I am completely lost
I’ve lost my best friend
I’m lost without you
We are lost without you babe
I have no words
I remember dropping my son off at daycare when he was barely two years old. I’d been doing this routine for a year or so now: get him dressed, drive him to school, give him a hug at his classroom door and leave. But for some reason, on this morning, after I walked out of his classroom, I paused and turned around. I looked through the glass door into his class for the first time. I watched him pull his chair and sit in it. I watched him look around the room, surveying his surroundings. I saw him grab a cup of milk his teacher had placed on the table. I watched him drink it. I cried.
It was my first time watching my son be independent. It was the first time I saw him know that neither his mother nor I were in the room with him and watched him navigate his space on his own. I cried because the older he gets, the more he’d have to do things on his own. He’d have to navigate more rooms, figure out more of his life and survive without me holding his hand. Then one day, I’ll be dead. And he’ll have to look at the entire world and make a way for himself without me.
I’m lost without you
We are lost without you
In the couple of weeks since Nipsey Hussle was murdered in front of his Marathon clothing store, Danielle Cadet at Refinery 29 has written about the fear Black women have of building families with Black men only to lose them to premature deaths. Candice Marie Benbow at Shondaland wrote about her personal experience of a man she loved being killed. Both of these pieces are piercing, heartbreaking and bravely written. They also are the other side of a fear that I’ve had my whole life: dying and leaving my family behind before anyone is ready.
I’m not sure “ready” is the right word there as I’m not sure any family is ever truly ready for the death of a parent or spouse. But there’s a poetry in someone dying of old age surrounded by children and grandchildren who have been prepared to say goodbye and have been instilled with life lessons to carry them onto the rest of their lives. That’s probably everybody’s dream and what we spend our lives as parents and spouses preparing for, but for black folks, death is too often our final chapters instead of our epilogues.
So many of our lives are lost to the wrong side of a gun at the hands of an insecure coward or a racist cop. We die in our sleep when intentionally negligent doctors ignore the pain decades and centuries of trauma have inflicted on our bodies. We rot in jails, dying for trying to find ways to live. And in our literal wakes, we leave women to bear the responsibilities and agony of continuing to live in America while raising our children.
My household has two Black women and a Black boy with a disability. As a Black man, I provide them societal cover because I don’t have the obstacles they do. I can be their advocate and ally. I can love them and fight for them. But I have no generational wealth to pass down. I have no privilege to transfer to them. I just have faith.
My two dreams for my life are my parents — if they go first — laying down to rest knowing they did enough for me to carry on without them and for me to leave this plane knowing that family will be okay without me.
Sometimes I get in these moods. I see Black folks killed by cops while running simple errands or suddenly dropping dead from natural causes that shouldn’t be natural at such young ages. Or, I just think about how being Black and alive is a game of Russian Roulette where the bullets in the gun outnumber empty chambers. When I get in these moods I talk to my wife and kids and I tell them something I’d want them to know in case it’s the last conversation we ever have. I want to leave a breadcrumb for them to find in their memories when they need me: a word of love, encouragement, a story I never got to tell them. A bit of advice or reminder of the people they can continue to be when I’m not around. Because on days like Thursday, when Nipsey Hussle was laid to rest, I feel like I’m more likely to not be around for them than I am to watch grays begin to form on their heads.
Lauren London’s Instagram post that she felt lost after Nipsey’s death was watching my worst fear for my family come to life. That my life would be lost to my family when they need me most; that they, too, will feel lost when I leave. I pray, though, that London and the children watched Thursday’s memorial and saw that they are not as lost as they may have felt these last two weeks. That they see Nipsey’s life and legacy as their North Star — their guiding light to full lives that embody the love he felt for them. I pray they see they’re not as alone as they may feel and that their empty rooms begin to fill up again with the love Nipsey Hussle has for them even while he’s not physically there.
Watching Lauren London’s strength, her kids’ resilience and love, and the world wrapping its arms around that family is reassurance that Nipsey Hussle lived a life of love that will stay with them in their times of sadness and strength. I see Lauren London and the way she carries those babies, covering them with love and protection and I know what I’ve always know: Black women have had to carry the weight of losing us for generations and hold our babies close the whole way. The burden of loss and the weight of carrying on is as real to them as my fear of being the reason they have to feel lost and carry burdens. We’re all carrying. We’re all hoping. We’re dreaming. We’re trying to live. For our spouses. Our kids. Our parents. Our neighborhoods.
We all scared, man. But I’m not scared of whatever is next, I’m scared of the world I’m leaving behind for my loved ones to survive in.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the internet.