Curtain Call

This past Saturday I was tasked with eulogizing my sister Wendy. There are few things in life that rip at one’s soul. This is one…

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Over the years, I have prided myself on my ability to put words together “just so” in order to sufficiently and sometimes eloquently, convey just what the occasion called for. And, I have enjoyed it and have remained confident in that ability. Until now. In fact, when Wendy informed me – not asked – that I was to write and deliver her eulogy, my very first thought was honor. I was, and am, honored to be standing in front of you all on behalf of my sister Wendy. So yes, that was my first thought… right up until the moment that a eulogy was necessary and in that moment, in this moment, though honor remains, it is rivaled by an incredible ache somewhere deep in my soul that screams “not yet!” “Don’t do this just yet!” But, the moment is now and like my sister always did so impeccably, I will execute in this moment. Though perhaps not as flawlessly.

The song says “And now, the end is near and so I face the final curtain. My friends, I’ll say it clear and I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain. I’ve lived a life that’s full, I traveled each and every highway and more, much more than this, I did it my way…” I think we can all agree that we perhaps could not think of any words that would embody Wendy, the life she has lived and the rhythm with which she has done it, any better. So now, as we all come to terms and grapple with Wendy’s final curtain call, I ask you to remember that curtain calls are only taken by those who have performed well.

This past surreal and quite frankly terrible week, Mummy, Jo, Roxx, Dans, Kayla and I have been the recipient of calls, emails, texts, posts and WhatsApp messages that have all expressed a common theme… how everyone, feels about Wendy. Some of you have been able to express through your pain and others have only been able to breathe. To all of you, for all of it, thank you. Knowing how loved Wendy is and how missed she will be comforts us. And, it makes us proud. You see, Wendy has the last name Wiltshire and her sisters and I can most certainly see ourselves in her, but like nothing else could have, we now recognize Wendy’s lineage with the world.

Most everyone in this room and those attending virtually have their version of an encounter with Wendy and for most, that encounter encompasses either an event or travel. However, the funny thing with Wendy was, even if your intention was to simply hang out or lime, by the time she was done with ambience, dress code, etiquette and gift, that lime was an event! So, tell the truth, is there anyone listening who has never been “Wendy’d?” Thought so. Because, here’s the simple truth about Wendy, she dared to dream, then she dared us to believe. And, we did. She stretched us way past our imaginations and our perceived limitations. She stretched us past where we were comfortable and introduced us to the version of ourselves that could believe in magic and fairytales. Then, she pulled the stars from the sky, presented it to us and told us we deserved it.

But, like everyone who is able to make such magic happen, there were many layered complexities to Wendy – she started most thoughts or conversations with a steupse, September, when she started discussing Christmas, everyone picking one name for gift-giving was the plan, but by Halloween, it was “nah nah nah… dis one-gift ting, nah,” if she had an idea she just took it for granted everyone would be on board to help facilitate – in fact, last year, after accompanying her to Trinidad, while sitting on the tarmac heading back to NY, she informed me (yes, Wendy did a LOT of informing) that the very next week, we were to hear to Italy to begin recon for the Pope-project. After gently reminding her that, ahm, I have responsibilities of my own that necessitated my attention, she responded with “Is troo, yuh know.” In his obituary, Arthur mentioned Wendy’s appetite…. Starving, until the food arrived. Mummy knows this best. Wendy was the sister who asked our nieces Ty and Riley, “Ent I’m the prettiest Wiltshire-sister?” So, not only did she expect to win it over the aunts, she meant to win that particular self-constructed competition even over their own mother! And recently, I told Joanne that one of Wendy’s and my favorite things to do was to complain in our strongest Trini “as SOON as COVID over we goin and stop talking to she!” Now, that was always in response to our grumbling about some bit of news Jo had the unfortunate task of sharing and it was also just before Wendy then moved on to telling me about some other fantastic thing she wanted to buy that Joanne must have for her new kitchen. Wendy would grumble if Jonesy didn’t call her one day and also grumble and steupse when her phone was always ringing. If you didn’t know Wendy and her family intimately, one could easily assume, by her love, dedication and loyalty, that Dawn, Ingrid, Claudia, Pauline, Marjorie, Nozi, Nicky, Vin, Arthur, Ricky, Ainsworth were related by blood or marriage. And before I forget, there were myriad conversations between us that (again) informed me that indeed, I had given birth to her child and she had given birth to mine. So yes, Wendy was quite complex and textured. But as we all know, texture is a thing that most creatives will give an arm and a leg for! Oftentimes, while Wendy was off fulfilling her responsibilities to the World Bank – where she worked, in one capacity or another, for twenty-two years – or traipsing to Germany, South Africa, Paris, Trinidad, Italy or Amsterdam with a contingent for a World Cup or a carnival a la Dare2Discover, her daughters, Danielle – Dans – and Makayla – Kayla – were often left without her physical presence and, as young as they both were for most of Wendy’s travel, Wendy’s absences undoubtedly left an indelible impression. So, let’s address this. To them. For their mom.

