Sunday, March 29, 2009

So Hard to Say Goodbye

I'm currently down in San Antonio, TX preparing myself mentally for tomorrow's funeral for my uncle. It's a weird feeling, Death. I've been down this road twice in the last 6 years with prominent men in my life. In 2003, I lost my dad to cancer and in 2007, I lost my cousin/pastor (he founded the church I now attend and was a big reason in my Mom finding comfort here as a Texas transplant).

Being in San Diego was a fun time but it also helped me think about some things. My uncle played such a huge role in my life that I'm still realizing the ways in which he was a father figure. In my San Diego post, I mentioned how I took that trip as a 1-year old (Mom says 2)...well my uncle took that now famous picture of me with the backwards lid. My uncle was also responsible for taking some of our earliest home movies (a Disneyland trip that I remember quite well) and it was a role he never stopped. At my college graduation as well as my sister's, he was there with a camera in tow.

He also was the person who taught me how to shave (never forget it, the day my sis graduated HS). He was there with my Mom as I received my diploma. He was there as we said goodbye to my Dad, walking my Mom down the aisle - a task I surely was not ready for. He played a big role in my cousin's life after they lost their father at an early much so that I'm pretty sure the reason he's such a strong man that he is now (as well as a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha) is because of my uncle.

To be honest, losing a male figure in a family dominated by women is tough, especially when you're someone like me who's always been on a quest looking for that role model. I've discovered it through my Dad since his passing, the men at my church during my teen years and now I see it through my uncle Levi as well as my uncle Greg. It hasn't been easy not seeing up close but at a time when most Black young men don't have a positive male example (I love how my Aunt Mayme put that today - be an example, not a role model), I've been blessed to have a few and it's taken me time to appreciate that.

At the wake today, I saw co-workers and friends pay their respects. Although I didn't want to at first, I paid a last glance at him. He looked so peaceful, so dignified...a man who gave so much and was going to receive his due by those who loved him. But as my family says, we weep not because we know this is the end, we weep because we will miss him in this life, knowing that we will see him again in the next.

The last time I was in Texas (not counting my brief drive-thru and pitstop on the way to the Jena 6 rally) was 10 years ago when he received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas-Austin. It's fitting because he valued education and never stopped sharing his wisdom. It's also no surprise that we will also gather this year to celebrate my cousin Stasia graduating from college. It'll be weird not seeing him there...his big presence being almost a comfort to us all.

I loved every moment that I shared with him and as I'm sure the tears will fall tomorrow morning, we will also smile at some point. My uncle, Dr. Levi J. Jackson III, lived a life worth mourning and a life worth celebrating. We can all aspire to have that said about us when it's our time and I'm sure we all know somebody who that aptly describes.

Tomorrow won't be easy. But I know my family will rally around each other and God will fill in those precious gaps where human touch cannot.

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