stuart-scott-espys

I hate talking about death.

I know its inevitable, its the final end and something that will eventually look us all in the face but I hate speaking in terms of the end. It feels macabre to me, the one fetish of all fetishes that makes my skin crawl and immediately jump to a different plane of the Earth. Maybe because I don’t necessarily deal with death as best as anyone else, or watching people even understand it.

It was weird when I finally set foot in a city I dreamed about last week. Like something was empty. My uncle, my spiritual guide who saved me from losing my mind after my dad almost passed in 2012, was gone. Gone over a year now. I rubbed my arm, the right one where Isaiah 54:17 is inked into my skin and thanked him. Another uncle, one I didn’t speak to as much but I loved just as dearly had passed unexpectedly — and my body was 1,600 miles away from his funeral. This is how I grieve in a way, to be away and left to my own thoughts and how I kick myself for not being there.

Last week might have been the worst of it.

For a solid seven months now, I’ve developed a friendship with a good person. She’s loud at times, hilarious in others but mostly smiles and pushes herself beyond her limits because she knows what she’s capable of and beyond. We’ve traded stories over Beyoncé, some infamous nights where I got hammered and then let that album put me in social media infamy, trekked to different places all while sharing the same jokes or developing new stories. She also suffers from Lupus, the same disease that claimed J Dilla and more than a few others who vow to overcome the disease.

She lives, because she feels that’s the only way she has to press on and leave a legacy. Whenever she brings things up like dying, the different treatments she has to go under or even referring to the well-known Spoon Theory, I curl up in terms of guilt. Hell, I curl up in any moment where I feel guilty for not being able to help. Seven months ago I didn’t understand a thing about Lupus, or even her. Now I can say she’s been one of the better inspirations in my life.

Her words, her constant push to smile and work tirelessly even when her body tries to take her out, its nothing short of remarkable and breathtaking. I wish I were able to do more, to sit down and try to understand not only Lupus, what it takes from you, how it pains even the strongest of us all – I wish I were able to just see her back to what she may consider “normal”. She can’t enjoy days on the beach because the sun will cause her to break out but she’ll still throw on a pair of sunglasses and at least try.

While I was in New York, she was down. Probably had her worst bits of fighting and I was nowhere to be found. Text message here, attempt at a phone call or two there. Wasn’t the same as visiting or saying something stupid to cheer her up. The last great thing I remember doing was sending her something from The Simpsons on her birthday. That was July 1st. It was nearly eight days later and she’d been a wreck. Again, my face wasn’t there to at least take some of the sting away.

And it hurt.

I’m sure she’s cursed me out a few times, well deservedly so over the past few weeks – just for me being absent and selfish in a few manners. How she kept trying to tell me for months now when I would do something stupid about being a good person and how you shouldn’t mess over those who would sacrifice so much for you. I heard her, listened and recoiled a bit when unable to come through. I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago, about what we do in between the dashes of life and death. I thought about the woman who I fondly called “Butterfly” and figured what was the best apology to her.

Then I saw Stuart Scott last night — and it hit even harder.

Scott, for any African-American male who even glances at sports from time to time is an icon, the guy who brought A Tribe Called Quest lyrics onto a Sportscenter set and made them relatable to you, the listener. He’d been battling cancer for seven years, longer than how long Butterfly had been fighting Lupus but I saw every bit of pain in his face and knew. Because I saw it so often in hers. He walked onto the ESPYs stage last night, accepted the the Jim Valvano Perseverance Award and delivered what by and large was the speech of the night. Some called it our generation’s “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” but I knew exactly who heard it louder than anyone.

“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the matter of which you live. So live, live, fight like hell and when you get too tired to fight, then lay down, rest and let somebody else fight for you.”

It was the woman who got over plenty, who protected so many and saw it through that her two boys are in the mid points of living their dreams. I hate it when she talks about death, because she knows it’s eventually going to happen and how she wants me of all people to eulogize her. I want to balk at the suggestion and the idea but I know that’s exactly what she wants. Differences, arguments, beliefs and all – her wish is to hear someone she once and maybe not forever called her friend tell people about the things she did.

Scott’s words were about cancer survivors, about those battling a wide-ranging disease for where there isn’t a cure, not a direct one. He spoke as if he could have walked off that stage and left us then and there, but his mind, body and every man and woman in attendance wouldn’t let him.

It’s odd how that speech helped me gain a clearer idea on death – on celebration too. Butterfly just wants to live, to get back into a pair of jeans and dresses she wore in high school, to chase whatever Young Boo she wants and laugh her ass off at me making an ass of myself on Hollywood Blvd. She’ll forever be a better representative of the human spirit than I ever will be, or hope to be at least. You’re supposed to remember people at their best, and at their worst.

I don’t think she’s ever allowed us to handle her at her worst because she’ll never let herself get there.

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