It has been a week since I drove to Batesville to Jermaine’s wake. I didn’t know what to expect, nor did I truly care. I simply wanted this to be a moment where I would arrive and I would be told that all of this was a joke and that I was on some sort of candid camera show. I would have been livid for a moment, but then I would let forgiveness rule the day. Unfortunately, it was all too real.
I arrived at the funeral home uncertain what to think or what to feel. I loaded my pocket with handkerchiefs, gathered myself, and walked in. I was directed where to go and informed the family had yet to arrive. I stood for a moment just staring. He just looked like he was taking a nap. So calm; so peaceful. I held it together, but only by the grace of God. I was glad that I had the opportunity before the family arrived simply for the fact that I had to be strong for them.
His brother, sister, and mother soon arrived. I greeted them as they arrived. First, I spoke to his brother Marc. Marc and I have always enjoyed trading jabs and jokes over the years. He arrived with his daughter, who is one of the most adorable children I have ever had the pleasure to see. Then I spoke to his sister Keosha. She is the one who informed me of Jermaine’s death and also acted as my contact with the family for information. Her strength and determination throughout this time were unparalleled. I saw so much of Jermaine in her, especially throughout all of this.
I then spoke to Ms. Claudine. Ms. Claudine has always been a very quiet woman; but when she did speak, all were commanded to listen. It was not because of force of personality, but because if she had something to say, it was going to be something you needed to hear. During our encounters, she always had a smile on her face and cheer in her heart. I remember sharing so many laughs with Jermaine’s family that I will never forget.
Soon, there were other family members who arrived. They were followed by colleagues from Ole Miss and high school friends. Then many friends from Ole Miss trickled in. They were there to pay their respects, but it did my heart good to see some of them. Some of them I have kept in contact with for many years. Some I had not seen in five years. But all in all, it was good to see each of them. Jermaine would be glad to see each of them and want to catch up with them all. As we all know, Jermaine never met a stranger. If he didn’t know them, they knew him. If neither he nor the other person knew one another, it was soon changed. He had a way to make people feel comfortable in the most awkward of situations. His calmness under pressure is something I can only hope to one day I am able to do.
I find myself still weak. I have cried until my eyes produced no more tears. I have talked with those closest to me in an attempt to both seek answers, but also to answer the question everyone was asking me, “Why?” I have prayed; I have negotiated; I have pled with God for answers. To paraphrase the Psalm, “Weeping may last for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” We are not meant to deal with tragedy all at once, but as a process. As long as there is a tomorrow, we have the ability to grow and realize there is hope.
Jermaine always described me as a realistic optimist. I have always tried to see the good in all situations, no matter how terrible they may be. This situation is certainly no different. I have reconnected with old friends, reunited with people I never thought I would see or speak to again, and renewed my faith both in my fellow man and Almighty God. No matter how much darkness there is, there is always light to be found. We will find closure and peace as time progresses. As long as there is laughter, kindness, faith, determination, and love, we will remember him. Peace be with you.