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With the ever-climbing coronavirus death rate, families reliant on technology to say goodbye to loved ones, and most of America shopping in disguise, yesterday was hard for me. I spent my formative teen years in southeast Washington, D.C. My neighbors across the street, cattycorner as my great-granny would say, were tight-knit. They were the epitome of the nuclear family, right down to the barking dog in the backyard. Young black men in inner cities are often exposed to a lot of bad role models, I was lucky, I had some good ones, including many members of my family.

I am now short one role model, “Mother” Mary Edwards was buried yesterday. She was a longtime member of her church, wife, and working mother. She was not a victim of  Covid-19 but a lot of her friends were deprived of saying goodbye because of travel and church occupancy restrictions. Not only was she a great mother to her own children but many other neighborhood kids, including me. Mrs. Edwards was a strong-willed woman in all the best ways. Stridently protective and at the same time proactively loving.

I sat in my kitchen

Yesterday, sitting in my kitchen with my head bowed, I watched her funeral on the five-inch screen of my iPhone. I strained to hear the mourners speak and the choir hymns over the cavernous echoes, extraneous noise, and the glitches in the system. With the only camera trained on the pulpit, I could not see the faces of her family [my friends], those I would have wanted to comfort, had I been there. I could hear their tiny whimpers, and I cried. I could hear the amen(s) while the preacher delivered the eulogy, and I cried. I was upset that I could not see her casket or smell her flowers, and I cried. My complaints are minuscule in comparison to people communicating through nurses, shakily holding cell phones to say goodbye.  Some places are staging drive-by funerals.

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A lot has been taken from us, a lot unnecessarily. I could not help but think why, and for what reasons are people suffering in forced silence. Missing the squeezing hand of a son or a daughter or grandchild, feeling the light kisses from husbands and wives. Whispering only the secrets you share in someone’s ear as you bid them Godspeed. There is a sports adage that comes to mind, ‘father time is undefeated.’ Sure we are all going to lose our battles someday. Hopefully, future leaders do not let us die alone to the sounds of beeping ventilator equipment, as our final serenade.

Coincidentally, the last time I saw Mrs. Edwards was at the socially distanced, mask-wearing funeral of my brother in May. She was not the physically robust woman of my youth that bellowed at us when we were wrong or soothed us when we needed it. She was frail and seemed shorter. I think the height thing was because I grew to 6’3.”  I understand now that she made it there despite her declining health to say goodbye— not just to my brother but to comfort my extended family and me. She walked with a cane and was supported by one of her children, but she still took a moment to call out my name and say, “ I am so sorry, Mitch,” I will miss that love.  Godspeed Mother Mary L. Edwards, you have earned your rest.


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