It could have been easy to misconstrue what was a priority for Wendy, her love for her friends, travel and her commitment to her job could have easily been interpreted as taking precedence in her life. But for anyone who thought that, including her daughters, you would be wrong. For Wendy, literally to the last day of her earthly presence, Danielle and Makayla have been her driving force. She did what she did with the rest of us. But she did what she did for them. To make them proud. To give them hope. To help them dream. To show them promise. To make them believe. Her pride in her daughters and her tiger-like protectiveness and defense of them were unabashed. And, impressive. In fact, as we are now all able to recognize as having been nearing the end of her time here, for Wendy, thought of her daughters and how they would be “after” was all-consuming. I know she spoke with me about it constantly and I am certain my sisters, mummy, A. Yvonne, Claire, Ossie, Dawn, Pauline, Claudia, Ingrid, Marjorie, Nicky, Ricky, Arthur, Vin, A. Patsy and so many of you could attest to the same. So, Dans and Kayla as you move through grief, processing and questioning life, your place in and the meaning of it, scratch questioning your mom’s love for each of you off your list. Rest assured in the knowledge that she loves you. She loves you first and she loves you best.

Wendy wanted to publish a coffee table book and in fact, we had started to work on the text for it. It was one of many projects she had planned and, it was to be called, From Caadp to Chemo. This coffee table book was to depict some of Wendy’s favorite places, favorite people – all of you were to be in it –  and favorite quotes. We hadn’t finished it. But, it was the event she had planned for tomorrow that was to be the most special. Wendy wanted to have us all get together one last time.  She truly struggled with this pandemic because she recognized that, given her prognosis, her curtain call would happen during a time when coming together would be severely impacted. So, she called me one day and asked “Sis, would it be weird if we were to plan a Zoom of my funeral while I am still here?” And of course, because she was speaking with an equally “extra” sister who is also an event planner, my immediate response was “Not at all! Let’s do it.” So, that was to have been tomorrow. And, it was to have been called, Sentebale, which means, Forget me Not. As if we could…

So, in her absence, let me share Wendy’s intention. Wendy knew that this time would be harder on us than it was on her – in fact, I often reminded her, when I was crying and she was calm, that she was the only one medicated! But, though Wendy had wished there was more time with her daughters, parents, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles partner and so so so many loyal and wonderful friends, she was peaceful in having lived a life chock full of most of what she dreamed. She was happy. So what she wanted as she approached the end of her earthly time with us all, was to reassure us of that and, to check on us. She wanted us to know if our tears were for her, they weren’t necessary and if they were for us, they weren’t discredited. You see, Wendy understood love. She understood that the depth of our grief mirrored the magnitude of our love and she wanted us to know she felt it.

In the past few months, she and I spoke of many things and, as we planned the details for this moment and beyond I was sure to let her know I thought this the stupidest event she had ever planned. I told her how difficult this moment and every moment moving forward was going to be and that I wouldn’t know how to fill the few times each day we would usually speak. I told her that my heart had started breaking even before she left… in anticipation. I told her how scared I was of life without her and I told her how much I loved her. Because I too am a planner, I started keeping notes of some of the funny or sentimental things she would say so that I would be able to remind either she or me if necessary. But mostly, I tried everything to make her stay: blackmail, money, plans, mallowmars and tears. I tried, because I was thinking of all of us and how our lives would be stripped of color, excitement, some crisis to handle and the next adventure, if she left us. I tried. I tried because the Wiltshire Sisters requires four sisters. It does. I tried because a parent should never ever bury a child and because her daughters still need her. I tried because I have a folder-full of plans and events that it would be a shame if the world weren’t privy to them. I tried because at fifty-eight, there should still be so so much more for her to do and I tried because in my estimation, there are sooooooooo many other people more deserving to go first (just look at the White House).

