I don’t know the exact time that my sister gave birth to him on November 26, 1976, nor do I know the exact time that my nephew, Arthur James Wade, Jr., drew his last breath on December 9, 2017, but I can tell y’all about the dash – the 41 years and 13 days – that he walked this planet. That dash between his sunrise and sunset can be divided into four segments — one for each decade of his life.
There’s an old saying that you live your funeral every day. Arthur’s funeral, which was held on December 17, 2017, in the tiny town of Sarepta, Louisiana, was a testament to the impact he had on people. Friends and family came from afar to bid him adieu and to hold us during our hour of bereavement. There were just as many from the community who refused to let go of our hands during that time.
The life he lived during those 14,988 days was not only represented by the number of people who attended the services but also by the air of grief in the sanctuary. He was loved. He was deeply loved.
1976 – 1986
As a child, Arthur was mischievous. He wasn’t an extreme mischief, because, for the first few years of his life, he was sickly, but he got into his share of mess. Just like many families in the country, there were plenty of guns around our childhood home. We knew not to handle them, but one day, Mr. Wade defied the odds and did just that. He had seen Daddy and Mama fire that shotgun plenty of times so he knew the stance and he knew how to aim it. Well, one day, when he was around 9-years old, he fired it.
Mama was outside doing the laundry and Daddy was working on the yard, but the minute they heard that shot, they flew into the house. As Mama was entering the back door, Arthur was trucking, trying to fly through it. He ran smack into her. By that time, Daddy had made it into the kitchen and they were all panicked. Mama screamed, “Who shot that gun??” Arthur, knowing he was in major trouble, looked her straight in the eye and said, “Daddy!” He didn’t get in trouble because they were too busy laughing at him, but you get the gist of the kind of kid he was. That spirit is what so many loved about him.
1987 – 1997
He enjoyed his school years. Despite race issues in this area, he was loved by pretty much everybody. He enjoyed extracurricular activities just as much as the next kid and was blessed with many true friendships, regardless of race, creed, or color. The community as a whole loved him.
It was also during this decade that he went away to college and was blessed with even more friendships through his fraternity and otherwise. His Greek brothers and sisters were one of the greatest sources of support for us, his natural family, after his passing. It was without hesitation that Dave Johnson, moved when I asked that he and the brothers be pallbearers for him. It was without hesitation that they were present. I am ever grateful for their love.
1998 – 2007
He struggled to find his position during this time. He found himself unemployed at times during this decade and he was frustrated. He was able to weed out his true friends. He finally knew who they were and so did we.
It is no secret that he ended up in trouble during this time, but it was also a time of reckoning with his inner man. In 2001, he came to live with me in Denver. He witnessed some of the abuse that I sustained during that time and it was then that I saw the man he had become. He was no longer the little boy whose hand I held everywhere we went. He became my protector. He had always told people I was his guardian angel. He was also mine. He had to leave Denver and ended up back in Louisiana, but that blessing in disguise would be just what he needed to become the man he needed to be. He would be Mama’s caregiver while the rest of us were away.
2008 – 2017
He had finally found himself during the last years of his life. He had steady employment and was living on his own. More importantly, he had turned himself around enough to become a mentor to his younger cousins. He was determined that they not travel the same path that he did. He didn’t want any of them to go to jail. I have no shame in saying he’d ended up there more than once because of really stupid stuff. He made certain, though, that they were straight. He refused to let any of them fall or fail.
I’m 51 years old and know that we all have a set number of days on this planet. No one could have told me that my love, my heart, Arthur, would leave us so early. In all honesty, I am still not in full belief that he is gone. A friend put it best when he said it was like Arthur just walked out the back door and didn’t come back. I know he’s gone, I know I’ll never hear his voice again. With all that “knowing”, I’m still not in full belief that he is gone.
With all that said, I also say happy birthday to my right hand. I say that I love him in the present tense because death does not stop the love between persons. I cannot hug him. I cannot call him. I cannot text him. I can, however, send my love to his heart.