11.26.76 ^-^-^-^———–12.09.17

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. 

Carrying On

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.

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But You Couldn’t Stop Me, Could You?

Fifty-one years ago today, shortly after 2:00 A.M., Mama gave birth to me. There was no pomp and circumstance, she simply gave birth to a 5-pound baby girl and was released to go home by 7:30 A.M. that same morning.

I was welcomed home by my older siblings, the youngest of whom was 11. My oldest brother was away in San Francisco with his own family. I have two nieces who are older than I am. My sister, Margaret, had already told Mama to name me Trease. I have no middle name. I was never babied. I was spoiled, but I was never babied. Most people who know me say that I’ve always been grown. I have an old spirit.

The past 51 years have carried one lesson after another for me in a constant fashion. I know when some of you heard that, you said, “Yeah, we’ve all learned lessons over our lifetimes.” For the most part that’s true. I say for the most part because in some cases, people don’t learn anything from their experiences. They continue to make the same mistakes. They grind their gears and they spin their wheels.

Here is some knowledge I picked up along the way:

  • In almost all cases, you get one chance to make an entrance. You get one chance to make a first impression. If you storm through any door in a destructive manner, reeking chaos, disrupting the good, folks won’t forget. Even though we’re supposed to, most folks won’t forgive either. Be mindful of what you do when you enter another’s space.
  • Your exit is probably more important than your entrance. I really can’t think of a reason to leave a situation in shambles. Why? Because to do so means that another person has gotten under your skin so deeply and has disrupted your psyche so much that you became someone you’re probably not. Don’t get it twisted — I’ve left material damages in some places that were so bad I should have been charged with the highest level of vandalism. It was bad and it was stupid. I let someone who had mistreated me take me to another level. I’m not coming at you in a “holier than thou” manner. Just don’t allow another person to take you out of character. What I think makes a  more profound statement is to simply take your ball and go home. You don’t even have to provide an explanation or say goodbye. Just go and be at peace.
  • Be extra-possessive of your time. Time is a precious commodity. We don’t have as much of it as we think. Don’t waste it on people who don’t love you fiercely, on a job that you hate, or in a situation that you don’t want to be in. Do life big!
  • Let no man or woman take you for granted. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. My presence — my whole being — was taken for granted by someone I thought valued me. Turns out, he is the most selfish individual on the face of this or any other planet. Lesson learned. The wrong people will take your love for granted. Take it back and give it to someone who deserves it. You’re so amazing. You’re such a blessing. If a man or woman can’t see that – GO! Plain and simple, just go!
  • Love your folks without condition. I’m grateful to see this day, I really am, but I would be lying if I said my heart is not filled with grief this morning. It has been nearly 11 months since my nephew passed away suddenly. The void his death has left in our lives is massive. Cherish your people. Loss is inevitable. Cherish your people.

I’m going to end this by saying that all those things that were designed to stop me from living my best life have failed. An abusive marriage, an aneurysm, unemployment, a devastating breakup — all those things wore on me, but here I am. None of those things stopped me. Nothing will. Trust that. The decision to live is yours. The kind of life you live is up to you. Let nothing stop you from having it all and from being it all. It’s up to you.

Month Nine

It’s been nine months since my nephew died. At 41 years old, he died in his sleep as the result of a heart attack. The only days he missed working out at the gym was Sundays; however, undiagnosed hypertension caused him to have a massive heartache as he slept the morning of December 9, 2017.

Minutes

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine minutes since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. I was still sitting on the side of I-20 West shaking uncontrollably nine minutes after I got that call. Or maybe I had started driving again; I don’t remember. Time stood still for me that day and to be honest, I don’t know when it started moving again.

Hours

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine hours since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. By that 9th hour, I was still fielding phone calls in my sister’s stead, responding to text messages, inbox messages, and emails, and replying to Facebook posts from people across the country wondering if it was true. They wanted to know if he had really died. I didn’t know some of the people who called me on Facebook Messenger, but that day, I wasn’t upset by the fact that they had taken the liberty to call. He was loved so deeply by so many people.

Days

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine days since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. By the 9th day, we had already had his funeral, but the fact that he was gone was still unreal to me. I sat on the second pew in the center of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Sarepta, Louisiana, so I know it happened, but it was all so surreal. I heard all the beautiful things that were said about him. I heard my family choir sing. I pulled my two cousins aside who were in charge of the music that day and told them to keep things upbeat because I didn’t want any sad songs being sung. We were there to celebrate his life. We sang congregation songs. There was a two-minute limit for tributes to him that day, but who could speak about him for only two minutes?