But one day, thankfully, I stopped. I stopped and I looked at my sister and I listened to her. And what I saw, was that my fear for what her leaving would do to me and all of you was stripping her of the peace she needed to gracefully allow God’s will to be done. I recognized that if I truly love and trust God as I say, then I must trust in the midst of this storm, that He knows best. I must trust that He knows that all of us need an angel. I must trust in the comfort of knowing that even as according to our understanding, a parent burying a child goes against the correct order of things, Mummy’s care, patience and love were just what Wendy needed to transition out of this realm with the same peace with which she entered it. I must trust in the knowledge that our sister Wendy, that your daughter Mummy, that your daughter Daddy, that your mom Dans and Kayla, that your aunt Neesie, Nona, Noah, Ty and Riley, that your niece A. Patsy, A. Yvonne, Claire and Ossie and all the others, that your cousin, Cousin, Michelle, Gerry, Gillian, Jem, Steve, Andy, Kimberly, Gary, Candace, that your partner Jonesy, that your-sister-in law Peggie, Gloria and brother-in-law Avery, that your friend Dawn, Ainsworth, Arthur, Brenda, Claudia, David, Dazz, Derek, Elizabeth, Fitzroy, Geddes, Ingrid, Jeanette, Lawrence, Marjorie, Michelle, Nicky, Nozi, Pauline, Ricky, Vin, and that your relative Michael, Colin, Helen, Denise, Carol, Amanda and Kristi, is at peace, basking in a job very well done and looking upon us at this very moment with her signature smile. So, as I stand here for my sister and on behalf of the entire Wiltshire clan, we must first thank God for the gift and the grace that was Wendy and we thank you all for the part you have played in making her life the absolute wonder it had been. And I know that not simply because I had seen it, but because she told me. In closing, I leave you with this: Nooney (that’s what we call her), we share a love of quotes, so I honor you with this from Maya Angelou “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” For you, Sentebale is in the bag. We love you.

PSEG&Me

We are supposed to be comforted by the assurance contained in the message in the fire-engine red banner emblazoned at the top of the bill that, despite your delinquency, “please note that due to COVID-19, shut-offs will not occur.” Yes. We are supposed to breathe a sigh of relief that, in this time of financial and health crisis, there is one less immediate worry to add to the list of concerns we and our families must face and attempt to mitigate. We are probably even meant to be grateful and include PSE&G on the sad short list of companies that understand our strife and are willing to assist in lessening our burden. But, if we opt to exhale (behind our masks, of course) and heap accolades at their feet, we will be quite misguided because, behind that bright red banner are actions so diabolical that they defy understanding, reasoning and sound ethics!

That banner is not off of an arbitrary bill, it is reflective of the bills I have been receiving from PSE&G for the past few months. And, it is not due to a cumulative pattern of delinquency on my part, but rather from an unethical practice from PSE&G that is leveled against commercial accounts. Let me elaborate so there is no confusion or murkiness…

My business – brand new construction – was opened in December 2019 and, like everyone else, I too was ordered closed due to the pandemic. The doors were shut on March 14th, 2020 and I did not reopen until July 1st, 2020 (and since that time, I am only open for business two days per week). Here are the bills I have received from PSE&G:

  • March (February 14th-March 16th): $68.98
  • April (March 17th-April 15th): $68.98
  • May (April 16th-May 14th): $68.98
  • June (May 15th-June 15th): 229.93
  • July (June 16th-July 15th): $668.66

Naturally, I have called PSE&G many times to question/dispute these charges since receiving the June’s bill that reflected such a drastic increase (and in a time when the doors were still shut and I was absolutely not in the building). Naturally. Every representative I have spoken to (and there have been numerous), has informed me that due to the pandemic and their inability to read the meters, they have pulled their numbers from last year’s usage. When informed that I am brand new construction and thus this practice cannot be used as a viable option, the reasoning then changes to “all commercial accounts are charged a Summer surcharge.” Okay…

WHAT?!? First, even if I cannot cite this as being illegal, I most certainly can and will call it highly unethical! That’s one. And two, businesses were closed! We were closed! WHAT was I drawing from PSE&G that they need to level such a charge on me?!? You know what?! I am back to my other thought… HOW is this legal?! Something needs to be done about this! I was not in the damn building and now that I am two days per week, five hours per day, HOW can I possibly incur usage to correspond with these charges?! This is absolutely ridiculous! Why are commercial accounts being persecuted? Small businesses like mine have already suffered so much during this pandemic and most of us have gotten no help or relief from the Federal government and are struggling… I know I am. So this! This is pulling both sides of an already raw and infected wound wide open and applying salt and vinegar directly unto the nerve!!! This is unconscionable!!!! This must be resolved in my/our favor!

