In paradisum

A friend of mine died last month. His funeral was Saturday. Unfortunately, I could not go.

He was a Navy veteran, a black man from a Caribbean family, a gifted counselor and therapist to many.

He was also homeless.

I heard of his death when I went to get my hair cut at a neighborhood salon. Told the stylists who were there that he had helped me move almost two years ago. Learned that he had been a faithful supporter of the students at the arts high school, showing up for their performances. That through connections on Facebook, people had tracked down members of his family out of state and informed them, had formed a group for sharing reminiscences and information.

A local funeral home donated their services, including a place of burial. An Episcopal church gave him a funeral with music and the dignity of ritual.

I thought about my friend being found dead on a weekday morning, on the sidewalk where I had passed by and chatted with him so many times, dead probably because of an untreated infection in a minor cut, and I wished savagely that some old, wrinkled white man in power was dead in his place. I wished that the people whose political power had denied my friend adequate rehabilitation after his military service, education for his empathic gifts, health care for his injuries, or even the bare minimum of food, shelter, and clothing would die, even if it did not bring my friend back.

I don’t often hate people. I don’t like hatred in myself any more than in others. But I have felt a lot of hatred in the past four years.

Rest in peace, Dwight Claxton. Into paradise may the angels lead you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.