Archive for September, 2011

When mom and I arrived home in Cleveland,  LOVE greeted us at the airport. Aunt Carole arranged for her personal driver to pick us up, and he took us to Maggiano’s to pick up dinner for the evening. This was Aunt Carole’s treat, and my sign that LOVE had traveled with us to Cleveland; the season of grief would continue and God would continue to be present. 

It felt good to be home; it was familiar and different from the home I’d built in Trenton. For a moment I was no longer a single woman trying to manage things on my own, instead I was a daughter and a sister. I was back in the land of my village, the home of my people, and I could let go. This was the place where I was known before I knew myself, and this was exactly the place where I needed to be.   

My mom’s condo would be the next comfortable place where I would stay and it provided a welcomed respite; home felt good. The following morning I was thankful to wake up in my own bed. Kesner was still dead, but somehow the change of environment made it a little bit easier to swallow. That morning I got showered and dressed for the day, and before long there was a knock on the door with a familiar face waiting on the other side with breakfast…

 It was Amanda 


The title of this note is KimandAmanda. This is not a word in the english dictionary, but at one point I think it probably could have been. Our names were said together so frequently (Kim and Amanda) that It seemed to just roll off the tongue as if it were all one word. “KimandAmanda are doing this, or KimandAmanda are doing that…” It goes together like coffee and cream, try it: KimandAmanda. See??!  

coffee and cream is an intentional pun because Amanda is my sister from another mother. We are Ebony and Ivory. She is my white family and our friendship is a magical one. 


Amanda and I have been friends for more than half of our lives. We were two fifteen year old girls who met on the volleyball bench at Hawken school. Not only did we share an inability to play volleyball but we shared a love for creativity and life. We soon became frolicking friends. We skipped through the halls and laughed constantly. Our friendship felt like lollipops and butterflies and everything happy. We listened to the Cranberries and Noreaga, Master P and Sarah McLachlan, while joy-riding down Gates Mills BLVD in her white chevy lumina. We bought prom dresses in February, watched 90210, and cooked lobster for no reason. We had no cares in the world and we abided in our own little friendship bubble. We sang in the choir, hung out at the mall, and wrote notes to each other when we were angry. Our high school friendship was everything sweet and wonderful and we were BFF’s… We even have a friendship memory book to prove it.

Holiday Valley ,NY - 1997

But these are not the only things that made our happy friendship special. More meaningful to me was the fact that Amanda was my first friend to step into the varied dimensions of my world. As a black girl in a majority white private school, I lived in silos. There were dimensions that most of my school friends never crossed into. But Amanda was different. At such a young age, she was as interested in my world as I was in hers. She was my first white friend to worship at my all black church and she’s celebrated kwanzaa with us at Aunt Pepper’s a time or two – standing in the circle, holding hands and thanking God for her ancestors while we light the Kanara.

Amanda celebrated Kwanzaa with me 🙂

Hanging out with us, she’s even been pictured in the Call and Post (Cleveland’s Black Newspaper). And she visited me at Spelman on more than one occasion.  As a very young person Amanda chose to have these cross-cultural experiences with me and I thought that was so cool.

Over time our friendship has matured. We don’t have to be happy all of the time and life is not always filled with bubbles and jelly beans. We have both experienced challenge and change but our love for one another remains the same. Rather than call her BFF, today I call Amanda my family. She is family to us. And by us I mean all of the Copeland’s. Literally. I can’t make plans with Amanda now without my brothers being involved. Her pictures hang beside ours in my mom’s den.

Amanda and Mom

Amanda is a big part of home for me, and I love her dearly. She is a part of my family.

She is the kind of friend that comes out in the snow to bring you a cupcake. The one with whom you love to paint your nails. The friend that sends cards and relaxing bath gels when you’re sad. The kind of friend that makes you a mix cd to brighten your day. And the friend that tells you to “put on your big girl panties” when you’re faced with life challenges that you’d rather not deal with.

Amanda is the friend who gives you back the silver flower ring that you gave to her six years ago, and tells you to wear it “…now that it has been loved.”  And, likewise, she is the friend that shows up at your door after your boyfriend dies, with breakfast from Yours Truly.

And that is exactly what she did.

We sat together at my mother’s dining room table and talked calmly while we ate our breakfast.  She had been waiting for me to come home, wanting to see me and talk in person. She told me that she had asked her dad (who is a doctor) about what happened to Kesner. “It could have been a myriad of things,” he told her.

Diabetes is complicated.

