“Mom, do you know where my phone is?”, I asked as she stood in my doorway while I was setting up my Game system. That’s how the conversation that changed my life began.
“Yeah, I got it in my room…” I screwed my face a little because she never just takes my phone for no reason. “ I didn’t want them waking you up or you seeing something on Facebook” she responded. She noticed the estranged look on my face. “Something happened..” “What?” , I interrupted. What was strange about this conversation is the entire time my mom spoke she had this sort of grin, that didn’t match the concerned tone of her voice. It was almost as if she was uncomfortable saying what she had to say, I could definitely tell something was wrong, but as I normally when i saw her half smile, I couldn’t help but let out a slight grin myself. “Your dad, he got shot.” I don’t think my mind fully absorbed these words because my lips remained curved upwards. “For real, is he ok?” my face tensened when my mom shook her head. “No, he’s dead.” I froze where I stood, in awe as I watched my mom, who is usually someone who’s always extremely strong, cover her bare face and slowly drop down to the floor with her back the the hallway wall. I’d never see her cry before and quite frankly for a moment I was more surprised by that than the news she had just told me. In this moment it felt as if the world had come to a complete halt. I finally snapped back into reality and I felt like I was just hit by a truck, tears began flowing down my face. I could feel my knees give out and gravity absolutely took over at that point. To my surprise my Aunt rushed to my side to catch me and bring me to my bed. Earlier that morning I heard my mom talking to someone but I just assumed she was on the phone because it was still kinda early and honestly I was took tired to to care about what they were talking about. With my head laid on my Aunt’s chest and her hands rubbing my side I cried, and trust me when I cry, it’s serious, I nearly choke on my own cries. I was only able to open my eyes just enough to see a blurred image of my mom get up and join me and my Aunt Shannon on my bed and she gently shifted my head onto her chest. We cried for what seemed like forever, my heart had been shattered. Eventually our cries faded away and turned into muffled sniffles. “Do you want to go see your grandma?” my asked in a trembling voice. I quickly nodded my head. “Yes” I answered in my own trembled voice. “Okay, go get in the shower and get dress real quick”. I had totally forgotten about my God Sister, Jade who had stayed over for the weekend and had slept on the sofa. As I walked to the bathroom, i looked back to see jade looking at me, clearly trying to figure out why I had tears running down my face. I continued down the hall to the bathroom and closed the door behind me. Before I hopped in the shower I took a moment and looked in the mirror at myself and immediately started crying again. I have to say, that shower really calmed my nerves, although on the whole ride to my uncle's house i was still shaking chattering my teeth trying to keep myself in one piece, or at least what was left. The rest of that horrible Saturday was filled with tears, anxiety, and fake smiles for the sake of spared feelings.
Going back to school on the following Monday proved to be a challenge. I really didn’t want to tell anybody about what happened because I am someone who constantly has my walls up and refuses to enable others to see me in a time of weakness suffering. “Hey AJ, you alright? It looks like you’re a little bothered.” Mrs. C asked when I walked into class as she scanned my posture and face as it was unusual. I was tired of lying to everybody so I hesitantly shook my head. When she asked what was wrong I couldn't find the strength to tell her, I could hardly breathe. She wrote me a pass to the counselor and I complied when she suggested that I go see our 7th grade counselor, Mrs. H. “What can I help you with Mr. Jones?” I wanted to slightly ease into it instead of blatantly saying “ My dad died I need you to fix me!” After asking her about whether she was familiar with the shooting that I happened at a local pub, and if she was aware that out of 7 people who were injured only one died. Eventually I told her that the one fatality of the shooting was my dad. The rest of my time in her office was very emotional she even cried herself. After all the tears were wiped from our eyes, Mrs. Henninger expressed how proud she was that I could still come to school just two days after hearing that news and still walk into the building with a smile on my face. After that day, I visited Mrs. H’s office quite often.
