Tuesday, May 17, 2005

death of a son

Last Thursday, a death of one of our classmates' son shook our class. The mother told us that her son was attacked and died on previous Tuesday, and as planned ahead, she recited Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son," as tears run down her cheeks. After she left the classroom, none of us felt like continuing the recital of the poems we selected--it felt hollow and fake to do so after such an explosion of genuine emotion. The only thing that felt appropriate for the class (it was a creative writing class) and the occasion was to write. And so we did.

Trying to follow the instructor's suggestion to write a note to the mother who lost the son, I found myself troubled not by the death of her son but by my apparent incapacity of compassion. My eyes became slightly teary, but I couldn't tell if it was a genuine concern for her loss or a mere reflex at her tears. I was probably shocked and shaken by the force of erupting emotion, but at the same time it felt like a scene from a film or a book. A greater part of me was observing the scene like a curious spectator.

The first thing that came to my mind to write to Denise was my admiration at her strength, but such a comment would be no help to her, nor it would be significant. She doesn't need any interpretation or analysis of what she does or what she feels--whereas that is about the only thing I can do at this point. Thus I, so selfishly, reflect upon my own response to what shouldn't have happened but happened, questioning for the hundredth time if I am incapable of compassion. My thoughts just don't extend to her, who appears to be behind a hard, cold shell of grief that no one can rightfully penetrate. My words hesitate to reach to her. My cold intellect ponders the tragic irony of her selection of the poem ("Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes), as if I were a spectator, omniscient and detached. I do not have the courage to say anything meaningless to her, nor anything too meaningful. As a poet once said, writers steal. It is true, but it is repulsive to find myself looking at Denise break into tears and thinking how I would describe the charged air of the room, her distorted face, the tears on her chocolate cheek, and as merely a perfunctory second thought, what she might be feeling.

And here I am, writing about the "tragedy" (o, how hollow it sounds!), using it as a material to reflect upon. Or even as a trigger to think about MYSELF.

Through her last name, I managed to find a few articles on what happened to her son. He was shot in the head while he hanged out at a parking lot of an apartment in a suburb of Chicago. After a day, he died at the hospital he was taken to, where another victim of the shooting is recovering. He was twenty-one. One article linked his death to drug/gun problems of the neighborhood, without solid evidence that suggests his involvement.


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