Valediction for a young man

“These streets are snatching our babies right out of our arms.”

Blues used to joke half-heartedly that I go to funerals once a month.  In the six years we have lived together, I have experienced my share of losses of family friends and acquaintances.   Though I haven’t attended every funeral, I have taken part in viewings, vigils, memorial services, and celebrations of life.  My November ancestor altar grows every year.  Still, some of those events are more difficult than others.  Perhaps I had a closer relationship with the deceased. Or maybe the loss is an unjust tragedy, in the case of my colleague’s son who was killed this past week. 

I remember the little boy with a bright smile, when he was my M’s age, ever present at this father’s side at school sporting events.  I remember him carrying a backpack that seemed to be twice as his size as his burly football coach dad walked him to the neighboring elementary school before classes began on our campus. Until last night’s funeral, I had no idea he was my colleague’s stepson. Their bond was beautiful to behold.

It had been a few years since I had seen my friend’s boy. He was a lanky pre-teen when I last saw him. I now see that he grew into a handsome young man. From the stories his friends and relatives shared, he continued to be an upbeat, fun-loving person. He became a father to his own son. Last night’s service paid tribute to his life and the love he shared with his beloved family. 

In the weeks, months, and years to come, the news media will tell the story of this young man’s death. There will be details and revelations.  The family will not only experience their terrible loss as a private family matter but also as a public one before the criminal justice system and the media. I pray for their strength, love, and integrity as a family to carry them through this tragedy.  I pray for our communities that we may be willing to do the hard work to truly nurture our youth. I pray for all young people to be touched by the spirit of hope and peace.

Live in glory, Kris. 

The end of an era

My dad started working at the age of 11.  Having lost his mother, my grandma Julia, at the age of 7, he began helping his family through various odd jobs. While working for a family in Lima, he had the opportunity to come to the US at the age of 15. He soon left this job so that he could be a student at Castlemont High School. Just months before graduation, he was drafted into the US Army.  He served his new home country for four years and then headed back to Peru where he reunited with a childhood friend from his hometown, my mom Elsa.  The rest is my family history. 
My dad, my pops, my daddy, M’s grandpa is a great man. From him, I’ve learned to cultivate many qualities.  One is the value of taking pride in one’s work.  My dad has always given his best at every job he has had, whether it was Army cook or factory supervisor or custodian or, as he has done for the past 17 years, truck driver.  He has worked hard, long, but most importantly, shown integrity, positivity, and humility every day he has worked. 

Today on the last day of 2012, at the age of 66, he will turn in his keys and change out of his work uniform for the last time.  Happy retirement, Dad!