Weeks

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine weeks since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. Nine weeks after his death, the numbness had truly set in for all of us. One of my first cousins had died during that time so combined with Arthur’s death, we were all numb. I remember going to her funeral, but for the life of me, I didn’t recognize the woman in that casket. All those years of depression and abuse had turned her into someone her own family didn’t recognize. She is buried near my nephew. I wouldn’t know exactly where because at nine weeks, I still hadn’t gone to the cemetery.

Months

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine months since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. Today, it is nine months since my nephew died. Nine months is 39.133125 weeks. Nine months is 273.93188 days. Nine months is 394,461.9 minutes. Some of those weeks, days, and minutes have been so excruciatingly painful, I thought I would die myself. Not one time have I questioned God as to why He took him because I don’t question God’s will, but there hasn’t been a second of that time when I haven’t wondered how I can go on with him. I know I have to, but I still wonder.

Years

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine years since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. It feels like it’s been forever since I last talked to him. It feels like I haven’t seen him walk through the front door of Mama’s house for Sunday dinner in nine years. It feels like it’s been nine whole years.

Today

I’m sitting in my nephew’s living room right now and on this 9-month anniversary of his death, I continue to be sad beyond belief. I’ve fallen back into a somewhat normal pattern of living, but I still find myself lost. I still find myself wondering where he went. A very close friend put it best when he said, “It’s like Arthur went out the back door and just never came back.”

Perhaps one day, I’ll come out of the fog of grief and this vicious level of mourning will subside, but today I’m still underwater. I’m treading water, but not on the surface. I can see the sunlight above, but for now, I’m treading under the surface. Today, I’m still treading.

 

“Who Were You Looking For?”

Even before my childhood friend asked me that question, she knew the answer. We both knew the answer. There were so many people at my nephew’s funeral.

he family processional was huge. For every one person who considered him- or herself a friend of his in that church, there were 2-3 blood relatives present. I’m not talking about “play” cousins, sisters, or brothers, I mean the blood-related real thing. I actually ended up sitting on the far end of the second pew next to one of my younger cousins. I ended up there because some of my first cousins sat on the first pew with my sisters. It didn’t matter where I sat. It just didn’t matter. My heart was annihilated so I could have been swinging from the church bell and it just wouldn’t have mattered.

The Question

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Photo credit: www.pixabay.com

A few weeks after the service, a very close friend of mine who had been at the service asked, “Trease, who were you looking for? You kept looking around the church during the funeral. Who were you looking for?” She knew the answer before she asked, but in an effort to help me come to terms with Arthur’s death, she needed to hear me say it out loud. She wanted me to say it out loud so that I, myself, could hear the answer. We’ve known each other since we were children so she knew exactly how close I had been to my nephew.

I had gone to my doctor and asked for something to help me through the service because I knew that at some point, I was going to lose it. It didn’t happen at the service and it hasn’t happened yet, but I digress. My doctor prescribed Valium and told me to start with a half-tablet so that I wouldn’t keel over should a whole one be too strong. I took that thing around 9:30 that morning even though the service wasn’t set to start until 2 PM. By 11 AM, I knew that I needed to take the other half of that tablet because as my family members began pouring into my mother’s tiny house, I found myself getting agitated and extremely upset. Believe me when I say mind over matter is a thing — it’s a real thing.

Nearly every other person in my family is either a nurse or a doctor so I let them know what I was going to do in case something funky happened. By the time we, the family, walked down the center aisle of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church, I was a little calmer, but I was still extremely agitated. My mind began to wander. I remember looking around two times. My friend told me that I looked around more than two times — way more than two times. When she asked me who I was looking for, I calmly said, “Arthur.” She knew that already.

Only twice before had Arthur and I gone to funeral services without one another. One time had been my uncle’s funeral who passed away in July 2017 and the other had beenScreenshot_20170320-093621 that of a family friend a few years back. We always maintained eye contact during those services in case we needed to come to one another’s aid. I was looking for him on December 17, 2017. I know that sounds crazy, but I was looking for him. I knew he was in that casket, but I was looking for him. I needed to make eye contact with him even though I knew he was in that casket. I just could not fully wrap my mind around the fact that he was in that casket. My friend said, “I knew you were looking for him. We all knew.” Since my little talk with her, three other people have told me the same thing. They knew I was looking for him.

 

Answers, Solutions, and More Questions

I know he’s gone.I know I won’t hear his voice again in the present. True enough, I have a ton of videos of him laughing, making people laugh, dancing, jet-skiing, and other stuff, but I’ll never hear his voice again in the present.

