Today would have been your 75th birthday. Although it’s been almost 25 years since you’ve been gone, the impact you had on my life still remains.
It was a Wednesday morning when I got the call you had died.
Although I accepted the news relatively quickly, at 23, I don’t really think I was able to wrap my brain around the fact that you were gone. If I’m being honest, almost 25 years later, I still don’t know that it’s something I’ve fully comprehended.
Whether you had the best of relationships or struggled to connect, there’s something about the finality of death that makes you rethink relationships—wonder what could have been and reinvent the way things actually were.
The truth is you were flawed, just like we all are. You had your demons, just as we all do. The truth is in spite of all that, I loved you, and now as I look back on what would have been your 75th birthday, I know you loved me too.
You were really big on letting folks know you were somebody. Your catchphrase—“Let them know you’re from a good neighborhood”—still resonates with me. It’s something I teach my daughter—your granddaughter—and it’s something I strive to do each day, to let folks know you and Momma raised me to be a good person, to respect people, to make those who came before me proud.
That Wednesday you died in 1994 changed my life forever. It made me grow up in ways I never imagined. It taught me life is short, and while we’re here on this earth, we need to give until there’s nothing left. We can’t shy away from the things that scare us, and we can’t be scared of living to our full potential. We must love like we’ve never been hurt, dance like no one is watching and let people know we come from a good neighborhood.
I hope my life is a testament to these things. I hope I’ve made you proud.