Of mourning and gratitude

A simple view of my Facebook newsfeed tells me I should be mourning.

I should be mourning the loss of my grandmother, Ernestine. Ernestine was more than the matriarch of my family, she was a subtle force of nature. Never one to complain, she kept her head down and did what she felt was needed. My entire family is hurt.

I should be mourning the loss of jobs at my former place of employment, the University of Alabama at Birmingham. As we speak, students, faculty and staff are fighting to keep their campus intact. With jobs and scholarships on the line, what’s happening at UAB will forever negatively impact people’s lives. And trust me when I say that this is much more than about a simple football program.

I should be mourning my fellow brothers and sisters who have lost their lives to HIV and AIDS. Every year on World AIDS Day, we reflect on the past, how far science has come and how much further we have to go.

I should be mourning the stories of black men and women throughout the country – men and women who are being stopped by cops in Michigan for walking with their hands in their pockets, being gunned down in playgrounds and not finding closure to what happened last week in Ferguson.

So, I took a walk in the rain this afternoon to try to make sense of it all. I had just gotten home from a whirlwind trip to Iceland. My heart was full of joy and memory. Why should I be mourning? Instead, it dawned on me. I am grateful.

I am grateful to have had Ernestine in my life. I’m grateful to have learned to play cards with her. I’m grateful to have spent hours playing marbles with her. I’m grateful that she died as she lived, surrounded by family.

I am grateful to have worked at UAB. I’m grateful to have spent almost four years with some of the brightest, most engaged students, faculty and staff I’ve ever met. I’m grateful for the opportunity to help stroke the sparks which are creating flames at UAB today.

I am grateful for those on the forefront of HIV and AIDS research. I’m grateful that we are able to discuss HIV in an open and honest way, a way that is slowly chipping away the stigma of a disease that has ravaged the LGBT community.

I am grateful for my friends who have rallied in response to the tragedy that is Ferguson. I’m grateful that stories are being told and shared in response. I’m grateful to have such prolific and brave friends who are able to stand up for what is right.

Today, I make the decision not to mourn, but rather to be grateful. I make the decision to recognize perspective and privilege. Today, I make the decision to move forward instead of dwelling.

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Of mourning and gratitude