What His Death Showed Me!

What his death showed me.
What I now know… truly great men/women don’t live long.
When my grandfather died, I was young about five I think, but I remember. This was the beginning of me separating myself from death, I shed few tears if any.I remember when my aunt Mayola died. I was about nine or ten years old. She had been in the hospital for a while, and when I got the word that she had died, I told myself that I didn’t know her that well, that she was in the hospital and she was going to die anyway, and I shed few tears. When my grandmother died, I told myself that she was old, that she was going to die. She was 100 years old. I told myself that it was her time and I shed few tears. When my Aunt Cat died, I told myself that she had been sick for a while and that it was her time. I shed few tears at her funeral. When my cousin Nicholas died though it was a car accident and it was completely unexpected I told myself that it was his time, and I shed few tears. When my cousin Deborah died I was devastated, but went into a hole and quickly came out. When my uncles and other aunt died, I repeated what had worked with all the other deaths. When I got word that you died, it has been nineteen days and I can’t stop crying. The tears won’t stop, and I don’t know how to turn them off.
What caused the tears. I went to your house to show my respect. I told myself on my way there that I wouldn’t say anything stupid, but I did. I didn’t want to be one of those people that say the wrong thing, but when I got there, I looked your wife in the eye and I told her, “I didn’t know him that well,” those words were my protection. She stopped me in my tracks and said, “you did know him, we traveled together, we hung out together, you did know him.” I stopped talking and that’s when I started crying.
Your death has exposed the side of me where my tears reside. I have spent my life barricading that place, I had placed so many boards and nails on that entrance that it looked more like an abandoned building than a place where so many feelings lived. And with a few words, your wife snatched every board and nail off that door. I did know you. I did, and you were a good friend. I did know my grandfather.  Though I was young, I remember him sitting me on his lap and talking.  I don't remember what he said but I remember the calmness in his voice.  I remember him taking us to the fields where we would pick cotton and put it in crocker-sacks and he would give us .50 cents when we were done.  We would run to town and buy candy, it was .05 cents for a handful.  I always let my brother get mine because his hands were bigger than mine.  I did know my Aunt Mayola. She was my favorite aunt at the time. She lived with us. She was my go to. I began loving football by watching the dolphins play on Sunday with her. When she died, I stopped watching football. I spent nearly every summer in Georgia with my grandmother growing up. She cooked the best biscuits. And when I got sick, she went to her garden and pulled out my healing. She took care of me when I was born I was sick, and she stepped in and cared for me until I was better. When I spent those summers with my grandmother, my Aunt Cat lived down the street. I would walk to her house and spend the day with her. She cooked the best collard greens. I don’t ever remember her spanking me but she had a way of talking that commanded my attention, and when she spoke she got it. My aunt and uncles were in the distant. They were like curtains. You know they are there, they protect you from the sun and keep the nosy neighbor from looking in, but they didn’t make a fuss, but they were there. Nicholas was the cousin that called everyone. Every few months he would call me and say, “cuuuuzzz, what you up to….”, all the while singing the words. This was the coolest dude that I’ve ever met, and he was my cousin and I knew him well.
I am now crying for everyone, I don’t want to stop crying; I don’t want to feel this way, I don’t want to be mad. I want to get through this, but I don’t want to skate over how I feel anymore. Your death has forced me to feel. If I had to choose, I would want you to come back, but these feeling that I am exposed to now are painful and rewarding. You are everything that everyone has been saying; you are the epitome of class.
Thank you, for allowing me to know you, thank you for allowing me to know your family. Great men don’t live long. Fred Gillens you will be missed tremendously. 


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