I suppose you have heard, at least in passing, of a Ai student that was murdered New Years Eve, well he was one of mine. He and I actually got pretty close, which is unusual for me but he was easy to let in, he asked the right questions and I answered him with truths.
He took my classes, has been my TA for the past three semesters and was going into his last semester when he was struck down. A fight broke out at his house, and he ended up being stabbed three times in the heart along with being slashed on his arms and legs. There is much more to the fight story but that pretty much sums it up.
The wake and funeral were this past week, I went to both. At the wake there were at least 100 students there, a huge crowd of people turned out. He, if this is possible, would have been very happy with the crowd size. I have not been to a wake in a gazillion years so I just followed the crowd, signed my name and continued to follow the line. I looked around and there were people sitting in the pews crying, holding each other, the body was in a open casket and people were stopping in front of it, some bowing, others looking like they were praying and then moving on to a spot that they chose to sit. The line moved on down towards the front until I was there facing three people I had never seen before. His `mothers’ looked at me, and I at them and I put out my hand to introduce myself and as soon as I said my name they so broke down, hugging me, crying, thanked me for being there, telling me how he always spoke of me, that I was his mentor, he would always do what I said… they went on and on, and I really could not handle it, broke down with them… *sigh*… I was also embarrassed by what they were saying, nobody ever, I mean ever said so many wonderful things about me and this was all coming from words he spoke to them about me… I wanted to dig a hole and hide, but that is not what I do so I cried with them, hugged them profusely, offered my services if they ever needed a n y t h i n g, and moved on until…
I found myself standing in front of the casket with Tony in it. Now, you must understand Tony was a student of audio recording and what I was seeing was Tony in a casket, surrounded by plants, in front of a stage that was lined with eight microphones, and to the right was a piano and a drum set, of which he played both. This was just slightly surrealistic in my mind but I could deal with it. So, there I am standing alone with him, and I am looking at him thinking, “Yo T, I know you better than this, what are you going to do for me?” I am standing there, waiting… looking for a small smile to pop up out of the side of his mouth, maybe a twitch of an eyelid, even a small fart that only I could hear, but no, there was nothing. I put my first two fingers of my right hand to my lips and put them down lightly on his forehead and whispered ” I love you Tony, I hope to see you soon” Then I raised my fingers and moved on.
Little did I realize what I moved on to was, in a way, my own hell. Not more than ten steps away I was being greeted by students bawling their eyes out, so glad I was there, hugging, crying, at one time I had three students on my crying, as I try to hand my cane over to anybody so I balance myself off of the students, hand them napkins, tissues, anything I could find (one kid got my eye glass cleaner), it was intense. I held strong for them, calming, talking, whispering to them of how it was to be able to share our pains and at the same time share our love for him. I went to many different rows, talking to students trying to be solid for them, not letting them know that I was breaking inside.
It was one of the hardest things I had ever done, to be there for so many people while I was breaking up inside… wow is pretty much all I can say.
I found a spot to sit, stayed for the full three hours just watching it all unfold before me, console when and where I could, and feel the loss of a good man at 21
I thank you M.L. for being by my side the whole time, I want to also thank Pearl for understanding my writings, and Pete, Jon, and Austin for being my bros.
Tomorrow I will be in my studio, I need to paint… a lot