while they could
they held him down and
chopped him, held him up
my little fish, my blueness
swallowed in the air
— Natural Birth, Toi Derricotte
You don't know me, and it's just as well.
I would be merely one in the endless swell of people in your face, hugging you and trying to whisper in your ear that it'll "be all right."
That's a lie. So far it is not. We are all far from all right.
What I can tell you is that each time I see you on television I ache, because I do feel your fatigue. Although you've called for us to be calm and reasonable, your face says so much more.
In my sanctified imagination I think Mary, the mother of all mothers, probably did a similar thing as you. I think, after they crucified Jesus, she probably told her people to lay low and be cool, that God would work it out.
Don't get me wrong.
I'm not comparing Timothy to Jesus or you to Mary. That's too much pressure. What I'm saying is your son's death wasn't right and has caused chaos. I know you know it and so does everyone else, no matter how much we all try to justify, deny and explain it away.
It was not right.
I know this Sunday will border on unbearable for you. I know how my own mother gets when she doesn't regularly hear from one of her children.
So, I suppose Mother's Day — especially this first one — will bring a crush of emotions for you and your family.
Please know, though, that behind all the press conferences, indictments, federal investigations, looting, curfews and confusion, know that I, for one, understand that none of this will bring Timothy back, erase your pain and lull you to sleep at night. Nor will it help explain or define your relationship with your son to us on the outside.
I know that as happy, proud, angry, disappointed or fearful that your son made you when he was alive can never again be duplicated. I also know you will never stop being his mother just because he ceased living.
See, I think the relationship has gotten lost. We've all, myself included, gotten so wrapped up in examining race relations, pointing fingers, figuring out who should be fired and predicting the severity of the next riot that we have overlooked your relationship with your son, and for that I apologize on behalf of us all.
Since Timothy's death, I have really been looking at black men. I mean, really looking.
I see Timothy's youthful arrogance in the swagger of his brothers walking around in their 'do rags, sagging jeans and expensive gym shoes. I see Timothy's freedom in the way they jaywalk through moving traffic. I feel Timothy's grace in the way these young, unwed fathers cradle their babies on the bus, push strollers down the sidewalk, diaper bags thrown over one shoulder and earphones hanging off their necks.
I see all this and think to myself, why doesn't everyone understand these men? I want to know why, even when they do wrong and do time, why can't everyone see these men for what they are — scared boys who took a misstep?
I see the way white people avoid their eyes, the way white women switch their purse from one arm to the other, the way otherwise self-respecting black businessmen separate themselves in crowds from young men like Timothy.
I know you or any other mother didn't raise your son to be running for his life through the night from the police. You didn't raise your son to be trapped in an alley, his last thoughts maybe of you, maybe of home, maybe of his child.
That's not what you saw when the nurse brought him to you and laid him on your breast.
I'm so sorry it has come to this. I'm sorry that your son's life has become a cause.
Find solace in the fact that someone's life had to turn us around and wake us up. Someone had to die terribly and violently before we'd be brought to our knees.
Your son was the lamb. It's not easy to swallow, but it's the truth of the matter.
On Mother's Day, I'll be silent for a time and I'll think of you and the son you lost and the children you still hold close. And I will say thank you for giving us Timothy.
Kathy Y. Wilson
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