How many nights have you gone to bed, fully expecting to wake again in the morning? How many times have to fallen asleep fully expecting to find the world much the same and all the people you love and care about still there? I know I have...almost every night of my life. Truth be told, most of the time I don't give it any thought. But sometimes things do change, things are not the same and people are gone before you have said good-bye.
June 6 is one of those days that has several anniversaries for me. One is a "world" anniversary, another is a personal change anniversary and the third is the anniversary of the day someone very close to me left without saying goodbye.
June 6, 1945. D-Day. Invasion of Normandy. Turning the tide against an evil empire. 75 years ago. Many of those who stormed those rocky shores are gone now, but the few who are left are not forgotten. Praise be. Sincere thanks is due for their service. I heard that at least three of those brave soldiers parachuted once again from the original planes that carried them so many years ago. I have nothing but admiration for them and all those who risked everything to bring peace and freedom back from the brink of loss. Hands folded.
June 6, 2002. Local gay man whom I did not know was fatally stabbed in what was a brutal attack in downtown Riverside. It was in the parking lot behind a LGBT "safe" gathering spot. A birthday celebration. It was also across the parking lot from the First Congregational Church. The man's name was Jeffery Owens. I attended the vigil in the parking lot the next morning. Most of the congregation who were in service that Sunday morning joined the vigil. For me, everything changed. Because of Jeffery, I became an activist. Because the church showed up, I joined it. For years I was changed. Some may recall we established the Jeffery Owens Community Center. Although it has faded away, the memory of Jeffery, that night and those who showed up, have had a lasting effect on me, my life, and the way I live still today.
June 6, 1976. I got an early morning phone call. My grandmother was calling. I had been packing, ready to go back to Detroit to see my mother who was in what would be called hospice today. My grandmother told me Mom had died during the night. I didn't get to say good-bye. I still went back to my first home. My life stopped for six or seven long weeks. But eventually my grandmother said its time for you to go home. Home. I learned the meaning of home that month. My mother is always with me. Forty-three years hasn't changed that, but the grief has morphed into something much richer. Fond memories, love and positive regard. My mom told my grandmother before she died that she didn't want me to see her "that way". Moms. Lucky kids who have ones who always are looking out for them.