God for family and friends.
We all sat around my place and decompressed. Felicia went in my freezer and pulled out some wings to cook for Michael. We each had a glass of wine and mom and I shared our recent encounter at the funeral home.
Mike was planning to stay in my apartment for the weekend and as he unpacked his luggage, he realized that he left his dress shoes at home by accident. So after we all got caught up, Mom and Felicia went out to the mall to get Mike some dress shoes, and Talithea,Mike and I went out to Dinner. We decided to go to Joes crab shack.
On our way to dinner we heard from Jessie (Soul Friend). Jessie had just arrived back in town and she was checked in at the Trenton Marriott. She came to meet us at Joes. Kristen(Haystacks and Sisterhood) had also just arrived, so she came to Joes as well. And Andrea (Where in the World is Andrea Michelle?) had just arrived from New York and she took a cab over to Joes. And there we all were, gathered for dinner at Joes Crab Shack on a Friday night.
it was surreal.
Joes is such a happy place. On friday nights they dim their lights every 30 minutes and the servers dance to songs like YMCA under strobe lighting. People clap and cheer and sing.
All this was happening around us, it was odd. Here we were gathered for the worst possible circumstance and the wait staff was singing and dancing to YMCA.
It was strange.
I felt badly for our poor server, she was so chipper. She had taken everyone’s order and was standing there waiting for me to decide what I wanted to eat. After a long moment of indecision, I said flatly: “sorry I’m taking so long, my boyfriend died last week and I found his dead body.” Her eyes got as big as golf balls. And immediately after I said it, I looked at my brother and we both bursted out laughing. She just stood there and looked at me in shock and horror; she couldn’t tell if I was being honest or making it up. Talithea apologized on my behalf, saying: “sorry, yes her boyfriend died and this is how we’re coping today….”
The whole dinner was just odd, and it was filled with a lot of nervous energy about what tomorrow – the funeral - would bring. But I could not help but be thankful. As I looked around the table, I realized that my friends were together representing the different stages of my life. My brother was there, from home and childhood. Kristen was there, my Spelman sister and New York City roommate. Andrea was there, my friend from Wall Street. And Jessie, my Sould Friend from Seminary. And, of course, Talithea – my sister in Delta Sigma Theta. There we were, all together, sharing an awkward meal on the day before my man’s funeral. It was surreal, but I was thankful.
It was painful, but God was present.
After dinner we went back to the Marriott. I decided that I would stay at the Marriott in Jessie’s room that night. Kristen and Andrea were sharing another room close by in the hotel. After we said goodnight to them, Jessie and I went for a walk outside and found a spot in the grass and sat. I just needed some fresh air and to talk. I had been feeling so badly because Kesner and I had been arguing on our last night together. I needed to confess that to Jessie; I felt so guilty.
“If only I had known he was dying…”
Jessie responded by saying: “Maybe he needed you to argue with him; maybe Kesner needed you to treat him normally.”
Kesner knew that he was dying, I’m sure that he could feel his organs shutting down inside, but I didn’t know that. ….and he obviously didn’t want me to know. He didn’t want people messing all over him, babying him or coddling him. He didn’t want to be a “sick person.” He wanted to die on his own terms; like a man. He wanted to be treated normally.
”….and so you arguing with him, friend, made him feel normal,” Jessie assured.
That helped a lot. I had no idea he was going to die, and maybe that is what he needed from me. He needed me to treat him normally….
I don’t know.
But what I did know is that we needed to get out of the grass and get upstairs to get some rest. We had to get up early the next morning, tomorrow was the day of the funeral….
© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011