Charita Goshay: How did America come to this?
If you live long enough, you'll lose someone you love.
I miss my people desperately.
A day doesn't pass by in which they don't pass through my thoughts.
They're a huge part of who I am; they're ingrained in me, even to the point of muscle memory, like reaching for the phone to share some news before realizing there won't be an answer.
When they pass through my dreams, it is both a gift and a fresh dose of grief.
Because music is my oxygen, lately, the Beatles' song "In My Life" has been on a loop in my head:
"There are places I'll remember/All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better/Some have gone, and some remain
All these places had their moments/ With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead, and some are living/In my life, I've loved them all."
From my first words to my first steps, my maternal grandmother was at my side. She was my imprint of what it meant to be a woman of integrity and faith. Her death in 2006 means she didn't get to witness the nation's first Black president or the first woman of color to stand at the door to the vice presidency.
I think of the hymns she loved, and they both comfort and pierce my heart:
"... And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own. And the joy we share, as we tarry there, no other has ever known."
My paternal grandmother was an unassuming but wise woman who wholly devoted herself to her husband and their nine children and served as her family's North Star. She died a week shy of her 100th birthday.
In January, one of my closest friends unexpectedly died two days before her own birthday. Though her life was one of long odds and struggles, she was braver than I ever could be, going from being a high school dropout and teen mother, to earning two college degrees.
Nobody made me laugh harder. Nobody I ever knew was smarter.
In those ensuing days, I must have listened to Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" a thousand times:
"And I don't cry for yesterday
There's an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive."
My mother was a "Ronald Reagan Republican." She loved everything about the Reagans, to the point of shelling out $25 for "Reagan" jellybeans because they came in a commemorative jar. Because she died in 2004, she did not live to see the devolution of a party in which Ronald Reagan wouldn't stand a snowball's chance of support.
My father and grandfathers were hard-working, factory men who would be aghast at the decimation of the blue-collar class. My stepfather, who became disabled as a Marine, was proud of his service all of his life, refusing to be embittered by the segregation he encountered, or his physical struggles.
And yet, as much as I miss them and long to see them all, I'm glad they aren't here to see what has happened to this country.
We have become a stumbling colossus, our deep divisions rendering us unable to rise to even the most simple challenges.
They could not have dreamt of the state of America in 2020.
I'm grateful they didn't have to see their country plunge into a perpetual state of disgrace and disarray. They could not possibly have fathomed the chaos and incompetence that threaten our very existence as a democratic republic.
To wish them to be present in the midst of this mess would be an act of selfishness.
Their lives weren't easy. They were people of color who loved a country that didn't reciprocate. But they all were invested in its well-being. They all were resolute voters, an outward expression of an inward faith that America can be better.
But my sense of loss is not just for them, it's also grief for a country that feels like it's coming undone.
America's talent has always been in our ability to show the world that imperfection doesn't have to be an impediment to the pursuit of freedom and truth, both of which are now endangered.
To borrow from the poet Dylan Thomas, my sorrow is for the dying of the light that has been a beacon for freedom-loving people across the world.
Growing older, you fear death less because you come to understand that it's part of our universal story. Though humanly speaking, we'd rather they were with us, those who have gone on have been spared from the stress and terror of a worldwide pandemic made worse by politics, denial, conspiracy and sheer ineptitude.
In the New Testament, the Scriptures say we are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses."
If that is so, what must they be thinking?
Reach Charita Goshay at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She at @cgoshayREP on Twitter.