Eloquent words escaped me. Yes, I tweeted about the horror of Mike Brown’s death, the anguish of his parents, the need for justice and peace. I posted Facebook statuses thanking fellow Christians for going to Ferguson to march in solidarity with citizens both enraged and emboldened by this national tragedy.
But I truly had no words. No words that could collect into paragraphs and pages. Though selfish, I couldn’t help but think about my twin boys, yet unborn but soon arriving into a violent world. A world where they, like me, will be first judged by the color of their skin before they are judged by the content of their character. As their father, I will not only pray over them and for them; I will have to teach them survival tactics for dealing with police and their peers. It’s daunting to think about the possibility of them going to school or to a convenient store and being killed by a firearm. I already fear their making stupid adolescent decisions that could ruin or end their beautiful lives. Too soon.
Mike Brown was not simply a symbol. He was a son. Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr.’s son. Mike Mike was a stepson, a cousin, a friend. And he was shot to death six times. His body fell face-forward to the concrete and there he was, prostrate for four hours, blood streaming from those wounds.
Mike was somebody’s son.
He could have been any of our sons.
There must be justice. There must be people registered to vote and people voting. Policies must change. Those in authority must be held accountable. Communities must love neighbors and neighborhoods.
But it must not be lost that as all of these things are true and right, a family will grieve. And we must mourn with them.
I thought of this as I watched the funeral. Rich Gospel singing and powerful testimonies punctuated what was a celebratory homegoing. The confluence of Black Baptist and Church of God in Christ praise is apparently what the parents wanted. Mike’s stepmother shared a riveting testimony of how he unknowingly prophetically envisioned his death. Another family member exclaimed that he was saved and wanted the world to experience God’s love and peace. His family wanted the watching world to know that Mike was not only their child. Mike was a child of God.
There were theologians and activists whose respectability religion couldn’t stomach the style of singing and preaching that went forth that tragicomic day. But the family certainly chose or allowed the program participants to do what they did, all done in, I suppose, in honor of Mike and his testimony of growing in grace.
As Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr. continue to weep, let us weep with them. And let us walk and work for justice for their son and for countless other sons and daughters whose potential is lost to violence.
And let us remember, as difficult as it seems now, that death does not have the final voice or victory. Our Redeemer and our Resurrection, even Jesus the Christ, will have the last say over chaos, violence, and our final adversary, death.
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.”
“One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
John Donne, Death, be not proud