On Legacies: Much is Required

Muh and daddyI’ve been thinking about my Great Grandparents, TJ “Coot” and Gertrude “Muh” Shelley, today. I think about them often. They had 12 children (or close to it) and they instilled in us (their children, their grands and us great-grands) the importance of the family sticking together. They loved each other, not because it was easy, but because it was necessary. They understood what was at stake when families ceased to care about one another. It is a slippery slope, because if you do not care about your own, then the likelihood of you caring about anyone else’s is slim to none. Unfortunately, that is where we are today. People outwardly ask, “What is the world coming to?” To my mind, it is coming to a lost generation, or generations of people with no regard for legacy. Either their legacies are so painful and atrocious that they would rather forget them, or they simply have no clue who they are culturally or familially. Lost generations–generations left to fend for themselves and find their own way–are dangerous. I have heard stories, from my Grandmother, Great Aunts and older cousins, of my Great Grandmother feeding people in her community (and with so many children they, of course, were not rich people, but they gave what they had). This is how communities were upheld back then, and this mode of community outreach cannot be outdated because we so desperately need it today. Often, when I think of Coot and Gertrude, I pray to be a little more like them: less absorbed in my own sufferings, a little better at keeping up with relatives and friends, more gentle in spirit, stronger in character, in possession of a servant’s heart. That is my family legacy, and as I have said before, changing the world does not begin with legislation or politicians, it begins with us.

I’m Not Tired Yet: On Sudden Loss and Purpose

n33002585_30210011_5122Today, my first two applications are due and it is the 7th anniversary of the day we lost you. We were sort of feuding before the accident. Three younger girls–two you took on the role of big-sistering, one I did. Their deciding to hate each other created a wedge between us (Ironically, two of them are Sorors. Each other’s LS’s at that!). There was a heated phone conversation, we were mad for weeks. But then you met me in that grocery store parking lot to give me Keta’s graduation present. You gave me the warmest hug and the biggest smile (you were so hard, but you were so soft). I went home for a few days, but on December 15th I drove back to the Boro. I hadn’t even walked into my apartment good when my phone rang. I called Funmi a liar; hung up in her face. I had just driven by the spot where it happened moments before. Later, after the hospital, we (I don’t remember exactly who I was with) found eggs still boiling on your stovetop. I felt you there.

This has been a year of sudden death: two high school classmates, co-workers’ family members, mass killings all over the place, more. And with every sudden loss of life–yours, those poor babies yesterday–I am affected. I am reminded of the way I felt that day: “It can’t be true. It can’t be true.” Disbelief, replaced by brokenness, replaced by anger, replaced by cycles of remembrance and agony, replaced by reluctant acceptance, replaced by, eventually, gratitude for my life that, when I’m squandering opportunity and talent, I feel guilty for having; sometimes all of these emotions concurrently. To those who learn to leave the work of the spirit world, the knowledge of why did this happen?, to the creator of the universe, the purveyor of all fates, comes purpose. Why else are we here other than there is some divine mission we have not yet fulfilled?

“I’m not tired yet…I’m not tired,” I once sang on a dark road with you. I hear you in my ear, especially now, your drawling voice ever urging me to do better. I am energized that God saw fit to allow me to see today. Life itself is motivation, and motivation is the only benefit of sudden loss. And so I will try. I will remember “I’m not tired yet. I’m not tired,” because it is not a luxury of the living to squat and to waste. Thank you for reminding me of that, both in life and in the hereafter.