Throughout life, death visits us in many forms. I wrote recently about how I relate to thoughts of my own death. And I, like all of us, have had to deal with the deaths of close family and friends in the past, and I will again. I have been one of the fortunate ones, because I have never lost a loved one “before their time”, whatever that may mean.

The death of someone you once knew but haven’t seen in some time is another facet of our relationship with death. Just yesterday, a student of mine from when I was the principal at Al Raby School passed away. Aside from a short interaction on Facebook about a year ago, I had not seen or spoken with him in 10 years. I can say without hesitation that he died before his time. He was 30 years old, the 446th person to be killed by gun violence in this city this year. This young man was many things. He was a son, a brother, a father. He was someone who, when I knew him, loved to laugh. His life and death were also part of the tangled web of violence engulfing this city, perpetuated by the guns flowing into and through it and the fetishization of violence that American society pushes on all of us. I want this young man’s death to remind me of my own moral imperative, pushing back against this violence. But I don’t want him to be a symbol, to me or to anyone else. I want him to be himself, to be what I remember of him as a student, and to be honored as the son, brother, and father he was.

Wherever you are, young man, my heart goes out to you and your family. I’m sending you love.

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