This was around the time that I was beginning to try to put the pieces together also. Everyone had been passing that viscous story around that Kesner did this deliberately, that he wasn’t taking his insulin. That preacher from the funeral had even accused Kesner of this. I just knew that couldn’t be it;I saw him take his shots. It had to be something else…

 A heart attack, I thought. That’s got to be it.

I saw vomit on the bathroom floor on the day that I found him. And I remembered that he was warm and his heart was beating really quickly on the saturday before he died.

I bet he had a heart attack, I thought.

 This began the inquiry phase. Over the next few months I would need to diagnose him; to know exactly what happened. Diabetes is complicated and it sets a bunch of things out of whack. Maybe it wasn’t his sugar after all…

No, I thought.

In that moment, as I sat with my friend at the table discussing matters of death and diabetes, I decided it was a heart attack that killed my Kesner.

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

Read Full Post »

Let’s see, where was I? The funeral, yes; how disappointing. My mom told me to begin that way but truthfully it was more than disappointing, it was painful. For a few reasons. I think it best to begin with my own bondage…

My ego.

The ego is sneaky and it creeps up on you when you least expect it. And even though I was bereaved, grieving, low, my sneaky little ego snuck its way into the situation…

I had a feeling that the funeral was going to be high drama and I was sure that I would be part of that. The tragic grieving girlfriend that found her boyfriend dead… Sad lover of a slain hero.

I felt like Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy…

Jaqueline Kennedy

 I felt like Corretta Scott King…    Or Betty Shabazz…

Coretta Scott King

 you get it, EXTRA!

I kept telling myself I had to look good, in case there were cameras…I decided on a black ribbed Calvin Klein dress with a simple flare skirt. I wore black satin peep toe heels, each with four large gem stones at the toe. I wore my hair just off my face with long curly tendrils that dangled down the back, and I had on dark sunglasses and dark red lipstick, almost burgundy. Drama.

My mother, equally dramatic, had on a simple black St John dress, black pumps and a very large wide brimmed black hat. We decided to arrive early and in style. Aunt Carole had arranged a town car and driver for us so that we could “maintain our dignity,” as my mother so aptly put it. And we arrived at the church promptly at 10AM.

The viewing began at 10 and the funeral followed at 11.We entered the sanctuary and sat in the third pew from the front on the left side of the sanctuary. We sat directly behind the amazing Kappas who were seated in the first two pews; the other side was reserved for family. Earlier in the week I had been invited to sit with Kesner’s family but I was more comfortable sitting with my family:“The Comforter” (mom), “The Man” (Mike), “Soul Friend” (Jessie) and Klay (“Fabulous in the Flesh”). “Where in the world is Andrea Michelle?” (Andrea) and “Haystacks..” (Kristen) sat in the pew directly behind us.  I decided that I would sit on the aisle, just in case people wanted to grab my hand, hug me, or tell me how sorry they were for my loss.  But it didn’t quite happen that way

…Nobody grabbed my hand, greeted me, or hugged me. And there were no cameras.

I soon realized that I was just one of many in the crowd. And not only that, but I began to realize what a small part of Kesner’s life I was. There were all of these pictures on display in the vestibule. Pictures of him as a boy, then a young man, and an All American wrestler at Seton Hall. I hardly recognized him in these pictures. Who was this? He was much bigger then. Huge. He used to be this big huge muscular guy. Was this the same person?

When I dated Kesner he was athletic, but slender. He told me that people used to call him “Big Kez” back in the day, but I just humored him. I thought he was exaggerating. But he wasn’t. At one time he had been this big huge guy. And there were all of these pictures to prove it.This was the moment that I began to understand that he knew he was dying. He was so slim when he died. Beautiful to me, but very different from the way he had once been.

Kesner and Me at a party 3 days before he died. A slender man…

He had experienced major changes in his body as his disease, undiagnosed for so long, ran its course. I’m sure there were people who wondered why I didn’t notice how much weight he was loosing. It was because I only knew him as a slender man. His weight loss didn’t seem drastic until I saw those photos.  All of this made me realize just how short our little romance was. It never seemed short because it wasn’t going to end. We were planning our whole lives and we were wildly in love…

But in the blink of an eye it was cut off abruptly and then suddenly our relationship seemed like a short little affair, an affair acknowledged only by those who knew us best..


