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Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Shoe on the Other Foot

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of someone from my HISTORY OF YOGA class.  This was the only social thing we had in common.  He lived in the city.  I live in the suburbs.  He was a black man whose children are approximately my age.  As I walked into St. James AME church for Ray's service, others were walking in as well.  I wasn't greeted with "Hi, how do you know Ray?"  I wasn't greeted at all.  I felt the discomfort of those walking in with me as I overheard a this comment from a younger woman talking to an older lady, "You just don't like anyone who doesn't look like you."  The older woman was probably coming of age during the Jim Crow era.  I wondered what she must have gone through in order to feel hostile to this red-haired stranger a half century later.  In my interactions with Ray and his family this year, they were a bit mistrustful of me until they got to know me a bit.  The breakthrough seemed to come in that HISTORY OF YOGA class.  One day, we paired off to do an exercise in which we had to talk for five minutes about the qualities we saw in the other person.  Ray was my partner.  I learned a lot about him that day, but I learned even more about him at his funeral.  He was a loving, giving person dedicated to his family until the moment he died.  As we saw him leave the church and being placed into the hearse, I sensed that in that small, frail body had been a huge, beautiful spirit, so much more than I had been aware of while he was still here.  I am privileged to have known him.  I think now, his soul can truly quote the words of MLK, "...Free at last.  Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm Free at last!..."