An Open Letter to Lauren London

Dear Lauren,

You own all the rights to your sadness. There are quotes aligned with transition that you will hear repeatedly because people have to say something despite having very little that feels sufficient. This is the strangest kind of love offering but it is one just the same. They will tell you that "God will not give you more than you can bear", "this too shall pass", "he will no longer feel pain", "he is in paradise". In your mind, you will respond saying, "I am not bearing this", "he was not in pain until that moment", "we were the other's paradise". You will only say, "thank you". You will repeat it repeatedly until you find the necessary grace of silence. There will be a tribe of brown people dressed in black marching in unison as you face off with death and God simultaneously. There will be chicken and pies and laughter and everyone but you will seemingly be in forward motion.

They will check in for a few weeks and it will become less chaotic, less distracting. The reality of his empty side of the bed will turn sleep into an enemy. Home will not be home without the echo of his voice. You will cry a lot. Some may worry for your sanity and their love will turn into aggravation because you are not healing in their time. They will say, "she should be doing more by now". You will have to defend your right to mourn. You will have to release and mourn them too. You will wake up one day at the center of too much death.

There is a tribe of women that you never wanted to walk among who will recognize you. They are the mothers, wives, lovers, sisters, daughters and friends of a beloved who's body they had to bury so their soul could soar. They do not know when the right time might have been but they are sure that their time was too soon. Your recognition of them will be overwhelming. There is a bottomless well with no shore that holds all of your tears. May you never swim there or drown. It is no place for baptism. They will never force you to rush your healing but they will demand that you survive. They will teach you how to walk again. They will hold you as you grieve. It is strange, how sometimes the most distant stranger can know you best through mirrored pain.

In all of your disappointment, you will deeply love the sisters who take the baby and leave wine. The ones who sit in the next room so you can be alone. Those who play the music low but know that you need music, food and a shower, even when you forget. The men who will stand in where he should be standing when you shouldn't have to stand alone. There will be a day when you are tired of being tired. When you shift grief to the side a bit so you can see his life again. When you find the strength to Coretta or Betty his memory and hold his legacy above loss. When everyone will know how much of his work was done with you. With a hand on each shoulder filling his ears with affirmations. How he encouraged you the same way. You will be charged with the job of elevating his life above his death.

Alfred Lord Tennyson said " 'tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all". Maybe he is right but I think it is most important to have loved well. It looks like you were both blessed with the opportunity to love well. You loved each other, your son and our people. There is not a bullet in this world that can take how well you loved away from either of you.

May your son remember how the world extended hands full of prayer and love in his direction. May the sea of candles and rumble of pain always be aligned with the impact Nipsey pressed into the earth. May your son one day be a dedicated father with a woman who knows how to receive and reciprocate his love. May he gather the end of his father’s work and bring it to completion.

Know that when you decide to read the next page of your story the words, experiences, love, joy and pain from the previous will forever be with you. They will be a testimony that inspires another to keep going. They will be everything you never wanted to loose. They will be everything you will always want to hold. It is for you to decide what you will put down or carry. There are people in the world who will genuinely pray for the strength in your heart because love pulls into itself. There is also a world of people extending hands full of prayer and love in your direction.


Shanna T. Melton

Poet. Painter. Art Educator

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