Today I woke up, like I have every other morning this week, thinking about Trayvon Martin’s mother.
Any time I’ve known a woman who’s lost a child, and I’ve known several, whenever I see her I get this gut-sick feeling. It used to paralyze me. When I was in my 20s and living in a small close-knit community, a school bus crash killed Myles, the 9-year-old son of Merle, who lived on a nearby commune. For years I could not face Merle; I’m not proud to admit that the few times I saw her in town I went out of my way to avoid her. It wasn’t until a dozen or so years later, when we happened to be in an exercise class together, that I made amends, telling her I’d not acknowledged Myles’s death because of my own overwhelming emotions. Merle, being the spiritually evolved lady she is, hugged and forgave me, with reassurances that she’d had plenty of people around her then when she needed them.
Since then I’ve learned more about death and dying, and I’ve done better with the mercifully few bereaved parents I’ve known. There was Howie, who lost a teenage son in another vehicular crash. There was Kay, the mother of my son’s girlfriend, who, having lived a lot longer than expected, died of a weak heart. A year ago there was Christine, one of my closest friends, who lost her developmentally disabled son Billy after 40-something years of daily seizures and almost constant crises. Whatever I do or don’t do, how ever I behave or don’t, I still get that gut-sick feeling around parents who’ve lost children.
One of the things I’ve learned about grief is that, at its deepest level, it’s intensely private. Grief just isn’t the kind of thing that’s easily shared; if attempted, the sharing diminishes the pain. That’s why grieving people need to have other people around them in the immediate aftermath of death–at that point it’s just too soon to deal with the full force of pain and loss. We’ll get hit with it eventually, when we’re alone, but it helps to delay the inevitable until we feel a bit stronger.
Besides everything else she’s going through, Sybrina Fulton is living out her grief in public. To me that seems like one of the worst things a person can endure. Every time I’ve seen her speak, in her dignified, straightforward manner, she’s on the verge of tears. She has said that, while she’ll never “get my baby back,” she wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to other families. I can’t help but wonder, So what? and further wonder if she thinks the same thing. I mean, what good will it really do her to make sure it never happens again (doubtful anyway)? She will never again see or touch her baby, her son, her Trayvon. Apparently she has no other children; no siblings have appeared or been mentioned. Trayvon was 17, about to embark on life as an adult, to become whatever he was going to become. Eventually he’d probably have gotten married and had children: Sybrina Fulton’s grandchildren, the ones she will never have.
So while hatred and controversy and mad chattering swirls around this case, and while it’s used to further everyone’s petty little agendas, let us not lose sight of this mother — as well as Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin. Let us not fail to acknowledge their grief, loss, and the tragedy their lives have become.
- Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin: Trayvon was sacrificed to expose injustice (dandelionsalad.wordpress.com)
- Trayvon’s Parents Want ‘Simple Justice’ (theroot.com)
- Opinion: What every black mom fears (cnn.com)
- Grief In the Media Spot Light (namasteconsultinginc.com)