I sat still and watched as different people filed in to view “the body.” The Kappas stood stoically flanked on either side of his casket. There were so many people and they just kept coming. There was screaming, and hollering, and loud crying; painful moans. Who were all these people? – I thought. Where were they? They weren’t looking for Kesner like I was last Wednesday, when Kesner was laying dead alone in his house. Who were all these people coming out of the woodworks hollering and passing out? I began to feel resentful and angry. Plus no one was paying attention to me. I stiffened up and I froze in my seat. Pissed. I just kept thinking: I was the only one who was looking for him last week…

This was all made worse by the slide show that was playing during the viewing. As promised, Kesner’s brother put together a slide show of pictures from different points in Kesner’s life. I watched the slide show anxiously awaiting the pictures of Kesner and Me. I had uploaded some onto his brother’s computer a few days prior. How beautiful, I thought. They would be at the end. The slide show would end with pictures of Kesner and his last love…

The slide show would end here..

But there were no pictures of us at the end. by the time the slide show played in the church those pictures had been omitted. And then I looked at the program. I read the obituary that I had seen a few days prior. I looked for my name. The draft of the obituary that I saw had my name listed among the bereaved, but by the time of the funeral, my name had been omitted from the obituary as well. There was no trace of me in Kesner’s life remembered. I was just one in the crowd. That was painful and humbling.

“Disenfranchised Grief” is what my counselor, Monica, would later call it. I hurt so badly and so deeply, yet I didn’t feel connected to any of this.  At some point Drew/Angel approached me and whispered in my ear: “whatever happens today, remember what you had…” I appreciated that but it was becoming harder and harder to remember. I was beginning to feel like such a small speck in Kesner’s life. The girlfriend. The last girlfriend. Maybe my name might come up in passing: “…who found him again?” but that would be it. No one would know about our beautiful love story. How deep and meaningful and real it was. How he canoed me six miles down a river and how we danced all night in the park while I sang in his ear…

Nobody would know how badly I was hurting. I wished that Kesner would get out of that casket!! He would be looking for me in the crowd, I know he would. He would pull me into his arms and show everybody that I was his woman.

But he was still dead.

So I just sat there. And I stared at his dead body. And I watched people pay their respects one by one as I gripped a framed picture of Kesner and me in my lap, so that I could remember what we had.

There was a grand procession when the family arrived. There were so many family members and their grief was audible and big. Outstanding in the group was his mother, Beautiful Simone. She wore all white in a sea of black, and she spoke loudly with authority and faith as she was ushered down the center aisle of the church:“Get up Kesner… Get out of that box…that’s not Kesner in that box.. Get up my son”

Yes!! – I thought. Get out of that box Kesner!! That’s not you!! Get up please, my Love!!

But he didn’t get up. He just laid there.

Once Beautiful Simone was seated, my mother and brother went over to greet her. I wanted to go but I couldn’t move. I was frozen, my eyes were glazed over and I just stared blankly at the body in the box.

My mom hugged Kesner’s mom and said “we were supposed to have beautiful grandchildren together..” his mom said “yes we were. where is Kim? She was supposed to sit with us….”  As this conversation was happening, I looked across the aisle and I saw my mother beckoning me over to greet Beautiful Simone. I stood up, but I didn’t know how I would walk. Just then the Polemarch and Vice Polemarch of Kesner’s amazing fraternity (president and vice president) flanked me on both sides and, arm in arm, they escorted me over to Kesner’s mother. If I wanted a public statement moment, that was it. They walked me to her, we hugged, and then they walked me around the sanctuary and back to my seat. I was thankful.

And the truth was that this wasn’t about me, my ego needed to be checked. This hadn’t just happened to me. It happened to an entire family – brothers, a mother and a father. It happened to a fraternity. It happened to colleagues, friends and to an entire community. Kesner’s death happened to us. Kesner’s loss was a blow to everyone, and this was obvious by the cries and moans and overflow crowd; the church was packed. People flew in from across the country and over seas and there was not a free seat in the house.

I began to appreciate Kesner differently. He was absolutely incredible. Our lives and our love didn’t exist in a vacuum. He touched the lives of so many. And they were all there to pay their respects. I decided to readjust my attitude and allow myself to be ministered to.

Several really beautiful things happened at the funeral: Mercer County Community College, where Kesner served as a board member, dedicated a scholarship in his name. Members of Kesner’s family spoke with great love and remembrance. And the Kappa Polemarch gave an eloquent presentation about Kesner and his commitment to, and impact on, the fraternity.

