It has been a really rough week. I have a chest cold and it feels like someone is actually sitting on my chest. After a second round of shots to my injured back I am actually in more pain, not less.
And then there is the text I woke up to on Monday morning. "N. B.'s viewing will be on Wednesday July 11th at xxxx Funeral Home located at xxxxxx from 10-11am. Service after 11."
As though I need a location for this funeral home. As though I haven't been there before. It's always the same freakin' funeral home.
In what she thought was a wise move, NB's mom sent him out of state to keep him from getting in trouble over the summer in the inner city. NB loved going to spend time with his aunt and cousins during the summers and has gotten to know other teens in the area over the years. NB arrived at his aunt's home just before his 17th birthday which was July 2. He was shot and killed on July 4rth. It was not an accident. He was the intended target. I don't know more than that. I don't know why he was targeted or who killed him. I am sure if school were open right now I would know more because the kids always get the story but school is out for the summer.
NB was a kid that was labeled a "bad kid" since preschool. He was wild and got thrown out of every school but the one where I work. At our school he was a handful but he was making real progress. His mom made sure that he came every day. NB was going to start his senior year in September. He was going to be one of our success stories. A kid we would graduate.
The funeral was surreal. I came on the early end, before all but one of my colleagues arrived. I stood out as the only White person there for a very long time. I signed in but then found someplace to stand. I can't stand viewings. As a Jewish person I am not accustomed to them (we do not embalm and the body is covered at the funeral) and after my first viewing I knew that it wasn't for me.
I don't want to ever stand over a dead body again. I prefer to remember people as they were when they were alive. I prefer to remember the NB that was full of life, that made me laugh and needed a constant reminder to pull his pants up. I wanted to remember the kid who, during the talent show, had me laughing out loud as he, in his best preacher voice, poked fun at each member of the staff one by one.
It wasn't long after I arrived when some of the teens who knew me started to come over and give me hugs. When the kids came over to me I noticed some barely perceptible looks of approval from others in the room. This White lady is something to these kids. She must have been something to NB.
Many of the teenage boys with whom I work are predicting early deaths. When I encourage them to make plans for the future I will too often get a response like, "what's the point, I'll be dead before I am 21."
NB seemed to have predicted his own death. Or at least, it was on his mind. This excerpt from a poem written by Edgar Albert Guest was found on his Facebook Wall:
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom filled room,
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little- but not too long
Remember the love that we once shared.
Miss me - But let me go.
Rest in Peace NB. You were one of a kind and I won't forget you.