mortality. (love your people.)

I saw my grandmother get cremated.

I was still a child. My dear grandma Lorna. I saw it. I was about 16, maybe. It was right after her funeral ended. I don’t know how I even ended up witnessing this in the mausoleum…but I did. The shit hurt me so much that I didn’t even cry. Until this moment right now, I wasn’t even sure that what I saw was even a “thing”. Denial. Everything I just read about cremation after funerals… matched exactly what I saw. Just a casket rolling into flames. As my family talked to the mausoleum staff. Beautiful service. Beautiful woman. Terrifying imagery. She died so suddenly that I didn’t get to process she was gone; that cremation skipped my emotions to the end of the book. I feel like she’s still with me all the time, and I’m 27 years old now. I tend to find it corny when people say the deceased are “still with them”. But I get it now. I get it today.

That situation made me avoid funerals as much as I could, going forward.

One of my good friends in HS lost his mother a few years ago. I love that guy. I didn’t go to the funeral. I couldn’t. Mentally, it was not an option. I felt bad for years. Felt like I left him hanging (because I did). Cowardly shit. I should have been there at that tough time.

I saw him 2 months ago, after not seeing him since then, pretty much. It was all love, smiles, daps and hugs. I’m thankful that he didn’t take that personally. If he did, he didn’t express it to me. If he saw me and flipped on me, I’d deserve every part of it. But…he is a better man than me, clearly.

My best friend from college, my dog, my brother…he lost his mom too. Maybe 2 years ago. I knew she was sick, but the news blindsided me. He dealt with it quietly. Much love to him. Amazed at how strong he has remained since. I handled this better than the previous death I mentioned. I had to. Couldn’t fail my friend.

Most recently, my best friend from HS let me know about two weeks ahead of his mother passing. I knew the funeral would be soon. I knew I would have to go, to support, because of love, because I aim to do what’s right.

I was fucking terrified of that funeral.

I tried to convince myself that I didn’t have to go….selfishly. I just didn’t feel like I could take the trauma of a funeral. I let that go in a matter of days. I committed to going because I love him and his family. They have both been there for me at my absolute WORST. When I didn’t know what to do, he helped. When I went through an absolutely disastrous break up, he was right there with me. Broke, drunk, unappreciative; he accepted me and held me down.

So I was going. No matter what. I haven’t even been to a funeral since I was 19(my grandfather). I don’t go to church. I had no idea how funerals even play out.

But I went.

The funeral went perfectly. There was a lot of love in that room. I got to sit with my friends…so it wasn’t so bad. I went up to my man, as he stood inches from his mother’s open casket. He thanked me for something I put on this blog and said he appreciates it because I spoke from the heart. That familiar hot and teary feeling covered my eyes. I put my head down and just said “thank you, we’ll talk”. My eyes were as big as half dollars, trying to keep those tears in. I sped away to my seat. I spent the night blown away at how warm and inviting everyone was. I spoke to my boy, his girlfriend, showed his family love, then made my way back to the train and went home.

I texted my girlfriend and told her the funeral went well. She asked was my friend ok. I told her he was good…then I disappeared into the night, whisked away by the 2 train.


Halloween weekend.

I’m back in Queens. Walking an assload of blocks home on a frigid night. The bus at that hour (its about 3 am) stops NOWHERE near where I need to be. So I hopped off in LI….and voyaged my drunk ass back into Queens.

Now mind you. I’m FINISHED. I barely had the presence of mind to stop at the local 7-11 and get a huge bottle of water for my now drunk and defeated body (it was a great night though). So I’m stumbling in the dark…by myself…down Merrick in the relatively unsafe manner in which is how I usually live life.

Somewhere along the way I have a bright idea.

“I’m hungry. Let me eat some bum ass Crown Fried chicken.”

I never eat Crown. Ever. Had it once in my entire life….thanks to a woman named Lorna who I just affectionately called “gramma Lorna” in a more innocent , younger , and totally sober time.

Grandma was tough as nails. Rude , even. But she loved me in such a pure way. She had this way of telling you things you needed to hear in the most disrespectful way she could. Wasn’t that she didnt love you ; she just knew this was the only way she’d get through to you immediately. It always worked. I always listened , even when I didnt understand.

If I may be transparent , let me tell you about my upbringing. I am a silver spoon kid. Middle class black parents. Got everything I needed and 95 percent of what I wanted. That other 5% was shit I got myself eventually. Family life was spotless.

My grandma?? Flew here from Trinidad. Lived in Brooklyn. Worked at the post office. Raised my mom and my aunt by herself (split with my also dearly missed grandfather , Papa). She’s done it all. She struggled at some point. Her role in my mind was to help keep me grounded and remind me that everyone didn’t have it like me.

So yes , one day she took me and my sister to Crown Fried. In Flatbush. My fake uppity ass saw that chicken and fries and cringed. I was dreading having to eat this “hood” shit. I ate it. Thought it was average at best. Didn’t matter : any food Grandma put in front of me…I’m at least gonna give it a shot out of love and respect alone.

Now here I am , 24 years old. 15 years later or so. Tears welling up in my eyes at almost 330 am as I pull open a Crown Fried door and order through that familiar bulletproof glass. Waited for my food. Got it relatively quickly. Got the hell outta there and noticed I was sobering up quickly. The cold and memories of a loved one will do that to ya.

I’d like to say I was moved by something so random and almost “silly” because of the alcohol. Probably not. I won’t make the tired cliche “I just hope she’s proud of me” because thats not really how I think. She was proud of me when she passed and I wasnt even out of HS by then. My main concern that night was , I hope she knows I owe her so much. On top of that , I was happy she came to mind.

My grandma embodies my current demeanor. I’m friendlier than she ever was. She was only nice to family….no one else. But she was laid back. Say something crazy , prove her point , then sip her grapefruit juice and keep watching Montell. She was always the definition of cool to me. My grandma was beautiful. She knew it…she believed it…she wore that proudly. I always admired how she didn’t care what anyone thought; as long as her family was straight she was satisfied. I reach more every day to live life in such a minimalist way. I want to keep improving on my happiness and make sure my family and friends are in that same space. Everything else will fill in as it should.

That night , I got into my bedroom , bodied that greasy ass chicken , drank that Pepsi thats eventually gonna kill me if I don’t stop (but it hasnt ruined my skin….I’m still looking and feeling like this guy) and slept soundly. Knowing that……I ate that damn chicken and stopped complaining. Just like she would’ve liked.