This is my first posting regarding this matter. I will continue posting, reposting and sending correspondences to anyone I can think of until it is addressed. I will be sending to the mayor and I will give him just a little bit to see what he does. I am mad. But more importantly, I am right.

 

This Life Is Not [Y]eezy…

The thing is, the Kardashian-Wests make it very easy to scoff or outright laugh at their shenanigans. I have done it myself. I have rolled my eyes, scrolled past their posts without stopping to read, wonder why I still ‘follow’ them and weighed-in on a conversation or three about their most-recent foolishness. I have done so because I felt/feel that their decision to live their lives out loud entitles me to have an equally loud opinion, whether it’s that they do make some cute babies, that that North is a brat, marveling that she really is becoming a lawyer now, that her ass is absolutely ridiculous and my favorite bone to gnaw on… in all of Hollywood, she and Kanye might just be the ones to stay together. So yes, I talk about them. I am about to do so again. Let’s address this…

Even as I allow myself the freedom to dismiss the Kardashian-clan as a whole, I tend to always take a softer approach when it comes to Kanye. Now, this is not born out of any personal love for the man nor admiration for his talent or reputed genius. And, it most certainly is not any form of celebrity-worship (my disdain for that kind of arbitrary love is well documented). Simply, when it comes to Kanye, my treading lightly is out of concern for and recognition of a mental disease or disorder.

Listen. Much has been said about Kanye’s supposed-run for President. And, much should be said about it. It is disruptive, divisive, damaging and delusional. It is demonstrative of how far we have slipped as a country. And, it is demonstrative of how far he has slipped from being mentally healthy. It is delusional. Not in a fucking-DonaldTrump-kinda-delusional-way (although he could also benefit from diagnosis and treatment), but in the manic manner that is indicative of ill-health.

I have heard, over the years, how brilliant of a lyricist Kanye is. The word “genius” has been used often in association with him. In the (literally) two songs I have heard of his, I will tend to agree… the man is lyrically brilliant. When his everyday bizarre behavior becomes news-worthy however, I cannot help but wonder if, as it often is for many so-called geniuses, it is not part and parcel with his creative acumen. But, there are no letters after my name (yet) that allow me to diagnose the man, so, I will refrain from officially doing so. What I will say is this: while we look on and scratch our heads at what seems to be his latest bit of foolery, while we curse his audacity and chuckle at his display of ridiculousness, while we fall to our knees and beg God to rescue us from the madness that is 2020 and while we shake our head at how far removed we find him from the black experience, let us also find compassion for him… because if all of these findings and displays are true, something in him is wrong.

Kim Kardashian-West spoke out about her husband today. It garnered my respect. The role of a loved one who finds themselves, against their will, embroiled in the emotional tailspin that is mental disease or addiction is an extremely difficult one to navigate. There is a constant tug-of-war between being loving, supportive, understanding, enabling, disappointed, fed up and angry. Balancing love and tough love is tricky. Recognizing one’s impotence in encouraging or forcing the seeking of help is frustrating. Understanding that oftentimes the family and loved ones of someone with a mental disease or disorder or someone in the throes of addiction become victimized by their behavior is something we should have empathy for.

Listen. We do not need another inept person seeking a prominent leadership role in this country. Agreed. Kanye was/is never a threat to that (and quite frankly, if he were to be, it says more about us/yall than it does about him!). So, let’s not focus on what can be perceived as the joke that is Kanye’s latest antics, and instead focus on the prevalence of (unaddressed and untreated) mental disease in this country. No. We do not need to indulge his outbursts or allow him free reign to behave, unchecked, in any manner that is detrimental to his or our wellbeing. But, let’s not laugh. He is not stupid. He is sick. He needs help. Many of us do. Many of us are scared and scarred. Sadly, many of us will fall through the cracks unattended and untreated either because of our own denial, ill-fated enabling and generations of societal disdain for illnesses of the mind. The great news regarding Kanye however, is that, because of his access and platform, we can see him. If we pay attention to the man, we can recognize the mania. If we recognize the mania, we can disregard the message. Once we disregard the message, we can address the mental.

