My uncle Glenn Evans died last night and I feel nothing. Its not that I feel numb or empty but that deep in my chest I feel a nothingness. Like I can feel the absence of his presence but have no other emotions tied to it.
My whole immediate family is going to L.A and I am not sure I will join them till the funeral. I’m not sure that I want to feel anything at all. I feel like I don’t want to talk about it yet I feel a deep need to talk about it at the same time. But I don’t really want to talk about it over the phone but don’t really have anyone who knows him like I did to talk about it with in person. Losing family members is hard. It always is. But losing Glenn is more than losing an uncle it is like losing a touchstone for my connection to my most precious possession: the crazy set of overlapping relationships that is my family.
How do you come to terms with that? Like if I could be transported immediately to where all my cousins are and connect I would. But the thought of packing and getting on a plane and being picked up and then walking through I city that I’ve rarely experienced without him and having to have all the mundane conversations that my family has to get all the cousins together feel so unappealing.
But my sister has already flown out and Sandra is flew out for a retreat this morning. So I’m just sitting alone in my apartment like nothing is happening. Reading articles about Kobe Bryant (my uncle was a HUGE Lakers Fan) and wondering which emotion I will feel first. When I heard Kobe died I was surprised and a little sad but it passed quickly. I mostly thought about Uncle Glenn and my Grandpa arguing about whether Jordan or Kobe was the Greatest of All Time and whether Lebron would be greater. ( I don’t remember who took what side).
I never liked Basketball but most of the men in my family were quasi obsessed with it when I was growing up. So it’s weird to have more feelings about Kobe (even if its just surprise) than my uncle. Its probably because life without Kobe will be, for me at least, just like life with him. He was never an important figure in my life. What is life without my uncle? Its too unfathomable to have feelings about. Its something that just can’t register. My body is not convinced its real.
My Uncle Glenn taught me how to clean a bathroom properly and quickly, how to talk to girls, and how blend faith in science and faith in God. When I was 12 I spent an entire summer with him in L.A where we played board games for hours. We taught me how to play so many different strategy games and would push me until I was good enough beat him. He thought I was smart and that meant I had a gift to refine. He never once thought it made sense to let his 12 year old nephew win just to feel good. Yet he made losing feel good because he made losing feel like learning. He made it seem like I was one lesson away from greatness that whole summer.
That summer and his lesson during it have had a lasting legacy on me and is ridiculously responsible for the person I am today. My love of strategy games and addiction to learning can all be traced back to Uncle who not only made it acceptable to think strategically but cool. He was the coolest person I knew and suddenly my love of puzzles and board games didn’t make me a nerd but was gift to be refined and used.
That was also the summer he taught me how to play spades. If your are Black, then you likely know that learning to play spades is like a brutal hazing and right of passage at once. Most people never get the benefit of having some intentionally teach them how to play much less be some how be gracious and remember that they are new. Yet his barbs were still sharp every now again, preparing me to play with people who were not as deeply invested in my emotionally well-being as he was! That summer is one of the happiest memories of my childhood, in part because he spent so much of it with me.
There are a million such stories I could tell, and a million ways that Uncle Glenn taught me how to be a man. It just doesn’t seem possible that he could die.
Prayer for the Dead
The Prayer for the Dead is to be used for Bahá’ís over the age of fifteen. “It is the only Bahá’í obligatory prayer which is to be recited in congregation; it is to be recited by one believer while all present stand. There is no requirement to face the Qiblih when reciting this prayer.”
—A Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
O my God! This is Thy servant and the son of Thy servant who hath believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and set his face towards Thee, wholly detached from all except Thee. Thou art, verily, of those who show mercy the most merciful.
Deal with him, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace. Grant him admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven. There is no God but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.
Let him, then, repeat six times the greeting “Alláh-u-Abhá,” and then repeat nineteen times each of the following verses:
We all, verily, worship God.
We all, verily, bow down before God.
We all, verily, are devoted unto God.
We all, verily, give praise unto God.
We all, verily, yield thanks unto God.
We all, verily, are patient in God.
(If the dead be a woman, let him say: This is Thy handmaiden and the daughter of Thy handmaiden, etc. …)