LEANNE Brady once expressed the following sentiments, “So yes, today I am full of sorrow, But I will smile a little more with each tomorrow. So please, Dad, go be at rest, and know to me you were always the best.” Unfortunately, through no fault of my own, I would be inclined to agree with the aforementioned. I was one years old when my dad died. At that age I had no concept of life or death. As I grew older, the protective darkness that shrouded me in the innocence of not knowing, morphed into the unyielding light that uncoiled me in the experience of knowing too much.
It was March 22: That day still haunts me. Every time I drive by Anacostia I get a cold feeling in my chest, a sting so sharp, it makes me want to vomit.
When I see other kids with their dads, the same feeling consumes me. I was robbed of the opportunity to know my dad.
Every morning I wake up drowning in a sea of questions. What kind of person was he? Was he fun? Did I inherit my sarcasm from him? Was he a good driver? Would he have spoiled me? Would he approve of my choice in who I liked? What advice would he give me about being a young, Black girl in America? What was his favorite color? And every morning, in the typical paradoxical manner, the answers to those questions are found in not having answers to those questions. Though I try to use my imagination and synthesize that with the information I have gotten about him from other, it is still not enough. I still wish he were here as the answer to all of those questions…and more.
Like I said earlier, when I was little, I did not know much about death. I remember reading a short story in English class. It was about a young girl who grew up in poverty and at the same time something inside her knew she was meant for more, but because she was so young, she was unable to fully understand things around her. The protagonist from the short story “Marigolds,” Lizabeth, who was able to remain oblivious to things that were going on because of her innocence, resonates with me. I would visit my father’s grave on his birthday, but I never really knew what was going on.
Now, however, it just feels like a prodigious empty space inside me. When people ask if I’m okay, or how I feel about my dad, I smile and say I’m fine. That’s an illusion.
Someone took him away and left me here to imagine and dream of what he’d be like, “but I will smile a little more with each tomorrow.” And I will let him Rest In Peace and make him proud by becoming what I have always wanted to be…attorney.
Growing up I always wanted to be a lawyer. When people ask why, it’s because I love cases and defending or prosecuting people.
Most importantly, I do not want the system to fail anyone else. My father’s murder wasn’t solved. The person who murdered him is still out there--roaming freely. I often wonder what kind of guilt that person walks around wrapped in, and then sometimes I wonder if the person even feels guilty at all. I ruminate on what it is like to have taken a life and never having paid for such a heinous act.
When I was 9 years old, I told myself I was going to be a lawyer. I told myself I was going to make sure people paid for their crimes, for the lives they took, for the pain they caused and for the sadness they left indelible in the hippocampus. And through it all, I will smile.
I smile now because I’m still here, and although I would love to be in heaven with my father getting all the answers to the questions I have each morning, I'm going to live my life on earth for him. I will keep pushing, transcending and accomplishing what some people feel I can. And I know one day, I will succeed.
The loss of my dad may affect my life even more in the future, but for now, even though “I am full of sorrow, I will smile a little more with each tomorrow. So please, Dad, go be at rest and know to me you were always the best.”
Amari Norris, 14, is the 3rd Place Winner of The 2021 Discovering Me…Without You Personal Essay Contest for teen girls 14 through 17.