Archive for the ‘Chapter 26’ Category

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

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