We leave lands but cannot take the remains of our lost loved ones with us. We leave the monuments behind but bring the memories with us. My son who carries his name, also carries my brother’s same birth mark on the bridge of his nose.
I said goodbye to all of his Ozone Park and Howard Beach, Queens, no longer mine. The only black brother that would walk those streets with ease and say hi to everyone. I said goodbye to his Jamaica Bay, his Charles Park. The sunset over Cross Bay released me. Said it was ok to leave. I inhabited those spaces during his last year for the purpose of being close to him but they were never mine. How long had I said I was ready to leave NYC, but wouldn’t because of my brother’s illness. Then he left. Leaving me there suspended, disconnected.
We walked that beach that cold ass day knowing we were all connected. All us people gathered on that cold beach to catch that January sunset and remember that we all hail from some place beyond the sun. Realizing that the sun would set just the same over Borikén, beyond Rincon, I knew it was ok to leave.
I had sat that last night at his bedside, keeping watch. Played a mix of Yemaya songs that would soothe him like his visits to the sea for solace. Songs that juxtapose crashing waves with Yoruba chants. Singing the whole time so he would know I was still by his side.
Seven years a spirit. Seven years since he left our physical side.
Seven seas, seven samples of how to shape shift like water.
Go from solid to liquid to gas.
How to live in this flesh while simultaneously flowing like water across these lands.
How to vaporize, elevate and expand.
We grieve, we all grieve but my brother comes and goes as easy as the tides. He rises and falls with our moods, our triumphs, our failures. He carries and lifts us afloat. But when we grieve him heavy, cling on to what was, we sink him down, pulling him under with us.
Why not flow with him and with what is?
Before every challenge or test my brother would encourage us to get a pack of Life Savers. We obliged. Did everything he asked. He was smooth like that. I had lifesavers in my mouth during my road test. After he passed, I found a lifesaver in his jacket pocket. Kept that sucker on my altar for years to come, never realizing all the while that he was just offering a metaphor for the need to keep afloat.
We encarnados love to fall the fuck apart over anything. Drama queens that we be. In doing so, we fail to recognize how intricately interwoven are we with the realm of our ancestors. If we are the manifestation of their survival and struggle, if we are testament to their thriving despite the traumas of oppression, then our healing is their release. Our collective healing is our reciprocal recompense.
When he passed I always understood that my brother would be in the peace. Not in the chaos, not in the madness. If I needed my brother then I would have to craft an environment where he was permitted to be. You can’t get caught up in chaos, living up a mess then call your spirits down to get dirty with you.
These days I barely call upon my brother, honoring that he (for all the limitations our earthly language and pronouns impose on the transcendence of spirit) has way better things to be doing than getting invoked into petty earthly shit. Then a moment comes when I find myself in a space of love and I greet him. I feel him near. I know he is there. In the love. In the peace. I think of his traits. His working constantly for the highest good, his selflessness. The temptation to call upon him escapes me. Instead I strive to elevate. Match his greatness, in turn achieving my own greatness. Floating on that lifesaver, fluid and fresh.
Happy birthday in infinity sun….
My project dedicated to the memory of my brother, Joseph Hernandez: