The only marker is often graffiti spray-painted on an obscure wall, a visual message whose meaning we all know. Local friends sometimes print a few t-shirts with a faded edge of the bloom of youth with “R.I.P.” underneath. Funeral directors have become adept at displaying the remains with knock-offs of Gucci hats shaped like ball caps.
It’s a familiar rite to many in the black community; a place where too many youth die too soon. I have sat bewildered and worn down at viewings of children who I played with when their legs were engines of joy, moving them with physical freedom from place to place. It seemed odd that their legs would never move again, that they wouldn’t run to my arms if I called. It was odd that they were loved, dead, and still teens.
Their death is an absence that doesn’t have a way to communicate its emptiness, a loss that whirls steps beyond our grief. As time fades the death of any youth, it doesn’t end the pain. The fade ends up being a hole you step around or over, like a crack in the sidewalk nobody fixes.
Every so often, through the sheer force of our collective lives, something ties together the distended threads and we are seized by a time of national mourning; a time when one death symbolizes every death.
In the weeping time, each of us must find a way to share the deeper meaning of his death beyond our grief and fear. His death is a territory we must invade and a battle we must win. For the meaning of death is hallowed if it brings peace.