The world lost a bright light on Easter Sunday. Mr. Michael Jefferson, Jr., was murdered. His light first shone in my world five years ago. He was the director of the before and after-care program at my son’s school. He smiled there for 21 years. He touched countless lives. He loved countless souls.
The community is speechless. This occurred months after a shooting at the mall two miles away. Friends and family and his charges and their families are murmuring how senseless and tragic this is. The discussion is centering around gun control and access to weapons. The discussion is swirling around the mentally ill, and how the shooter, a neighbor, was “just not quite right.”
I dare say anyone who kills a man in a townhouse at a dinner table isn’t quite right, whether or not he is afflicted with a mental illness or holds a gun. I will leave the political discussion of access to weapons and adequate provision of health care to others. I’ve already discussed how I believe the root of violence in this country rests in our failure to teach people to cope with negative feelings of anger, disappointment, frustration.
I want to do my small part in keeping Mr. Mike from being only a statistic. I want the world to understand what happens when we snuff a light out prematurely. We are so far removed from the consequences of our behaviors as we’re connecting virtually, and for fun, we kill and destroy through animation.
Everyone remembers Mr. Mike as the kindest, gentlest giant with the widest, brightest smile. He never raised his voice and he was always fair and patient and kind. He was a saint–he treated all the children and their parents this way. I can’t even treat my own children or my own parents this way. You could feel this was more than a job to him. He loved those children. He respected those children. He knew those children. He was so important in my children’s lives, and in mine. Even after we left his care, we would say hello enthusiastically when we saw each other around town. We shared mutual friends and I was always excited to hear about him and send him our greetings.
The saddest part of all of this, for me, is knowing he likely suffered in his last moments as he knew his fate. As he knew he deserved better. As he knew there was nothing he could do about his destiny. He was shot multiple times. I will spare you the details, but from accounts from his friends and the police, he was apparently trying to get help as he walked out his front door where he collapsed.
I imagine the fear coursing through his veins as he realized what had happened, and how ludicrous this situation was. I imagine the piercing, shooting pain of a gun shot wound in his face and other parts of his body. I imagine him gasping for breath as his life decisions and relationships flash before him. I imagine him wondering what will happen to the father he cares for, to his sibling, to his girlfriend, to his friends. I wonder if he ever received a moment of peace or resignation before his final breath. I wonder if he fought death to the very last moment. My heart aches at the thought of his pain, his fear, his realization. My tears run for a life cut so short, for the lives he will never touch, for the holes in the lives he leaves behind.
If we all thought of these fears and pain that those dying inevitably go through, would it be so easy to resort to violence to solve problems and cope with negative feelings? If we imagined our child or parent or spouse slowly living through those moments of sheer terror and piercing pain–would it be so easy to lash out at others to right a wrong?
Good-bye, Mr. Mike. I’m so very, very sorry the world did not treat you as kindly and as graciously as you treated others. We love you so, and carry you in our hearts and lives. We know your light shines from above. The world mourns the loss of your light on this earth, and what a loss it is.