Kanye, “Imma let you finish…” but then Sir, I pray you are able to get the help you deserve.

August: Irrelevant As A Month. Inconsequential As A Conversation.

Soooooooo very much has happened in the past four months, I actually do not believe it has taken The Smiths’ “entanglement” foolishness to weigh in. But, here I am. Let’s address this

Stop.

Now, resume the conversation and outrage about the murder of Breonna Taylor. Resume pushing for the arrest of her murderers. Focus on what matters.

Will and Jada are just fine. And, August is not relevant for another twenty-one days!

Black Is…

Black is Beautiful Terminal by Diane ‘Fury’ Wiltshire

They tell me to “treasure your bundle of joy”
As they feast their eyes on my baby boy
They smile and pinch every wrinkle and dimple
Promising that love from this world will be simple
For this smiling cherub I have birthed from my soul
“Give him to us” they say, “protection will be our goal.”

But as he grows nothing is further from the truth
Identifying their disregard will not require a sleuth
To see he ranks lower to them than an animal
And the color of his skin renders him terminal
So my sweet baby boy may not grow to a man
DNA determines his shorter lifespan.

So what should I do? Should I keep him inside?
Shutters closed, curtains drawn, cower down and hide?
Inflict upon him the injustices of a world
Where the white man is king with his hatred unfurled?
Should I erase his smiles and turn his rights to ashes
Just as they did his ancestors with rapes and lashes?

So I resist, I revolt, I insist he is free
And I hold my breath hoping he can come home to me
I cover him with prayer each time he walks out
Asking God to protect him so he will never know about
How much he is hated just because he is black
Dreading the knock on my door… “Ma’am your son is never coming back.”

They tricked me, they lied, this world never loved my son
Why would they? The white man can never be outdone
No black man, no colored, shit! No nigger
Will ever walk this earth as long as their finger can find a trigger
So all that is left is for us to seethe
In the face of yet another black man who can’t breathe.

COVID Convo with Him

I woke up one day and the world had changed
Nothing was normal, everything was rearranged…
Left was right and right was left
My confusion was complete, my heart was bereft.

I tried to understand, I listened to the news
I spoke to others trying to get their views
But nothing made sense, they floundered too
With what to think, feel and what to do.

Things were closing, lives were being lost
Shut ins, ambulances, ventilators, we wondered what would be the cost…
Of something we cannot see and only feel when it’s too late
How do you fight something that’s making you prostrate?

Families are dissected, lovers are torn asunder
Children are losing parents and are left to wonder…
“What happens now, who will love us?
Mommy and Daddy did before this corona virus!”

Some say the world is purging, it’s thinning the herd
I don’t know about you, but I would have preferred…
A gentler, kinder way for it to say
“Your time is up, let’s call it a day.”

My heart hurts, my soul is weary
The anxiety, fear and grief at times overtake me
I cry, I scream, I curse and I yell
I check myself often to see if I could still smell.

Yes, this is a lot, man should not live like this
Fearful of each other and not risking a kiss
Choosing six feet apart or six feet under
Some even deciding they can go on no longer.

But we must find a way, let’s don’t give up now
Let’s look to God and hold Him to his vow…
That He’ll never leave us, not matter how it may look
So, find your peace by opening His book.
You see, He has parted seas, walked on the water
And when they nailed Him to a cross it still didn’t matter
He finds a way to keep coming back to us
Especially amid crisis, death and chaos
He told Noah what to do, He turned water into wine
He healed the sick while they stood in line
He loved the sinner; He gave child to the old
So, I don’t know about you but I’m gonna be bold…
And tell Him I need Him now more than ever
And beg Him to come, stay and forsake me never.