Most beautiful was his mother, however. Beautiful Simone stood in the pulpit and spoke about her son. She shared loving memories and she talked about her faith. She said he was an angel. A gift for a short amount of time, but we would see him again. She was a vision in all white and she spoke with her four surviving sons positioned around her. It was a sight to behold. Once again she had given me perspective…

The first time that Beautiful Simone offered me perspective was three months prior when I met her for the first time at the Kappa Jazz Brunch. We sat together while Kesner was working the room for his campaign. I was very sad because we had just lost funding for the women center; my life’s work was coming to an end. But then she began to prophesy to me at the table. She told me that “first comes suffering, then healing, then victory!” She went on to tell me that her Sister, niece and grand niece had been trapped under a building for three days during the earthquake in Haiti. And not only that, but Kesner was also in Haiti during the time of the earthquake. Everyone told her that they were all dead, but her faith told her otherwise. She prayed and fasted until she heard from Kesner. And then from her sister who eventually dug herself, child and grandchild, out from under the building. I immediately began to cry. We were sitting at this public brunch hunched over at a table having this conversation and tears were streaming down my face. She gave me perspective.

Our funding issues in New Jersey paled in comparison to the devastation in Haiti.

 Kesner came over and saw my tears. He was confused. But he was also touched and fully aware that we were having a very powerful interaction. I felt connected to her….

And now there she stood, once again offering perspective. If she could stand there in the pulpit of her child’s funeral and speak about her first born son with such authority and grace, surely I could make it through this service. She was awesome and the microphone should have been unplugged as soon as she was finished speaking.

But it wasn’t


It was now time for the eulogy, the ultimate pastoral care moment. I knew the preacher was gifted and I looked forward to being ministered to.

That did not happen.

The sermon opened with insults: “when I first met Kesner I thought he was arrogant, conceited, flamboyant… but then I realized that the arrogance was really confidence, and the flamboyance was really fervor for the Lord, and…”   Wow, I thought. But did you have to open with insults???

He went on..

He spoke about his experience of being in Haiti with Kesner. They had been part of a local delegation of pastors and lay persons that went to Haiti to provide medical care to a small town north of Port-au-Prince. Several hours after they arrived the earthquake hit the city. “The women traveling with us were nervous”, he said, “at night they would cry out Kesner’s name, and he would get up and attend to them..” I have no doubt that this is true because this is the type of guy that Kesner was. But he went on to say “..nobody ever called my name. I guess that’s because I wasn’t as muscular as Kesner. He wore those fitted shirts and you could see all of his muscles…”  Huh? I thought, scratching my head in confusion. Why was he talking about Kesner’s body? I was embarrassed, as I’m sure Kesner would have been also…

He went on to talk about his life in Trenton professionally and then personally. “…Kesner wanted to settle down. To have a family. With Solissa, or Kim.. WHOEVER!”   

I believe the name that he was trying to say was Alice (Kesner’s ex). But something sounding like Solissa came out of his mouth. I think Kesner’s spirit must have twisted his tongue in that moment.But how dare he invoke my name so irresponsibly? If he didn’t know who Kesner was dating he should not have said anything at all. To hear him say my name and then SHOUT “whoever” immediately after it felt like a stab in the heart. It was unnecessary. I was mortified.

But the worst part of it all was the close of the sermon: “…Kesner you took care of everyone else but WHY, WHY didn’t you take care of yourself?” “WHY didn’t you take the needle Kesner??… the NEEDLE!!…” he went on a five minute rampage inferring that Kesner killed himself because he wasn’t taking his insulin.Was anyone else hearing this????  – I thought.

Are you crazy?!

I was so angry. I know my ego had been out of proportion earlier but this was something other. How dare he even SPEAK about Kesner taking his needles?!!!! He wasn’t there! Nobody was there but me! I was there every day and I watched him take those shots!!!

Every day. Before meals. After meals. HE WAS NOT AFRAID OF THE NEEDLE!!

I was so pissed. And he saw me, I know he did. I sat in the first pew and I shook my head and mouthed “NO! you’re wrong!” over and over again. I cried and shook my head. His words were so hurtful. They felt like a million stabs in the heart. How dare he use Kesner’s death as a public service announcement to diabetics?! This was not the time or place. How dare he blame Kesner for his own death in his eulogy!

At one point I felt my mom grab my arm. I think she thought I might run up there and grab the microphone out of his hand. I wanted to. I wanted to run into the pulpit, unplug the mic and vomit on his shoes. I wanted to rip his manuscript in 1000 pieces and set it on fire!!


This is how I felt!!

I came to the homegoing service with my open wounds and he poured salt and acid into them with his irresponsible words.

