Mourning Will Come


I watched your lifeless body like a hawk. Like I was part of your recruit class and had to protect this post. You laid there, expressionless, and all I could think about was your cheesy grin. That moment, as I glanced at your body, was the only time I'd ever seen you without a smile on your face. I quickly looked away.

I'd be a lie if I didn't say you were a pain in my butt for the time that I've known you. Always needing something. I knew that every time your name flashed across my phone screen it was for a favor you had to ask. You were consistent in that regard, lol. But I'd also be lying if I didn't acknowledge how much your passing hurts me. No matter how long without contact, your light has remained the same — not only in my life but the life of all those who filled those purple pews in your memory today.

Your two white button-ups are still in my closet. I thought about carrying one with me today. It would've been sentimental for me; and probably comical to you since you don't need them anymore. Better late than never, huh? I didn't think they'd be significant when I kept them. I thought I'd have ample time to give them back or that I'd make a joke to you later about still having them. I suppose I should thank God for these two souvenirs, now.

I watched your mother as she embodied strength. I admired her from afar, lovingly hugging those who mourned for you. Smiling at the good word and praising her way through worship. Bloodied, but not broken. What a blessing you must've felt to have her. What a blessing she must've felt to have you.

I should've contacted you when I thought to; eight months ago when I saw you working East Rock; or two weeks ago when I thought about you at length. I knew you'd be welcoming to a 'hey stranger' text, but I also knew you'd ask me for a favor that I didn't want to do. Something weird and random like they always were. I wasn't in the mood to do any favors, so I sat in your memory and waited until next time. I was sure I'd catch you again. I just never thought it would be at your own funeral.

You had gone away for some Memorial Day Weekend fun. When we first met, you told me and Shanee that you always go to Myrtle Beach for Bike Week. You loved riding. I learned that early on when you slapped me on the back of your bike and told me to relax. We rode around all day; I must've trusted you a lot. I never thought your love for riding would lead you to your last moment.

The sobering feeling of death swept the sanctuary. The permanence of it made my knees weak. I knew that after June 5, 2017 at 9:53am, I would never see your face again. It had been a while since I last seen you; you grew a beard. Uncle Thad and I laughed about it. But while we laughed about who we knew you to be, we both ached. I ache now, too. Not for myself but for everyone you left behind. Your family, your girlfriend, your colleagues.

It's usually moments like these that force us to reflect most. We find ourselves thinking about our space in this world and what we ought to do with it. We push our pride to the side and find room for gratitude and humility. We make time to love one another. We strategize on how to become better people; how to make the most of the time we have left. For some, those thoughts last for the rest of life. Some are reminded of your presence every waking day, and though people tell them that time heals all wounds, nothing feels powerful enough to heal this one. Some will remember, forever, how they feel in this moment. Some will never forget the uncontrollable sobs and the boulder consuming space in their stomachs. Those people are your family. The ones who got the first phone call. The ones who had the responsibility of sifting through your text messages and canceling all your credit cards. The ones who had to select your floral arrangement and clean out your apartment. The ones who were being harassed by media to get a quote for their story. The ones who had to collect the body of a loved one in a condition it wasn't in when it had left—when you had left.

But for the rest of us — those of us who sit on the sidelines waiting for social media to tell us what happened, waiting for official statements or a RIP image to surface — we go back to being the same people we were. We go back to being rude, heartless, and ungrateful. We go back to choosing sin over salvation. We go back to temporary fulfillment. We go back to unhappiness and attitude. We go back to being of this world. Until the next death. Until the next time a loved one dies and we forgot to give them our love. Until the next news article we read about a friend being gunned down, or killed by a drunk driver...or killed in a single vehicle motorcycle accident. Until the next time tears roll uncontrollably down our faces and we're forced to remember the last time.

That won't be me. My changes begin now. They will last forever. And I will have you to thank for all of them. 

EJ, your life wasn't in vain, and your death won't be either. You've touched the hearts of many, and for the brief moment I was able to tolerate you (you'd laugh at that, lol), you made a lasting impression on mine. So though I'm mourning your loss, I will be grateful for the morning that is approaching; and in light of that I will appreciate all you've done to shine some sun in my life. I thank you for reminding me that life is only what you make it. I thank you for teaching me that it is not that serious. I thank you for being 100% you. I thank you for your fearlessness. I thank you for your dedication to life and happiness. I thank you for those motorcycle rides. And I thank you for always doing what you loved, no matter what it cost you. 

Rest in peace, my dear friend.

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