Emotional Safe House

“We are all in this together…” a phrase that accompanies most communication or narrative addressing the global pandemic COVID-19. It is a phrase that is meant to encourage, bolster and promote solidarity. It is meant to soothe the anxieties isolation breeds by reminding us there is connectivity in separateness. ”We are all in this together…” but, are we? Or is this phrase as tongue-in-cheek as that one that makes me chuckle each time I hear it, “Always remember you are unique. Just like everyone else…” 😊

Mirth aside, there is no argument this pandemic has united the world in a way that not even FB could have done. It has shed light on the depth of our interconnectivity in a way that we could not have imagined. It has forced us to learn about fellow inhabitants on the other side of the world and acknowledge their presence and rights perhaps in the way beings on other planets are snickering and calling our karma. This pandemic, while necessitating we employ even more heightened focus on ourselves, also insists we focus as intently on others (albeit, from six feet away). It has removed our ability to continue to ignore or disregard those among us who do the work and provide the services we have always depended on but devalued and scorned. It has toppled many of us off the pedestals we have placed underneath ourselves and relegated us way to the back of the line of what is considered essential. Sadly it has taken a pandemic to remove so-called celebrities’ and athletes’ names from the headlines and our mouths by tragically replacing it with the names of those we should have always idolized. Those in our own homes and communities. So yes, in that regard, “we are all in this together…”

But, that may be where it ends. Unquestionably, there are many aspects of the state of our world that are universal and thus check-ins between friends, family and partners may carry similar expressions. Undoubtedly. But what about when you hang up? When you remove yourself from any public scrutiny and sit with yourself? What do you find? What do you two talk about? Do you continue the narrative that everyone is expecting – optimism, proof of faith, strength, positivity – or do you allow yourself the truth? Are you able to admit to yourself your fear, anger, moments of hopelessness and pessimism? No? Well, this is my point. “We are all in this together…” may encourage some of us to emulate what the masses do. It may shame us into showing up and behaving in ways that our souls do not feel. It may do to us what is done to the new mother who is bombarded with an insistence to breastfeed and is unable to. It may “postpartum” us.

“We are all in this together…” simply because we are all inhabitants of this beautiful earth. Yes. We are all susceptible to this deadly virus and need each other to act responsibly in order to contain spread. So yes, my physical well-being can depend on you if I allow interaction with you. And that is my point as it relates to my emotional and mental well-being. We must all be resolute in safe-guarding our emotional exposure. Social media, for all its amazing benefits, has always been a platform where some have insisted on a persona that is inauthentic. It has notoriously been a space where we have insisted on the declaration of the prettiest of our lives and ourselves – our accomplishments, successes, travels, narratives, social circles and images (evidenced by the dramatic drop in selfies during this time), while conversely being free with the downfall and tragedy of others.

Yes, we are all sharing a susceptibility to this deadly and devastating disease. But, we are not all sharing the same experience. Let’s be careful with asking or demanding of each other to share the same reactions or expressions. Let’s create or utilize spaces that allow for my not-doing-so-good self to be just that. Must that space be public? No. But any (seeming) inference that if I am weak means I am not making the best use of this time to create, reinvent, dream, plan, hustle or pivot may even privately deny me the right to my feelings. Listen. This post may not be for you. But it absolutely is for me. Because some days, some succession of days, all I have is the strength and desire to live. Nothing else. And that’s all I ask from you. And if you can’t manage that, I’ll lend you some of mine.

These times are unprecedented. They are traumatic. I am afraid of the virus and what it is doing, but I am not afraid to say so. Neither should you be. How about we tweak that phrase a bit so it is not universal, while at the same time, exclusionary? How about, “we’re all in this to get her…” We are forced to await a vaccine to ward off this virus, but we are not forced to wait on doing what we can for ourselves and each other mentally and emotionally. I got you…

 

Don’t Be Afraid. Tell The Truth. The Whole Truth. And Nothing But The Truth.

For some, nothing seems to wipe their slate clean like death.

There is quite the verbal war waging right now because of a clip of an interview between Gayle King (Oprah’s, well…) and WNBA star Lisa Leslie where King asked about Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape charge. According to King, the interview between the two covered a range of topics about Bryant and it was quite unfortunate that this clip was the one that was highlighted. Okay, people, let’s address this

Exactly what are you upset about? Are you mad he is dead and she asked about his rape charge? Are you mad he is dead and still mad he was charged with rape? Are you mad he is dead and it is just too soon and too tasteless to ask/speak of his rape charge? Are you mad he is dead and you think his death exonerates him from this part of his legacy? Or, perhaps, are you just mad he is dead?