I was not the only one struggling with ego that day. “…was the pastor jealous of Kesner?” Gayle’s fiancée asked on the ride home from the funeral. And not just him, but my mother, church members, friends and fellow seminarians shared the same sentiment: what was up with that?!

As Monet so aptly put it: “it was unprofessional!”

During a eulogy a minister always has the opportunity to rise above themselves and provide comfort in a difficult situation. Many of us watched President Obama do that very thing in his speech at the Tucson Memorial. He rose above ugly partisanship during that time, and he evoked comforting thoughts, like that of a nine year old girl jumping in rain puddles in heaven.

Monet’s mentor in Ministry, Reverend Gary Simpson, says that “during a funeral there is a battle between life and death going on in the hearts of the people, and the job of the funeral sermon is to make sure that LIFE wins.” When someone dies you preach Life. And Healing. And Love. And Hope.

But death won this day because this pastor was not able to rise above his worldly bondage. His ego got the best of him and he made that sermon about him and his perspective about Kesner. Did he even talk to the family? – I wondered. Reverend Moss taught me that you Always interview the family..

But he spoke from his limited perspective. He insulted him, painted him out to be a player and then he blamed him for his death and he sat down. It was unbelievable and I will never forget it as long as I live.


After the sermon a woman sang “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior” I had requested that, and I was thankful that it had not been omitted like everything else. She blew it out of the water. Her voice was absolutely incredible and she sang it better than anyone had all week. It was a pocket of grace.

Then the pastor gave the internment – he did not go to the grave site – and with that the funeral was over.

I tried to step into the aisle to leave but I was overwhelmed by the crowd. People poured out of the pews and I was overtaken. Mom said that in that moment I reminded her of my little tree, Hope, when she was still planted in Kesner’s yard. Hope was being overtaken by the shade of a much larger tree and if she had been left in that spot she would have died.

We sat back down and decided to wait for the crowd to clear. I was suffocating. I wanted out. And I was embarrassed. I knew that people had come to the funeral to support me and I wished that they hadn’t. I was ashamed.

When I finally made it down the aisle I saw Mara and Pete and Barbara Coe. I saw Andy and Angie from my church. I saw my Link sisters from New York: Barbara, Lavonnie, Inez, and “Glitter Pop” (Gayle). My chapter president was there, Anna Maria, and Hazel Dukes.

Hazel Dukes

Friends from Ohio were there, Monique, Mrs. Davis and sweet little Jillian. And Jevon, God bless him. It was to be his bachelor party weekend and he sacrificed the first part of the weekend to be at Kesner’s funeral.

So many had come and I was so touched. But I was embarrassed, by that sermon especially. I was so uncomfortable and I wanted to crawl out of my skin and climb in the casket with Kesner and die. But instead I just sat there. We all just sat in the empty sanctuary until everyone was gone. It was decided that we wouldn’t go to the burial site. It had all been too much.

Felicia graciously opened her home for a reception, but the reception wasn’t scheduled to begin for another two hours and the food had not arrived. We decided that we would go to the Trenton Marriott with our hungry New York guests before heading over to Felicia’s. Thankfully our group was the only one there. We sat around an iron table on the patio and had salad and wine.

We reflected on the events of the day and I learned that I was not the only one who had been caught off guard by that horrific eulogy. “Its time for you to get out of Trenton and move back to New York,” one said. And just like that it seemed to be decided. They all lifted their glasses and toasted to my impending return to New York City. Anna Maria would spend the rest of the summer sending me apartment listings in Harlem.

But was I ready to leave?

It was all so confusing and I was overwhelmed. I felt like I had been in a horrible fight. All of the good things that led up to the day of the funeral were canceled out. Kesner might as well have died all over again. They were right about one thing, I needed to get away. It was time to go home.

We said goodbye to our New York guests and headed to Felicia’s house. Sweet Soul Friend Jessie knew how upset I was and suggested that we do a round of affirmations. The people gathered at Felicia’s were my closest friends and they all took turns making affirming statements about my relationship with Kesner. It was very sweet.We then decided to go around the corner to a cookout that was being hosted by the Pan-Hellenic council. I thought it might be good to do something light and uplifting. But it wasn’t uplifting. Instead I just watched as life began to move on. Many of the same people who were at the funeral earlier were at the cookout enjoying themsleves. They were moving on. But I wasn’t ready to move on. I wasn’t ready to kick back and enjoy the party.

We decided to leave and go back to Felicia’s, we didn’t stay very long.