Now all that was left to do was get through the Wake and The Funeral. The wake was on the upcoming Monday and I was not ready handle everything that went about that day. Originally my dad immediate family, mother, siblings, children were allowed to view his body alone. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get there early enough so I came when the church was pretty filled with people. When me and my mom stood in the threshold of the church where the wake was held, all I could seem to look at was the white glaring casket at the end of the long middle walkway of the hug room. I quickly scanned the room and noticed my mom’s friend, Jade’s mom sitting in the back. I jolted to sit by her. “Come on” my mom gestured me to follow her. I knew she wanted me to go up the casket, so I gave her a begging face and again she gestured. I slowly got up, I could feel my eyes start to water. “You don’t want to see him?” my asked in the hushed tone she had the entire time since we entered. I shook my head and my mom just had to know I was about to cry because she wrapped her arm around me and we walked out into the hall and sat on the bench and cried. While we sat I saw my two youngest siblings, Ayden and India, come up the stairs with their mom, who was clearly holding in her own tears. My aunt Kendra, my dad’s sister, came over when she spotted my mom and I and gave me a hug. Eventually I muscled up enough strength to walk up to the front and see my dad for the first time in almost a year, talk about throwing salt in the wound. He was was so still, his body laid there lifeless, off colored. “This can’t be my dad’ I thought. He was usually so full of life. My Uncle Lacey came up the me and tried to get me to touch my dad’s hand. I freaked out and I struggled to pull my hand back. He stopped trying after he saw that I was scared to feel. I joined my Grandma and the rest of my close family in the front couple of rows as people from all over our city came to see my dad one last time. As they passed the gave us hugs, it felt pretty good to see all the people that my dad knew. The night had come to a conclusion, on to the next.
The night before my dad’s funeral I had dream about him, I don’t recall exactly what happened but I do remember that when I woke up, for a second I felt happy. I haven’t had a dream about him since. We were instructed to meet at my uncle Lacey’s house before the funeral so that the limos and police escorts could take us to the church. When we finally got to the church everyone else was already inside and all we had to do was make our entrance. We got into a line of pairs, my grandma told me to walk with her because I was dressed pretty sharp, thanks to my mom. It was time, we walked up the steps into the church hall and everyone was standing, staring at us. I had my grandmas hand in mine and as we walked down the aisle I feel her tremble I looked over and behind her sunglasses I could see that she was crying I grabbed her arm with my other hand and told her it was alright. The service was really nice, although most of the time I was crying. One particular moment when a group of women were sing their rendition of “Break Every Chain” by Tasha Cobbs everyone was standing but as they sung, the chills ran down my spine and I couldn't take it anymore. I sat down and started to cry, but this wasn't just any cry, I was almost hollering. My grandma and my oldest sister sat down and tried to calm me down but it wasn't working. From behind me my Great aunt Lorrie whispered “It’s Okay baby, your mom is coming down here now.” My mom came and sat in the empty row in front of us and comforted me, good thing she came because no one else did the job like she did. After the memorial service everyone went to the cemetery and witnessed the burial. Later that afternoon we had a small cookout at my Uncle’s house to “lighten the mood”. That was the highlight of my whole week, everyone was enjoying themselves.
As time went on it got easier and easier to cope with the pain of no longer having a father. I had my low, low moments where I felt as if nothing would get better and there was no one who cared enough to be there for me. It felt like the who world was against me slowing crashing down on me until I couldn’t bare it any longer. Like I didn’t have a purpose and It’d just be better if I wasn’t here anymore. I even went to therapy, which later failed. There was one good thing that came out of that whole experience, my family got extremely closer and we love each other more than ever. We all come together on my dad’s anniversary and birthday to celebrate his life. No matter how alone you may feel, there’s always someone willing to give you the listening ear, the shoulder to cry on, or even the distraction from life that you may need to get through the next day. That’s the thing about family, family can do the thing that doctors and therapist can’t, the can love you for everything that you are and together you can survive any obstacle. Even for someone with not much family, there are people out there who know what you’re going through who can relate to you and understand you when you feel no one else does. I wish I could go back to the 8th grade and take the chance I was given to meet those kids who were just like me, lost and confused. I use my personal experience to try and better myself and look at things from different perspectives. My dad did a lot for me, although I didn’t see it at times, maybe I didn’t want to see it. My father meant something to a variety of different people in his life, I hope to one day have that same family welcoming attitude he had about himself. And I will always remember that day, 4/25/15; a date unforgettable.