Listen. The way Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, John, Keri and Alyssa Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Ara Zobayan and Sarah and Payton Chester died certainly shocks ones sensibilities. IF they were aware of what was happening (prayerfully the fog obscured their views of how close they were to the mountain), it must have been incredibly horrifying. I shudder with the thought Truly. And, as a mother, my heart aches for the babies who were on the helicopter. I cannot help but to think the “luckiest” ones on board were the Altobellis… because unlike Vanessa Bryant and the father of Payton Chester, they are not left to attempt to figure life out after the loss of a child.

But, see, that’s the thing exactly. Death leaves the living having to figure life out afterward and for many, figuring it out can get complicated. And messy. Death, especially sudden and shocking death, oftentimes inspires the living to offer up a state of absolution for all prior misdeed or wrongdoings, because, well, debilitating grief is enough to deal with, adding unresolved anger will just be too much. I understand. I do. But what I also understand, is that not everyone feels the same. For many, death does not wipe the slate clean and in fact, may even imprint the misdeed that much deeper.

Nine people died on that helicopter. Without any doubt that is tragic. Four families and countless lives have been forever changed because of it. Do you care about the life of the (alleged) rape victim? Because without a doubt, her life also changed when he died. And I would dare say, whether he did rape her or not. But even if we leave her side of things out of this perspective and simply focus on his, how dare yall insist on everything but this part of his legacy be told? To deny the existence of this elephant in the room is to expose your uncertainty as to the man you all say he has become since 2004. You cannot call him “hero” and yet want to bury the skeletons in his closet. That is not what a hero is. A hero is someone who has achieved, someone who has overcome life’s mistakes and their own to become someone who can, in some eyes, exemplify characteristics that can be held up to scrutiny… and pass.

Bryant has left quite the legacy. He was undoubtedly an incredible sportsman, a philanthropist and seemingly a loving father. It has been reported he has not always been a faithful, respectful and loving husband, but perhaps, he eventually did get that right enough for his wife. Who knows? And quite frankly, who cares? The truth is that too is part of his legacy. It should not be left out. His death does not sanitize any of what he did while living. So, if we are to remember all his accomplishments and bestow unlimited accolades, we owe it to the truth to also remember and acknowledge his foibles.

I distinctly remember the very first blog post I did… I thanked my abuser. Yes. Here’s why. If I am to be grateful – and I am – for where I am in this moment in my life, to be proud of myself and am able to acknowledge this is the best moments in my life and be beyond ecstatic I am here for it, I must also acknowledge the part he played in it. I must thank him. Not for hurting, humiliating or terrorizing me. Never that. But for happening to me. You see, it is simply this… without that experience I would have been a very different version of myself today and, I am quite tickled by and grateful for this one So, my story must include that experience. Not to glorify him, but simply to acknowledge the footsteps in getting here.

People, it is okay to allow Bryant’s missteps into the narrative. Perhaps without it he would not have become the version of the man you so claim to admire. Love.

Love Letter From A Mother:

As a mother, what happened yesterday splintered my soul. It truly truly is a parent’s worst nightmare.

I wanted to acknowledge what I imagine Mrs. Bryant’s devastation to be. I hope to honor her:

__________________________________________

My Darling Daughter:

This is a letter I never thought I would ever be called to write. A mother is never supposed to have to say goodbye to her child. Especially one so young. Yet, here I am, writing to you to say goodbye.

How do I begin? Where? Do I start at the end of thirteen or at the beginning of one? If I start at thirteen… words fail me. If I start at one knowing now that it ends at thirteen… words fail me. So, let me start in the middle. Yes, maybe I could piece together my soul if I started in the middle.

You topped me up and overflowed me. You did. Who you became exceeded everything I thought you would be. You surprised me. Not because I didn’t think you were capable. But because you knew you were capable. So did your daddy. He didn’t have to use words to express the magic he knew you were, when he looked at you we knew. I pray you knew.

Arrogantly, I imagined having a lifetime with you. In secret parts of me I planned a very sweet sixteen, graduations, a career and a wedding. I got my arms ready to hold you after your first heartache. Never, ever did I plan on readying my soul for my own. Never could I have imagined that all my dreams for you could turn into my worst nightmare of you.

My darling, as my soul continues to shatter, what brings me some comfort is knowing that in those final moments of this beautiful but too short life you have lived, your daddy held you. That he held you as tightly as he did the moment you came into his world. Being sure of that is all I have left. I know you were scared. I know. As I know your dad, friends and everyone with you yesterday was. I know. I know because darling, your mommy is scared too. I am scared of life without you and daddy. Scared for your sisters. Scared because our light as a family has been so dimmed.