That night we all stayed at Felicia’s house: mom, me, Kristen, and Andrea. Mike went back to my apartment and everyone else went their separate ways. Felicia’s was very comfortable; it was the next comfortable place that I would stay.  And in the morning we said goodbye, packed my car and sent Mike and Diva (my cat) off on the road for the seven hour journey. We would meet them in Ohio.

And Mom and I went to the airport, it was time to go home to Ohio. We sat in first class, thanks to aunt Carole, and I looked out of the window and reflected.

What next? Am I really leaving Trenton for good? Kesner and I loved Trenton together. But now he was gone. Was I really going back to New York? And what about grief? Is there a statute of limitations that comes with the grieving experience? Would my time to grieve be up soon? I wasn’t ready. Would there be people there in Ohio just as my friends in New Jersey had been there?

So many questions…

But I also breathed a sigh of relief. I was going home. And home is exactly where I needed to be.

And as we took off,  I had one more thought:

I definitely have to write about this.  Kesner and I have a story and one day I am going to tell it..

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

Read Full Post »

While mom and I were at the private viewing on Friday afternoon, Felicia drove out to Newark airport to pick up my brother, Michael.

The Man.

My brother, Michael, told me exactly what I should write about him. He told me to start his story in Southern Ohio, where he was when he heard the news about Kesner. He wanted me to tell you about how he couldn’t sleep. He was angry all week about the death of his “future brother-in-law.”

He told me to tell you about his mentor, “The Master Sergeant,” who encouraged him to get to New Jersey so that he could provide support for his mom and his sister. He even told me that I should call this chapter of the story  “The Man,” because that’s what mom and I kept calling him….

“The Man”

and this would be true.

Michael is a special guy. He cares about people. He cares about family. Michael is my youngest brother, we are eight years apart in age.  When I left home at 18 to go to college, he was only 10. Thus, he was etched in my mind as my ‘baby brother.’ But Michael is no baby, he is every bit of a man, and this experience showed me that….

Michael couldn’t sleep; all of this had been happening in New Jersey and he wanted to be with mom and me.  Michael and I had been in contact earlier in the week and he could tell that I was in bad shape; I didn’t have much conversation for him over the phone.

He initially called with all that jargon :”God is Good” “God has a Plan…”

and that was all the stuff I wasn’t trying to hear.  He was trying to minister to me but it wasn’t working. So he decided that he just needed to come and be present with me, maybe not try to say anything at all.

At the time, Michael was a graduating senior in education at Central State University. He is passionate about working with children who have learning disabilities because he was diagnosed with a learning disability when he was a child. He is also passionate about working with children from structurally disadvantaged communities. He has served as a Freedom School summer counselor and as an ambassador in education with the Kettering Foundation.  And beyond his passion for education, Michael has a call to ministry, but he’s decided to be patient and wait for God to lead him in his call, in the meantime he is focused on teaching.

Me and Mike

But little did he know that this experience would be an exercise in ministry.

He never stopped trying to reach me in my grief and when he realized that the Jesus catch phrases weren’t working, he adjusted his approach to one of being present, and being silent.

This is the making of a good minister….

So Mike was on his way. He flew to New Jersey, one-way, with plans to drive my car home on Sunday after the funeral. This was such a relief to mom and me. We were so thankful to have another family member there with us, and his offer to drive my car home lifted a huge burden.

After such a full week, mom and I were hoping to fly home to Cleveland on Sunday after the funeral. My Aunt Carole had arranged for first class tickets for our return, the only issue was my cat. How would we get Diva home to Cleveland?

Diva and me – how would we get her home?

Mom and Aunt Carole joked about hiring a car service to drive Diva from New Jersey to Cleveland, but clearly this was unrealistic. Before we knew that Michael was coming, we thought we would be making the seven hour drive to Cleveland ourselves; neither of us were looking forward to that.

Michael was truly a God Send.

So on that Friday, the plan was for us all to meet at my apartment in Trenton. After the viewing, mom and I went straight there and Felicia, Talithea and Michael were close behind.

It was so good to see him; it was good to see all of them. My experience at the funeral home had really shaken me up. It was one thing for Kesner to be dead, another for me to have found him dead, but a whole other thing to think that I would have to be in competition with another woman for him in death. Oh how I wished that Kesner was there to set all records straight and make it known that I was indisputably his woman.

But he wasn’t.

Kesner was still dead, and there was a picture of another woman in his casket. I was overwhelmed. Thank God for family and friends.

