I won’t pretend to understand your life, because I know I have no clue. I take for granted the safety and security of suburbia, our good schools, and our quiet neighborhood. I have no idea what it takes to raise kids in Baltimore. I know my situation is different and my experience is different, and I won’t insult you by saying something like, “I can only imagine,” because I can’t. I can’t even imagine.
What I do know is the unimaginable pain of losing a son.
What I do know is the disbelief of walking into your son’s funeral, not even beginning to understand what has happened. I know feeling thankful for all the people who are there to cry with you, pray with you, sing with you, but wanting to be anywhere, anywhere but in that church.
I know waking up every morning without your boy and without all the hope that he held. I know having to let go not just of a young man, but of everything you hoped he would be, become, change, do. I know how every thought of him now makes it hard to breathe.
I know thinking about how your son died is terrifying. All I know is what I’ve read. Before he fell into a coma, maybe he was scared and confused and calling out for his mama because that’s what boys do. My son died alone, and I’m pretty sure he died afraid. My mama heart is rent thinking my son was scared and I wasn’t there for him in the moment he needed me more than any other.
I don’t know if you feel the guilt that I do, the horrible guilt that as a mother, I failed at my most basic, most important job. I question every decision I ever made about my son, thinking “If only I had done this differently” about thousands of choices. There were thousands of moments I could have saved my son, up until the moment I didn’t.
I don’t know how your daughter is doing, your beautiful daughter. We have a daughter, too, and she is so angry that her brother is gone. She loved him, loves him still. She is angry, and so sad, and I can’t help her. I can barely help myself.
I don’t know your life, but I do know your grief. I am sorry, so terribly sorry, that Freddie is gone. I’m so sorry this is your journey, and worse, that it has become so public. I’m sorry people who don’t even know you are dismissive, saying things like, “It’s too bad, another black man dead” as though it’s almost expected, completely forgetting he has a mother who loves him even in death, and how he’s not just another black man, but your son, your beloved son.
You asked the rioters to be calm, that what they were doing “wasn’t Freddie,” but maybe … maybe seeing their rage was almost a release? When my son died, I wanted to scream, scream and seethe and break things and hurt something, hurt myself so I could feel in my body what was happening in my heart. But as mothers, that’s not what we’re supposed to do. We’re expected to sob quietly and talk in whispers about our lost sons.
I’m not that far into this journey. I don’t have any wise words, and it’s not my place anyway. You’re navigating charges, and juries, and justice, and I don’t know if that’s a distraction you want or if it just pours more salt into an already gaping wound. As if the sun coming up every morning isn’t enough of a reminder our boys are gone.
I learned your name. It’s Gloria. Gloria, Freddie’s mom, who misses her son so much, so terribly. Maybe that’s all we have in common. But that’s enough. That’s enough for me to say, “I know. Oh, how I know.” And I’m so sorry, Gloria. I’m so sorry.
Copyright 2015, Dawn Wright
Photo of Freddie Gray by Gray family via CNN, April 2015