Do me a favor, okay baby? Tell daddy we will be okay. Eventually. Not now. Not tomorrow. Not for many tomorrows. But, eventually. Tell him he showed me well how to love and take care of all his girls and I will never let him down. Just ask him to be patient with me until I find my way back from this pain. But tell him I will. I promise. I will. Right now though, mommy is shattered. Do me another favor, Gigi. Ask daddy to give you a million hugs for me… all the ones I thought I had time to give you myself. I am sorry you didn’t get them all. But, they’re yours.

Baby, you and daddy travel well to your final resting place. Pick a spot that you both like and rest. I have now commuted all my other wishes for you to this one… rest. Hold daddy’s hand, okay? I know he feels guilty for all of it. Whenever he needs it most, let him know it was not his fault. Let him know the only thing he is guilty of is loving us well. Tell him.

My darling daughter, thank you for the time you spent with us. Your sisters love you. We will see you again. Until then…

I love you. You filled my soul.

Mommy.

How A Red-Headed Kid From London Instituted A New Meaning To The Acronym, HRH

Like many of you, I am sure, I have been sitting and watching the unfolding of the bits and pieces that constitute Harry and Meghan’s past/current lives and their future one. I have not been quiet. Nope. I have had much to say about how I feel and more importantly, how I feel they are being regarded, judged and vilified. I have grumbled, cursed and called everyone – yes, people I do not know and will never meet – all sorts of names because of what I feel they have already done and are continuing to do to them. So, as you already have a gist as to my opinion, let’s just go ahead and address this…

They, Harry and Meghan/Harry and his wife/Meghan and her husband/Archie’s parents, are absolutely within their right to and in some regard have an obligation to make this decision. And, any of you who think otherwise, stop being hypocritical! Yes. I called you hypocritical! “Why” you ask? Let me tell you… A great number of us tuned into their wedding ceremony two years ago. Shit! We tuned into them from the moment their relationship became public. Many of us had a lot to say about his adorable red-headed self picking this black woman. Many of us cheered him on for his coolness and bravery. Many of us cheered her on for seemingly “choosing well,” giving divorcees hope and even some of us for showing black girls everywhere that there can be brown-skinned real life princesses. So, we watched.

We talked about how we “always knew that Harry was different/cool/a renegade” and giggled about how “whipped” he must be after getting some black ass! Some of us even giving him the “side-eye” with the “he better marry her!” face! He did. We watched. We commented on her dress, hair, freckles and mama. He scrutinized his face for his/its trademark emotional transparency. We talked about his wearing of a wedding ring and “ohhhhhhhh’d” at the validation of Prince Charles walking her down the aisle. We monitored the arrival of the guests, documenting this and that celebrity. We sang with the choir and applauded their doing things their way.

So, guess what? They still are.

This couple, Harry and Meghan have insisted from the very beginning that we recognize and respect those touches, big or small, that signaled their insistence on being true to their relationship. We may only now realize that what we had always been allowed glimpses of were moments of their desire to be normal, not traditional. Their relinquishing of their titles should now express to us what our good-natured giggling may have potentially made us miss in the beginning… Meghan and Harry’s desire to have and conduct a relationship steeped in the same shit we infuse in ours. A desire and a right to have a relationship where they put each other first (not a country), are able to employ the same set of compromises you and I have when deciding where to live, where to work, who stays home with the baby and the ability to recognize what is not in our best interest… and do something about it! Because folks, that is what they did. That is all they did. They made couple decisions. They made married-people decisions. They made family-first decisions. They made grown folks decisions. And, just like it is for you and me, whether she “started” it or he, it is none of our fucking business! Remember, married folk! I wish someone would tell me I cannot influence a decision, major or small, in my home! Try. I dare you! How do we get to insist our men/partners stand up for/defend us to their parents, public and friends and wage all hell if they don’t but condemn her because he seems to be doing the same? Why does she, why do they deserve any less from and for each other than we insist on for ourselves?

Listen. Yes. They also have royalty considerations. I am in no way callously disregarding that reality. What I am doing however, is granting them the ability (and my humble and resounding approval) to make married-people decisions… then do exactly what they did, exactly what we all do, massage the rest into place.

So, they stripped them of their title, HRH. As for me, it is even more applicable now, cause, well, HeRespectsHer.

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