God is crazy! I am always amazed when things that seem totally, completely, and utterly unrelated blend together with the harmony and grace of a maestro, The Maestro. I had one such experience this past week.
I have been struggling for a couple of days with wanting to post what is arguably the most explicit, angry, frustrated piece I’ve ever written. I have shared it with quite a few friends and received mixed advice. I have decided not to post it. In short, it was a cathartic moment in which I released very deep seated anger, frustration and contempt for what I call “SABMs”. Suffice it to say that SABM is an acronym for a phrase I use to refer to a particular classification of black men that I and too many of my sisters have been hurt by. I said things I needed to release from within me in order to prevent my harboring more bitterness than I already, apparently, do. I felt freer. I hope it gets better.
The very next morning I attended the funeral of the father of my lifelong friend Shellie. I liked her dad. He was a great guy. The one thing I remember most about being in his presence was that I was always laughing. There’s not one memory I have of him where I am not cracking up. Those who gave acknowledgements at his funeral shared similar experiences, even down to his last days. At least two people shared stories of how they went to visit him once he knew he was dying and somehow they left feeling better from having been in his presence. Shellie’s sister started her comments by saying, “Everyone knows my dad was a great guy.” He was. We know.
Shellie’s comments struck me the most and left me in awe of God’s amazing timing and ability to orchestrate moments that remind you that he’s thinking about you and millions all at once. She began by saying, first and foremost, that in a day of rampant absentee fatherhood, her dad was there. He was there for every report card, every graduation, every missed curfew. He was there, present in the lives of his children, not because it was his duty or his responsibility, but because it was his pleasure. He was a great guy, a great black man who loved his wife, his family and his friends well.
I was so amazed by God’s grace to me in that moment. Though He has allowed me to experience the anger, frustration and deep pain that fueled what I wrote the day before, suddenly and splendidly he reminded me of the great black men in my life whose love, respect and honor chase away the shadow of darkness that threatens to loom in my heart towards black men. Today I honor those men:
Daddy: I love you so much. You remind me in the simplest ways that I’m precious and valuable and deserving of so much more. In the last year you’ve been a Papa Bear like never before, protecting his baby bear from the big, bad wolf. Thank you.
Rick: No one could ask for more in a brother. Charmaine is so blessed to have you. You’re one great guy. I’m so proud of you and at 12 I never would have thought that any man to come into my life would have to measure up to you. But he does. I’ll settle for nothing less. You’re the best.
Kwesi: I so admire your courage to enter into your story, and more than that, your courage to share it with others. Men need to see that you can survive acknowledging your brokenness. In fact, it’s the only way to survive. The fellas don’t talk about what you’ve been through, although so many of them have been there. I think of you when I’m tempted to give up on the hope for redemption. I wouldn’t have made it through this year without your support. Thank you.
Omar: Thanks for being such a good friend to me over the years. I appreciate your reminder to remember the legacy I’ll leave, and am grateful for your even caring about it. You too have demonstrated the tremendous courage it takes to share one’s story. Quiet and gentle, but brave just the same. You remind me that there’s more. That there’s home!
Ricky: If there’s anyone in the world I know I can call on, no matter when, no matter what, it’s you. Thank you for the solid dependability I’ve come to trust so much. So often when I am contemplating what manhood looks like, images of you and the respect and honor with which you treat your mom flood my thoughts. I admire your pursuit of character despite the obstacles. Thanks for being an amazing friend.
Mike: You’ve been through so much. Sometimes I can hardly understand how you’re still standing. I am so encouraged by your innate determination to be a protector. Your wife and daughters are blessed to have you and I am blessed that you are my friend. Please keep watching out for me. Thanks so much.
Mark T. Millings: A great guy to be around, tons of laughs, great husband, father, brother and friend. Honoring your life with your loved ones has reminded me of the great black men in my life. We probably never shared a single profound moment while you were living, but I will always remember the day your life intersected with mine in a way that called me to acknowledge God’s grace, amazingly. Rest in Peace.
Anybody have any great guys they’d like to tell me about?