We all sat around my place and decompressed. Felicia went in my freezer and pulled out some wings to cook for Michael. We each had a glass of wine and mom and I shared our recent encounter at the funeral home.

Mike was planning to stay in my apartment for the weekend and as he unpacked his luggage, he realized that he left his dress shoes at home by accident. So after we all got caught up, Mom and Felicia went out to the mall to get Mike some dress shoes, and Talithea, Mike and I went out to Dinner. We decided to go to Joes crab shack.

On our way to dinner we heard from Jessie (Soul Friend). Jessie had just arrived back in town and she was checked in at the Trenton Marriott. She came to meet us at Joes. Kristen(Haystacks and Sisterhood) had also just arrived, so she came to Joes as well. And Andrea (Where in the World is Andrea Michelle?) had just arrived from New York and she took a cab over to Joes. And there we all were, gathered for dinner at Joes Crab Shack on a Friday night.

it was surreal.

Joes is such a happy place. On friday nights they dim their lights every 30 minutes and the servers dance to songs like YMCA under strobe lighting. People clap and cheer and sing.

Dancing Servers at Joes..

All this was happening around us, it was odd. Here we were gathered for the worst possible circumstance and the wait staff was singing and dancing to YMCA.

It was strange.

I felt badly for our poor server, she was so chipper.   She had taken everyone’s order and was standing there waiting for me to decide what I wanted to eat. After a long moment of indecision, I said flatly: “sorry I’m taking so long, my boyfriend died last week and I found his dead body.” Her eyes got as big as golf balls. And immediately after I said it, I looked at my brother and we both bursted out laughing. She just stood there and looked at me in shock and horror; she couldn’t tell if I was being honest or making it up. Talithea apologized on my behalf, saying: “sorry, yes her boyfriend died and this is how we’re coping today….”

The whole dinner was just odd, and it was filled with a lot of nervous energy about what tomorrow – the funeral – would bring. But I could not help but be thankful. As I looked around the table, I realized that my friends were together representing the different stages of my life. My brother was there, from home and childhood. Kristen was there, my Spelman sister and New York City roommate. Andrea was there, my friend from Wall Street. And Jessie, my Soul Friend from Seminary.  And, of course, Talithea – my sister in Delta Sigma Theta. There we were, all together, sharing an awkward meal on the day before my man’s funeral. It was surreal, but I was thankful.

It was painful, but God was present.

After dinner we went back to the Marriott. I decided that I would stay at the Marriott in Jessie’s  room that night. Kristen and Andrea were sharing another room close by in the hotel. After we said goodnight to them, Jessie and I went for a walk outside and found a spot in the grass and sat.  I just needed some fresh air and to talk. I had been feeling so badly because Kesner and I had been arguing on our last night together. I needed to confess that to Jessie; I felt so guilty.

“If only I had known he was dying…”

Jessie responded by saying: “Maybe he needed you to argue with him; maybe Kesner needed you to treat him normally.”

Kesner knew that he was dying, I’m sure that he could feel his organs shutting down inside, but I didn’t know that.     ….and he obviously didn’t want me to know. He didn’t want people messing all over him, babying him or coddling him. He didn’t want to be a “sick person.” He wanted to die on his own terms; like a man. He wanted to be treated normally.

 “….and so you arguing with him, friend, made him feel normal,” Jessie assured.

That helped a lot. I had no idea he was going to die, and maybe that is what he needed from me. He needed me to treat him normally….

I don’t know.

But what I did know is that we needed to get out of the grass and get upstairs to get some rest. We had to get up early the next morning, tomorrow was the day of the funeral….

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

Read Full Post »

About six months after Kesner died, I found a file of beautiful pictures of Kesner and his ex-girlfriend on his computer; I had been using his laptop for school.  The file of pictures was dated before we met, but it was hard to see. My friend Khristi was kind to sit with me as I looked at each photo. They had been very happy together at one point; and in love

But their relationship was over.

Once Kesner and I opened our hearts to one another we both fell so deeply that there was no turning away from that. However, seeing the beautiful pictures made me wonder what she thought about their break up; maybe it wasnt over for her…

I offer this to provide context for what I am about to write.


Mom and I were on our way to the funeral home on Friday afternoon when we heard from Kesner’s brother. The family was not going to be able to make it to the private viewing of the body. The funeral home had allotted 30 minutes for the viewing and they weren’t going to make it in time. It appeared that mom and I would be the only ones going to see Kesner’s body that day.

When we arrived, the funeral director greeted us with a strange welcome:

“Family?” he asked.

