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The Power of a Lie: Rest in Peace, Cousin

Today I attended the funeral of one of my older cousins. He was very sweet and kind, the kind of person who was always happy to see you and always had a smile for you. Loving and non-judgmental, he was an easy-going guy who had had some hard times -- drugs, prison, you name it. And on this, the day of his funeral, we celebrated his release not just from these earthly bounds, but from a lie, a lie about him that burdened not only him but our entire family.

You see, I'm on the tail end in terms of birth order among us first cousins on my mom's side of the family. There is so much history between my older siblings and older cousins that I only know through stories passed down. And one of these stories was that, as a teenager, my cousin had burned down a school. This is no small matter. If you burn down a school in the suburbs, people rush to rebuild it; in the ghetto, not so much. And he had reputedly burned down a school in the ghetto. There was no rush to rebuild. Children and families were affected.

I don't even know if I was born when this school burned down, but whenever I mentioned to old-timers in the black community where I grew up who my "people" were -- and where I'm from, it's all about who your "people" are -- they would sometimes make the connection between me and this cousin and would get a look on their faces as if they'd just swallowed sour milk. Even an older friend of mine recently told me when she "made the connection", so to speak, "I'm not too fond of your cousin. You know he burned down that school." There wasn't much I could say - all I ever knew was what was quietly whispered about this cousin -- that he had supposedly burned down this school. I didn't know what the truth was, and I couldn't defend him.

It's sad that it took a funeral to set him free, spiritually and otherwise.

My cousin's youngest brother, God bless him, preached the eulogy today and, once and for all, put to death the the lie that my cousin had burned down the school. Yes, he was trying to rob the school, but he didn't light the match that lit the paper in the garbage can that caught fire to the drapes that burned down the school. He didn't burn down the school; he just happened to be there when other partners in crime did.

It all goes to show the power of a lie. That unless someone steps forward to clear your name, or you clear it yourself, a lie can follow you to your grave. Even worse -- it can jump right in the grave with you. But my cousin wasn't concerned with the lie. He was too busy just being kind and always having a smile and a kind word to offer to little cousins like me.

Rest in peace, Cousin. And if someone ever again blames your for that school fire in my presence, I WILL tell the truth and shame the Devil.


ambersun said…
Hi from Australia

A lovely, evocative story.

May your cousin rest in peace.


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