Emotional Whiplash

I know we are supposed to “Celebrate with those who celebrate, and mourn with those who mourn!”

But both on the same day, is more than a tad bit much. At least for a feeler like me.

The Saturday started at a delightful birthday party for twin one year olds. It was beautiful – it was as if the Pinterest Gods descended to earth and bestowed every adorable Dr. Seuss detail to this happy home. Friends and family gathered.  It was a full celebration of the life of these two precious babies.

As it should have been. It wasn’t always this way.

Their story began long before their birth.

My friendship grew with their mother over many months, and many tears. She was told by the professionals that infertility had won, that there was no hope for her to birth her own children. If she chose Invitro, and more than one child implanted, she would have to have a “selective reduction”. The thought of this tormented her. I remember her shaking as she was explaining it all to me. Her body was weak, pregnancy could kill her. Before she was faced with any of those decisions, she became pregnant, naturally – with twins. The pregnancy was long, and hard on her body. But she never lost hope, she never lost her joy.

A year later we gathered – and we celebrated.

My stay was short. The birthday party started at noon, the funeral started at one.

I drove from the gated community into the inner city.

The day had appropriately turned grey.

I arrived to the tiny church and was “greeted” by a group of armed policemen. I sat in the back pew. I listened and prayed as some wailed and screamed as they approached the open casket. Some mourned silently in their seats as tears rolled down from their eyes down past their chin.

A young man sat next to me, stoically, reeking of weed. I rubbed his back as his legs started to shake and he hid his head between them as he silently wept. He sat back up, as stoic as he started. No evidence of the tears.

The church was filled with friends and family.

As it should have been. It wasn’t always this way.

Johnny should not be dead. 

Everyone keeps saying Johnny was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Dammit, stop saying that!

That place was a street, in his neighborhood, where he called home.

And the time, was the middle of the day.

Reports said that he and his boys had just walked up to the corner store to get ice cups. As I’m sure they had done hundreds of times before. There was a shooting. Two injured, two dead.

I knew Johnny from when I worked at Urban Youth Impact. Johnny was not perfect, no one is claiming that he was, but God he was different. His smile lit up a room. When I saw him a few weeks before his murder, he was so excited to tell me he had graduated high school and was enlisting in the service. He was actively working to end the violence that made him a statistic in one of West Palm Beach’s bloodiest summers.

Four city commissioners silently stood in the back of the church – one was unexpectedly called out by the pastor to speak. He had met Johnny at a meeting held by Inner City Innovators. Because of that meeting, Johnny is no longer just a statistic. He is a face, and a name, and a contagious smiled that I pray stays engraved on the minds of the commissioners as they shape our city.

His story will continue long after his death.

This blog has been brewing for almost a month.

I am still feeling faint pangs from the emotional whiplash of that day.

“Celebrate with those who celebrate, and mourn with those who mourn!”

Sadness that turned to joy. And we celebrated.

Joy that turned to sadness. And we mourned.

Back and forth and back again.

And this is life.

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