The last couple of days, I’ve been dealing with family stress. It’s not my families fault. You may say I brought it on myself. Over the last three weeks we had two deaths in our family. My amazing Aunt Beulah passed away at the age of 93 and two weeks later her brother, my uncle Joel Jackson passed away at the age of 94. At first glance, you may be saying, wow they lived very long lives. However, the next point is that this means my grandmother Ms. Helen has no living siblings. But then if you dig in a a little deeper then you will say, well she is the baby of the family, so everything appears to be in it’s natural order. That’s how I can deal with it on paper. Reality seems to have beaten me up in a different way.
(l.to.r) Aunt Marie, Uncle Dool, Auntie (Ola Mae), Joel, and Ms. Helen (my grandmother)
(seated) Myrtle Gillard (not pictured Aunt Beulah)
I live in Seattle, Washington and my family lives in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Although, I’ve lived in Seattle for seventeen years; instantly when I hear of a death or someone being sick in the family my first response is to try and go home. Sometimes it works out but most of the times it doesn’t. Despite not being there I always seem to try and find a way to be connected to what is happening. For my Aunt Beulah, I was able to write a piece about her that my niece read during her service. (That was dope.) For my Uncle Joel my sister asked me to send pictures of him that they could use for the bulletin/program. This is what stressed me out.
You see, I have a massive collection of family photos. I’m pretty proud of my collection. I knew I had this one particular picture of Joel but I wasn’t sure if I had to many more. But yet and still, I was happy to go through my collection. As I’m going through the collection, of course I’m finding pictures of everyone else. Therefore, I spend some of the time, taking pictures of the pictures to text to my family. To remind them of some of the moments from the past. About mid-way through my collection, I began to get nervous. I started to feel like I didn’t have any pictures of my uncle, but at the same time I knew there was at least one picture with his hands up. Because he didn’t want me to take his picture.
It happened, I went through the entire collection and all I had found was one group photo and nothing of Joel by himself. I became real sensitive to the situation. Why don’t I have any pictures of him? I know he didn’t like me taking pictures of him, but I still should have at least one? Am I missing some pictures? Let me think, did I move some pictures to another part of the house? What am I going to tell my family? I can’t believe I don’t have any pictures. The stress was building…
I decided to go to bed, and pick up the search the next day, when my mind was clear. I got home from work, cooked dinner, took a shower, ate dinner and began searching for pictures of him again. I remembered that I did have a folder of pics that I had pulled out for a documentary project. I found the folder went through it and I found a couple more group pics, but nothing of him by himself. I sat on my bed and had moments where I would cry just a little bit, because I was going to let down my family. How could I not have any pictures? I’m a failure.
More importantly, where was the one picture that I knew I had? Why can’t I find it? I sat there for a while and then I decided to go and check in another room. In a matter of minutes I found the picture with his hands up. I questioned why I had moved the pic but now it was like a precious piece of gold. I held it to my chest. I instantly felt the weight lifted from my heart.
I don’t even think my family would be able to use it for the service, but that didn’t even matter anymore. I have a picture of my uncle Joel and that’s all I care about.
No more stress…RIP JOEL