The Courage to Feel

12193725_10153109446782539_7191528142289883211_nMy mind tells me I didn’t know him long enough to be sad, but my heart knows better. Of my grandfather’s 91 years, I knew him only 8. But, I am grateful for the moments we shared.

I think it was 2007 when I first met Papa John, right before I started college. There he stood, all 6 feet something of him; towering in stature and strong in personality. Though his eyesight was steadily fading, he’d always rise to greet me, grab hold to my hands or pat me on my back. He knew who I was and that’s all that mattered.

Papa John told me stories about how he used to work with my mother. He called her his “girlfriend.” 🙂 Putting a roof on every building in Hickory was his claim to fame. If anyone could do that, I know John Henry King could. Much like my father, I never knew much about my grandfather, and didn’t have the opportunity to grow up with him and my paternal family over the years. I have a handful of captured memories and exchanged conversations that I cling to. 1030151744-1

As I slept in his old bedroom the past few days, I wondered if there were any keepsakes in there to remember him by. I somewhat longed to feel his presence in the room.

When it came time for the homegoing service, I wanted sunglasses to hide the tears. I don’t think anyone likes feeling/being vulnerable, especially during the sickness/loss of a loved one. There is an inevitable feeling of sympathy from others. Everyone wants to know how you feel, how you’re doing and how you’re holding up. “I’m good.” “I’m doing okay.” “As well as can be expected.” At some point, the very mention or thought of that loved one’s name chokes you up. On the brink of tears I still mutter, “I’m fine.”

FB_IMG_1446342721250Texting my mother before the funeral, she told me I “didn’t have to hide.” Having to sit right next to the casket with the flower girls, I was forced to feel. In that tiny church, I had a front row seat to sadness. As sister, daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew and friend filed in the sanctuary and laid eyes, hands and lips on Papa John for the last time, the grief overcame me. Ugly faced, whimpering and all, couldn’t be contained as the funeral director closed the casket. I cried. In a church full of people, mourners all around…I cried. I felt.

I thought of how my mother must have felt in that very church back in 1990, staring at my father’s closed casket; burned body inside.

I know Papa John is resting with Daddy, Grandma Marie and countless others who had gone on before him. He’s at peace. Body healed. Eyesight restored.

I may not know as much about him as everyone else, but I know that he loved. In few words, but in many actions…he loved. And he will always be loved. Forever and always.

I love you, Papa John. Rest in Paradise. 1031151522a-1

iAmSomebody: It’s a Movement!


“Losing my brother a little over five months ago has really had me doing some thinking about my life and others that may suffer with different issues in silence. I’ve spent time praying, crying, and wondering how I can help others, who battle with issues daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. For almost a week every time I’ve prayed it’s like God has been saying ENCOURAGE OTHERS…” Brittany Too-Fly Staley (Facebook-July 14, 2015)

Brittany and Jaheir

Countless lives were forever changed on February 8, 2015. At the young age of 22, Mr. Jaheir Ford ended his own life.  Like so many today, Jaheir suffered from something that is widely overlooked, often until it is too late. Mental illness. The daily struggle is one that most can’t imagine. Though symptoms can be physical, depression is often hard to detect in friends and family around us. Those silenced by the weight of mental illness may find it hard to express what they often don’t understand themselves. Sometimes it is those who seem the happiest and most loved who struggle the most, leaving those left behind to wonder… Why?

It’s easy for us to sweep issues under the rug, especially if it doesn’t affect us directly. That is, until we are forced to stare it right in the face. Brittany Staley wanted to make sure something positive came from her brother’s death. On July 14th, Brittany started the iAmSomebody Movement. This growing campaign seeks to raise awareness about mental illness and in turn, aid in the prevention of suicide. This movement is a voice for those who suffer in silence. It offers encouragement, love and an opportunity to give back to others through an uplifting word, a shoulder to cry on or simply a listening ear. Love, support and knowledge of this very real issue is essential in the daily fight for joy, peace and understanding!

Tamara and Jaheir

Since its birth, the iAmSomebody Movement has reached many and continues to grow. Brittany posts encouraging messages, pictures and videos on her personal Facebook page, along with the movement’s page, iAmSomebody Movement. We never know who is reading our posts, or who counts on us for a much needed laugh or smile.

Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance

On September 13th, the 1st Annual Suicide Prevention Walk/Remembrance was held to honor and remember those who have ended their suffering, to recognize the survivors and support those who continue in the struggle. Meetings are held at a SC high school where students are encouraged to speak openly about what is going on in their lives, including problems at home, bullying at school, low self-esteem…anything and everything. Sometimes all it takes is to know someone cares.

Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental illness are VERY REAL. Signs and symptoms should never be dismissed as “just one of those days.” Don’t be afraid to talk to someone.

Let’s all make a conscious effort to smile at a stranger today. Hold the door open for someone (male or female). Make every day count. Jaheir and many others will live on through the iAmSomebody Movement. Even if only one person has been uplifted or saved by Brittany’s movement, it matters. This movement matters!

If you would like more information, or are interested in purchasing a t-shirt or bracelet, contact Brittany Staley via the Facebook page, iAmSomebody Movement. BE the difference!

Jaheir Ford

There is HOPE.

YOU matter.

YOU are important.

YOU are loved.

YOU are somebody.