“Yes, I am his girlfriend.”

 “O yea, I remember you from the house,” he said.

Apparently he had been the one to pick up Kesner’s body from the house the week prior. I was still being detained by the police during that time so it was all a blur. I didn’t recognize him right away.

“You’ll have to wait to see the body until the family arrives ” he said. “The family is not able to make it, we just heard from them,” mom replied.

“Family is on their way, you’ll have to wait,” he said. 

We took a seat.

A few minutes later four people walked in the door, three women and a man. One of the women was Kesner’s ex.

“Hi, I’m Alice…” She said to the funeral director. And in that instant I got it; I got what everyone had been trying to tell me all week. She had been involved. Helping. Cleaning. Planning. While I was out in the country, she had been at Kesners house involved in the details. And it was clear, by the way that she greeted the funeral director, that this was not their first conversation.

She greeted me and mom cordially and did not seem surprised to see us. Just then the funeral director said : “now that the family is here, you may come in and view the body.” I started to get out of my chair but I felt mom subtly grab my arm and pull me down. “We’ll let them go in first” she said to the director.

They walked in, spent a few moments, and then walked out. They walked out of the door and it appeared that they were leaving. But then the man who was with them came back in. The man was Drew/Angel.

Drew/Angel apologized to me and explained that his wife is friends with Kesner’s ex and that she had been asked to join her that day. He had gotten a call at the last minute and decided to come along also. He didn’t have to explain, Trenton is a very small town…

I understood.

I was thankful he was there. He always seemed to be present during crucial times, and this was about to be crucial. This is why I call him Angel.

So Drew/Angel left the women outside and he came back in so that he could escort mom and me in to see Kesner’s body.

I stood at the threshold of the doors of the small funeral sanctuary, and suddenly it was like a flashback. I could see Kesner’s body straight ahead of me, just as I had a week prior when I stood in the doorway of that room on the second floor. But this time he was clothed. Suited. Laying in a casket.

My knees collapsed beneath me, and if it had not been for mom and Drew/Angel on either side I would have fallen to the ground in that moment. They propped me up and I stood for a moment, frozen.

“We’re right here, we’ll walk when you’re ready to walk” Drew/Angel said.

I began to inch toward the body and they inched with me. When we got up close, this strange mix of emotions came over me.

Who was this? This wasn’t Kesner. He didn’t look the same. The funeral home had done the best job they could, but a lot happens to a dead body in ten days. It was rotting. When I found Kesner he was beautiful in death. He still looked like his beautiful strong self. But this was not Kesner. Kesner’s spirit had left this body and this was a corpse. His eyes were sunken and black and blue, his skin was dark, and he was covered in thick brown make up.  That helped calm my emotion. Kesner was not in this place.

After a few moments we walked back out into the waiting area. Mom suggested I take a seat to collect myself before driving to our next destination. from where we sat, I could see through a window into the office of the funeral director. He was sitting on a chair looking at something; a picture. From my view through the window I could see that it was a picture of Kesner and his ex girlfriend.

After a minute or two he got up and went back into the sanctuary where the body was. I followed him and stood in the doorway and watched him as he put that picture in the casket with the body.

I was horrified.

I stood in the doorway and looked at him in sheer and utter horror. I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to see that I saw him do that. And he did.

and he didn’t care… 

He looked smug, tickled by the whole scenerio and his felt sense of power in that moment…

Just then, as I stood there staring at him – stunned –  Drew/Angel and mom came to get me. Mom said “let’s go, don’t give him the benefit of knowing he’s hurt you. That’s what they want, a scene.” Drew/Angel said “remember what is real. Remember what you know in your heart.”

I began to calm down. Yes, I thought. Let’s not cause a scene.

I knew what was real.

Drew/Angel walked mom and me to our car. As we drove away a feeling came over me: this was not going to be good…   I had been away doing an array of healing things since June 9th and now here I was smacked in the face with some drama. This was my precursor to the funeral, I needed to prepare myself.

Later in the evening my friends were appropriately pissed about the picture and even offered to take it out of the casket during the public viewing of the body the following morning. I appreciated the sentiment but I was ok.

That was not Kesner in that box. That was a corpse. A place where Kesner had once been, but was no longer. So her picture could stay in that box and rot under ground with that corpse.

Í would be ok.

After all, I had a tree. A living and growing tree. A tree that Kesner and I planted together and a tree that will one day bear fruit.

I had HOPE,

so I was so ok.

© Copyright Thank You Very Sweet, 2011

Read Full Post »