I know I’ll never receive another one of his foolish texts. I know I’ll never get another text asking me what his mom cooked for Sunday dinner then telling me to fix him a couple of plates.

I know he’ll never call again telling me something weird has happened to his phone, swearing he hadn’t done anything to it. I always knew he had.

How am I supposed to move forward? I know I don’t have a choice because, for one, he wouldn’t want us to be sitting around mourning. Secondly, I have stuff to do.I’m going to keep pressing even though there are still many mornings when I just don’t want to get up. I have to, though.

Handling the death of a loved one is never easy. If it’s someone you’re extremely close to, it’s even harder. The heart will mend, but the pain will remain.

In This Time

It’s been just over 28 weeks since my nephew passed away.

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Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

So many things have happened since that time. My son has been home since school let out in early May. My granddaughter has been here since that time, too. We needed this time together. We needed this time together so desperately.

We needed to love on each other. We needed to lean on each other. We needed to bump heads. We needed to make up. We needed the tears. We needed to laugh.

With my nephew’s death came many lessons, not the least of which is that we have no time to waste on things that don’t matter or on people we don’t matter to. My best advice to you: get out of the way of toxic people. It’s true that hurt people, hurt people, but that is purely by choice. Hurt people don’t have to hurt people, they choose to. You, my friend, must choose to get out of their way.

One of the best things I’ve done recently is starting my own business. I’m not talking about reviving my Mary Kay business; I’m talking about a business of my very own. I’ll be writing and editing full time. I am also working on attaining my notary commission and am very excited about that. Every single thing about my life will be different by December 31, 2018.

My quest to become a speaker on the atrocity of domestic violence is neverending. I have some engagements coming up and will be sharing those things with you guys.

Know that your time and energy is precious. Don’t waste it.

 

Fridays, Saturdays, and a Month of Sundays

 

Arthur and Mia
Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

That Friday

“Hello? Whatchu want, Big Sexy?” I answered my phone at exactly 2:16 P.M. with that playfulness we’d shared all our lives.

“Trease, tell my mama I need some antifreeze for my car” my nephew, Arthur, said.
He said a few more things before we ended a very short conversation that day, including the fact that he was running late for work and needed to get off the phone. It was the last one I had with him. The last thing I said to him during that 2-minute call was that I was leaving for Dallas as soon I got off work that day; he simply said, “Okay.”

It has been 122 days since that little chat. It has been 122 days since I last heard his voice. The date was Friday, December 8, 2017.

Just as I told him I would, I left for Dallas right after work that day. My spirit was restless. Even though I had had a lot of coffee and soda that day, what I was feeling wasn’t caffeine jitters. My soul was vexed. Friday evening exit traffic didn’t make matters any better. I just could not settle down. At one point, I turned my radio off and prayed to God to still me. That prayer lasted two hours. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just knew that something was off.

My nephew died the next morning.

That Saturday

He went to bed somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00 AM the morning of December 9, 2017. That would be the last Saturday morning he would sit outside on the porch of his home in Cotton Valley.

As usual, he had sat on his porch smoking those Black & Mild cigarillos and drinking his homemade peach vodka (he was cheap – he’d mix peach soda and vodka). The last thing he told the guy who was staying with him was to leave the sliding door unlocked because a friend was coming by to make sure he was up for work later that morning. She would find him shortly before noon, still warm.

They tried to call me four times before I finally answered. I did not recognize the number so I didn’t answer. It was an Arkansas number and since I had received three calls from it, I figured I should answer.

Before the young woman said anything, I could hear my sister wailing in the background, saying, “I’m never going to see my son again! Arthur’s dead! Trease, Arthur’s dead!” I had slowed to a crawl and finally pulled over to the side of I-20 East. I kept screaming, “What are you talking about?? Who is this?? Who’s dead?? Who are you talking about??” That’s when the young lady said, “Ms. Trease, Arthur is dead!”

It has been 121 days since he died. It has been 121 days since he drew his last breath. The date was Saturday, December 9, 2017.

That Next Sunday

We knew there would be many people there. We had no idea the church would be packed for both the wake and the funeral. As is pretty much standard in the black community, funerals are held on Saturdays. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is. Arthur’s was held on Sunday, December 17, 2017, at 2 P.M. We did that for two reasons: my cousin, who delivers the eulogy at the funerals of all family members couldn’t be there until that Sunday; and the employees at International Paper wanted to be there. The entire plant wanted to be there but wouldn’t have been able to had the service not been held that Sunday.

