"Gratitude is the memory of the heart"- A French Proverb

Many of you know that last week my dear cousin Jelani died as a result of the injuries he sustained when his bicycle and a car collided in New York. He was 22 years old. My family is coping with the loss in the many ways that families come to grips with a tragedy that takes away a beloved member, seemingly well before his time. Folks were upset, crying, consoling and seeking to be consoled. Even for me, at this present moment there is a kind of “unreality” to the events that have transpired. Periodically, I find myself wondering if this event, his death, even really happened. Of course, I know for a fact that it has, Jelani is dead, and life for my family will be very different as we move towards healing.

In moments like these, everyone searches for answers. Right now, the facts of the accident are emerging: there was fog, perhaps black ice, an intersection with a confusing geometry, it was early morning. The impact of a 2,000 lb car on 160 pounds of flesh, even at the city speed limit is enough to cause catastrophic injury if the conditions are right. I know that “why” is seldom a useful question in times like these, but time and time again I find myself coming back to the “why”.

“Why” presupposes meaning, judgment and maybe even purpose to an event. It also calls my faith to task as I try to reconcile myself to the profound void now created where Jelani once told jokes, laughed, sang and recited his poetry. The universe is now disordered for me and others, and I want to know why? However, I know that no one can answer that, and even trying to answer that question will only lead to disappointment and more pain. Was it God, was it the Adversary, was it Fate, was it Karma, is this all an illusion, or just samsara--the cycle of birth and death and rebirth? There is no scripture, and I know many, from worlds religions, or poetry, or the latest from Quantum Mechanics that can answer the why. At least not right now.

So, my faith calls me to now ask “how”. How do I move towards healing? How do I take care of my spirit, now hung low? How do I take care of others, who need my strength, my presence, my laughter, as much I need theirs? This is not so much about solutions, fixes or steps as it is about what we are called to do, and who we are called to be in times just like these.


I believe that if I open myself to gratitude, in the way some great people have throughout the ages, including Jelani’s mother, my aunt who has shown gratitude throughout this ordeal; that will be how I move towards healing.

Last week, I told a cousin who shared the news of Jelani’s passing with me, apologizing for doing so “...that everyone will have a chance to deliver and receive bad news at some point, there is no need to apologize.” And, all of us will also have a chance to share some good news too, not about salvation or afterlives or reincarnation (although those might be great, later on); it is the good news that it is ok to be sad, yet so grateful in times like these. I am grateful to have known such a wonderful man for 22 years.

Who inspires your holy sense of gratitude?

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