When Birthdays Are Mourning Days



My mom and her sister were born a year apart. So, it only seems right that they would have children whom were born a year apart! I was born in June of 1981. My cousin, Nathaniel, was born in August of 1980. When we were little, we would joke that through July, we would be the same age.

It has now been 13 summers since Nathaniel Brian Jones was murdered on the streets of St. Louis. The most troubling thing about his death was the thing I mentioned earlier:  in July we would be the same age.

I remember the funeral, the internment, and having to celebrate my 25th birthday the next day. It was from that point, that I decided I couldn’t celebrate my birthday anymore:  we were both going to be 25. It was at my birthday which marked every year he was not in the world. I remember not going around my aunt because I felt like a death omen. Every July, and every August 5th, I think of him.

I think of the little boy that played with me. That ate bugs. That told me he would never leave me. I think of the young man that grew to utterly dislike me when we got older. Whom I no longer felt protected by. I thought of the young man and the immense potential that Oak Grove Cemetery inherited. This is the mystery of grief and sorrow:  you wrestle with the memories of what is, versus what could be!

Nathaniel as we grew up became a man I did not recognize. Who was mean, lost and unrepentant. He became a man that I wouldn’t trust to watch my purse! In that frustration, I stepped away from him. As much as we were told and taught family was everything, I gave him over to the life he wanted. In that giving over, I decided to separate that identity which was wrapped up in our birthdays, and our ages.

As I focused on me, education and writing, I could only shake my head when told of his criminal exploits. Of getting shot. Or refusing to leave the city after being shot! When his mother threw his bed away–meaning he couldn’t come back to her house!

When he wouldn’t listen to anyone.

I am unsure, even right now, if I had already considered him dead. I know that there was a visceral dislike for him, and with his death? That dislike? It became a breech.

There was no remedy.

There was no closing the gap.

I had to deal with him leaving the world after he promised me he wouldn’t.

During the month of July, we would be the same age. 

It is almost like being haunted. He was eternally be 25, while I am headed towards 40. We would be headed towards 40! What I grapple with this year, is this idea of my life being half over; while his being over. I mind myself of this fact on darker mornings; contemplating my own mortality and eternal destination.

I think of what it means, or would mean to die at an age he would which he would have never seen. I think of who will be there to remember all those who the world has forgotten. I think about the what-ifs, the why-comes and the would-bes. Most of all, I wonder if we would have gotten back to that place where time no longer could or does matter.

The fact is, I am aging.

The fact is, Nathaniel never will.

Funny thing? The darker irony of this is perfect! Why? It’s fitting for a boy that never did want to grow up. I suppose even dark wishes can be granted.