I remember the service. I remember the fact that my son, who was immediately in front of me with my granddaughter, stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Arthur lying in state. There was a kind of domino effect because I had my head down and bumped into him. My son started screaming, “No!!” Although I had taken a prescription Valium, I remember every single thing that happened during the service.

I remember my sister’s dedication to him. I remember all the people who got up and paid tribute to him. I remember that I didn’t cry a lot. I don’t think I did. Maybe I did.

It’s been 113 days since we said goodbye to Arthur James Wade, Jr. The date was Sunday, December 17, 2017.

A Melding of Days

For the longest time following his death, the days all blended into each other. There were no weekdays; there were no weekends. Holidays were just…days. Easter was not hard this year, it was just another day. In years past, just like Christmas and New Year, Easter was a huge deal for the family. There would be a lot of food and pictures. This time around, it was just another day.

I’m better now. I’m still so deep in the trenches of grief that I’m breathless, but I’m better.
He wouldn’t want us suffering. He wouldn’t. I’m trying so hard to push forward, but there are so many days when I just spin my wheels.

I miss him. There are no words in anyone’s dictionary to describe the void in my life his death left. I miss him.

The days are finally separating themselves. I’m glad they are because as of yet, I haven’t been able to. They’re all one big jumble in my mind.

That Back Road

CVOC. I don’t know the exact length of that road, but I know that from Mama’s house to his trailer in Cotton Valley, it is exactly 6.7 miles. It’s ½ a mile from Mama’s to CVOC, but in total, it’s 6.7 miles. That’s the shortest route. It takes about 13 minutes to get there on that back road. It never really takes anybody that long on that road because most everyone travels well above the speed limit back there so in reality, it’s about 10 minutes from Cotton Valley to Sarepta. To be honest, I don’t even know if there is a posted speed limit back there. I’ve traveled that road my whole life, but for the world of me, I don’t know if there is a posted speed limit back there.
I used to take that road 3-4 days a week as an alternate route on my way in from work. The other way, straight up 371 North, is a true 10-minute drive. There was never any special reason for choosing one over the other. Most times, I would decide shortly after I passed the trailer which route I’d take. I haven’t been on that road since December 17, 2017. That was the day of the funeral.
I don’t know the exact distance of the entirety of CVOC from tip-to-tip, but I can tell you that if you travel the entire road, just short of the turn-off to go to Dorcheat Bayou, you’ll find St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery. It’s nothing fancy, just the burial place for many in the black community in our little area. My mama, daddy, grandparents, some of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are resting out there. My love, Arthur James Wade, Jr. is resting out there.
As I typed his name just now, my heart skipped a beat. I stopped breathing. I do that nearly every time he crosses my mind. I still do that. Here lately, I’ve started to get headaches when I think of him. For a while, I giggled a lot when I thought about him, but lately, I’ve gotten headaches. I’ve actually gotten physically sick a few times in the recent past when he’s come to mind, but these headaches…
Back to that back road.
I used to take that road on my way home from work. I made a point of traveling it when I needed to run to Springhill for something, too. When I would go to Springhill using the back road, I’d get to glance over and see Mama and Daddy’s grave marker, and I’d say, “Hey, Mama! Hey, Daddy!” Sometimes, I’d just wave. I haven’t been back there since December 17, 2017. I don’t plan to go back there any time soon because Arthur is back there.
The cemetery is nearly on the other end of CVOC from the point where I would get on it near his trailer, and to get home, I wouldn’t have to pass his resting place, but for some reason, I can’t get on that road. I just can’t. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like if I get on that road, this little scab that’s formed over my heart is going to be ripped off. It’s not even close to being healed. It’s still kind of bloody and raw, and Lord knows it’s tender to the touch, but if I go back there, that scab is going to get ripped off.
I feel like if I go back there, I’m going to lose it. I’m not afraid of encountering his spirit or anything like that; I just can’t accept the fact that there’s nothing back there except his body in a cold, dark grave. I can’t accept the fact that when it’s raining and cold, he’s lying back there in a box. None of us have been to the grave and back so no one can tell me what’s going on with him. I don’t know what happened after he was buried. I know his body is still there, but that’s all I know.
At some point, I’m going to start the grieving process. I haven’t reached those stages yet and I’m okay with that. People grieve differently so I just taking this thing one day at a time, but I’m still at a complete and total loss. He just isn’t gone in my mind. I know he’s not here, but again, he’s not gone in my mind.