Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Midweek Musings: Mourning

Good afternoon,

Before I take my tired body from Suite 100 to the Holmes house, I must briefly return from my Mugwumpish moratorium to share my thoughts about funerals.

I spent an hour and a half at the Zion Grove Missionary Baptist Church today, slipping away after the first choir number and before the eulogies. Although I only knew the deceased young man by sight, what I saw and experienced at his funeral moved me with such force, that I found myself unable to remain in the church.

A thousand or more, maybe two thousand, mourners filed into the church beginning shortly before the scheduled hour for the visitation. The young man whose life reached a tragic and heroic end had died as he had lived: protecting others. He had given shelter to children whose mother turned to Samir Clark for help, and as he sheltered them, their pursuer fired into the apartment where Samir had been visiting family, on whose door the children's mother had knocked. A bullet struck Samir, and he fell, dying within an hour or so thereafter.

Samir attended my son's high school. His brother Akeem was in Patrick's class, and Samir was in the class behind Patrick. Patrick and Samir had a close mutual friend, by virtue of whom they had contact. Patrick shared with me that Samir always showed the greatest of courtesy and respect for him; Samir treated him with kindness on occasions when others did not.

I learned, in the week since Samir's murder, that he attained Eagle Scout last year; that he participated in a mentoring program, that he helped out in the same food drives in which my son and I had been volunteers for Patrick's four years at University Academy of Learning Charter School, and also that he gave his time and energy to four separate churches as a volunteer, crossing into two different faiths to do community service. After a year of college in Iowa, he had been recruited by, and was transferring to, a university in Tennessee where he intended to continue his studies in biology and play football.

In short -- this life cut short so soon, had been a life well spent.

As I sat on the aisle of the church, watching his friends, teachers, Scout leaders and others collect, listening to the music, I tried to imagine how I would feel if Patrick had been killed in this manner -- or, indeed, in any manner. I cannot begin to reach those feelings, so deep would they run, so anguished would I be. I felt myself overcome with empathy for those who were closest to this boy, this young man. And as I sat, reflecting, I heard the soft voice of the pastor asking us to stand to receive the family.

I rose, with a thousand or more others.

Through the back door, near me, came a beautiful woman, held up on either side by young persons who looked so much like Samir that I knew they must be his siblings. The woman raised her eyes toward the front of the church, and stepped slowly. Her white suit, with its full-length skirt, fell in soft shimmers as she slowly traversed the aisle, and tears steadily streamed down her cheeks. Her boy, her beautiful boy, lay under a spray of blue and white flowers at the end of that long, terrible walk.

Violence cannot be justified. While this violence seems to have been personal -- directed at the woman who sought refuge in the apartment where Samir's killing took place -- nonetheless, violence rampages through our society. I am sickened by its brutal aftermath.

I could not stay for the entire ceremony, not because I had other commitments, but because I am weak: An abundance of sadness cripples me, and I retreat from it. Though I am reverent, and I do believe in the existence of a divine entity, nonetheless, I do not take the message of joy and salvation as one which affords us sufficient comfort to prevent our tears of sorrow at a life cut short too soon.

After I left the funeral, after lunch with my husband, after I returned to Suite 100, I chanced to exchange emails with a court clerk whom I know to be a woman of gentleness. I shared my experience with her in a brief summary of the events that I had witnessed, and she indicated that she had read about Samir's death. It makes you re-think your job as a parent, to want to cherish your children more, she wrote. And I agreed.

But it also makes me re-think my job as a love's after-math attorney. It reminds me of the difference between things of true importance, and things over which my clients should not bicker.

The lives we are privileged to bring into this world demand and deserve our strictest attention. I realize that we, as lawyers, are not responsible for our clients' decisions as to priorities during a custody fight. But we can draw a line, and we can ask our clients to consider if the points over which they instruct us to argue are really important, or if, instead, we could work with our opposing counsel and parties to structure a truly better future for our children.

Perhaps -- just perhaps -- we can whittle away at the malaise in society that spawns the fury which results in the loss of lives, such as that of Samir Clark. And until such time as the sickness of society abates, we should cherish the children of this world, and hold them close -- lest they be torn from us, as this precious child was torn from his mother's loving arms.

RIP Samir Ali Clark.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.