THE OTHER SIDE OF DEATH
I used to be obsessed with my own death; I’d spend nights dripped in my own sweat, stomach as empty as the fridge — filled only with despair and loneliness — and pray that God would just come and whisk me away into the eternal flame. The first time I was nine years old, the grumbling in my tummy so loud from a lack of food, that I wanted to take a spork and cut the noise out. The last time I was stumbling in a bus shelter on Barton Street in Hamilton, Ontario. I hoped that the next bus would just splatter my guts onto the little old lady trying to ignore my presence.
I can’t remember how many time I have wanted to die, wishing that the demons would climb through the floorboards and the tile and drag me permanently into the real-life underbelly — my name for the rot that is my sordid subconscious. Never did I think I was worthy enough to make it to heavens, where the writers and dreamers and the lovers dance naked through lavender fields listening to Minnie Riperton singing “Perfect Angel.” I bet people who think about death all the time rarely think of heaven.
While I have often thought of taking my own life, more often I have been worried that life would be snatched away from me. This is not an unfamiliar position for us — It is possible that black men suffer with this more than most because not only are we tasked with our own internal struggles, we are faced with a world that still today does not appear to accept or want us to exist.
Last week, Dave Haynes, a Toronto Police Sergeant and son-in-law to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, compared the plight of black lives matter to the covid-19 pandemic. Four hundred years later, and WE are still the virus. which explains why institutional racism is still alive, and why its deluded minions desperately clinging to fading fallacy of whiteness are literally storming the castle at the Capital. It is a reminder that the cancer is remains very much intact.
I’m still getting used to being on the other side of healing, of waking up excited for every day. It feels like I have crossed the street of trauma — it used to feel like it was ten lane highway during rush hour. Looking back across the street now, across the lanes of my life, my only regret is that I didn’t have the courage to do it sooner. For the first time in my life, I do not have the fear of death, of the Grim Reaper snatching my soul in the middle of the night. In fact, I stand on guard for that motherfucker to come towards me so I can slice his throat. I want to live every day like it’s my last because I spent so much time thinking, or praying, it would be my last. But I am one man, and the world needs so much more.
Black men in North America are the least likely to reach out for mental health services, as well as having a life expectancy lower than everyone else. There is a growing movement to create safe spaces for mental health, with celebrities leading the way. For example, Charlemagne tha God launched the Mental Wealth Alliance, which will provide free pre-therapy services to more than 10 million Black Americans over the next five years. My own journey won’t change the fact that my friend felt the need to end his life, but we must collaboratively change the stigma around having these conversations in the first place. I won’t let another person die alone.