I stood on the roof of the Super Motel staring down at the limosine from the funeral home. It was the same make, model and marking of the one that had went blaring by me one hour before. Two souls had obviously exited this world leaving a trail of memories like the tail of comet. Slowly tapering but never quite completely ceasing to exist, constantly a lingering aura that they once existed on this plane.
The first limo I saw with the markings of the funeral home was accompanied by a larger processional of marked police vehicles. I immediately recognized that it was the funeral for Officer Clifton Lewis who had been murdered in what at first seemed as a botched robbery attempt. Officer Lewis has been working the extra job to pay for his upcoming wedding and had only proposed to his long-time girlfriend on Christmas. Now in a somber display I watched as his body was being accompanied by his colleagues in what was a beautiful show support.
Fast forward, a repeat image. This time the limo was parked outside of New Beginnings Church of Chicago and I was perched across the street on the roof of a motel. The roof had been the headquarters for a fight, a struggle, a mantle taken on by the Man of God Pastor Corey Brooks, Project HOOD (Helping Others Obtain Destiny.) He calls it “Fort Hood”. A battleground for what has been the fight for life, all life that has been threaten by violent acts. Murder by gun violence. . .a problem of epidemic propotions in Chicago and the US as a whole. This time though, there was an ironic nature found in the true dichotomy of the demographics of the two victims. This funeral was for a 16 year old young man. The idea that on two sides of the city of Chicago, you had two mothers facing the same perverse situation of having to bury their child, was astounding to me.
Jawan Ross, a sophomore at Paul Roberson High School in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago was senselessly gunned down in a restaurant. He was at the wrong place, wrong time. NO – he was at the RIGHT place (getting food, where his family knew he was) at unfortunate time (after the gunman had an altercation with another person in the parking lot). The media found the humanity thread in the story in that Mr. Ross was by all accounts not a gang member, was not the intended target and was all around a good kid and great student. So why the need to justify his right to keep and live his life beyond the age of 16? Would his death had been any less of a tragedy if he WERE a member of a gang?
How have we gotten to the point that violence, gun violence especially; is so permissible. Have we devalued life for so long, starting down the proverbial slippery slope that “this execution” was justifiable, or that “abortion” was permissable. Then we possess the audacious nature to be surprised when an honorable Police Officer and humble “Good Kid” is murder, but somehow our civil side justifies court sanctioned executions or legally permissible abortions. William Sloan Coffin is quoted as saying “The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverence can restrain violence – reverence for human life and the environment.” Perhaps we have failed to reverence the true gift of life. Maybe we have made enough excuses as to whose life is not valuable. Maybe, just maybe we have slid so deep into justification of the loss of life. Every life is precious, and when we begin to value it we will impart that same value system to children, our community and every circle of influence we have access to. And perhaps that will be the day we don’t have the funerals for two victims of gun violence simultaneously.”We got to keep constantly bringing awareness that this is a humanitarian issue,” said Rev. Brooks.
My prayer is that we begin to nurse our humanity and spirit that our children and our heroes can live long fruitful lives.