Funerals and Weddings and Life’s Wild Path
The last time I flew to Little Rock, Arkansas, it was to be a pallbearer for Enoch “Trey” Tims III. He is the man you see pictured far left. He was buried on February 6, 2010.
Today, I board a plane to Little Rock, Arkansas where I will be a groomsman for Harold “Jhirmack” Eichelberger. He is the man you see pictured in the middle. He is getting married on Saturday.
In August, 2000, I met both these men for the first time at Howard University. We stayed in Drew Hall, the mandated freshman boys-only dorm on campus. Harold moved into the dorm room directly across the hall from me, Trey was in the dorm room right next door. As evidenced by the photo, the three of us would go onto graduate together, and along the way become like brothers not only with each other, but a handful of other men who were pallbearers at Trey’s funeral, who will be groomsmen at Harold’s wedding.
Me, Jhirmack, Trey, Harold, Cliff, Weaf, Antijuan, Hank, Hakim, Zach, and Coop, have done our best to stay close post-college. These days many of us live far apart from one another, some across states, others across oceans. Some of us are in touch with specific people more than others, but we have never forgotten how close we all once were. We still remember the unspoken promises we made that when life gets to be the most real for one of us, as many of us as possible will form together.
I don’t know if it was a funeral or at a wedding where I first heard the saying that it is those two occasions that bring the most amount of people together. But I have learned it’s true in ways that are both sad and joyous.
It was actually Jhirmack who called to tell me Trey died in a car accident. The time wasn’t an odd one for him to be calling, so I picked up assuming he was just checking up on me. But after we exchanged Whats Ups, he asked me if I was sitting down. I was, on the edge of my bed, the lights in my apartment were still off because I just got home.
“Trey died in a car accident,” he said.
The words left me numb as Harold filled me in on a couple more details. I asked him who of the crew knew already, and I told him which of them I would reach out to so he didn’t have to be the one to break the news. Once I notified people, I sat back down to gather myself and let out a good cry.
But that first cry wasn’t the hardest cry. The cry I remember the most was at Trey’s funeral. Cliff, the piano player out of the crew, sat down to play the musical selection. The song was “If You Want Me To Stay” by Sly Stone, that was Trey’s favorite song of all time.
My boys later joked with me that during that song, my tears were running down to my elbows I was crying so hard (it should be noted, we all cried at some point), and I’m apt to believe them because I distinctly remember not caring what anyone thought. I needed to let out the pain of that moment, which was not just about having to say goodbye to one of our closest friends.
I was watching Cliff play the piano, I saw Jhirmack up on stage preparing to give the eulogy. The rest of us were sitting next to each other in the first two pews. While crying, I prayed that all of us would not have to come together like this for a very long time. I understand death comes with life, and I do believe in the cliche that God does not make mistakes. But Trey’s death hurt, and the thought of my friends and I coming together anytime soon for the same reason overwhelmed me, made me push my eyes into my palms to the point where they were squeezing out tears that ran down to my elbows. I didn’t want to have to be a pallbearer for any of these men, or have any of these men be my pallbearers for a very long time.
Of course, it was Jhirmack who reached out two years later to tell me he was getting married and y’all know he made your boy a groomsman. Jhirmack’s not the first in the crew to tie the knot (that would be Hakim), but his wedding has made me reflect on life more than I have in the past. There’s a gravitas to this day that I can’t shake and I know I won’t be able to the entire weekend. Jhirmack invited Trey’s family to be a part of the wedding, and Trey’s nephew Jayson will be the bell ringer at the wedding.
God answers prayers fluidly. He doesn’t answer prayers by delivering them fully realized, rather, he puts us on a path towards fulfillment.
Ever since we said goodbye to each other at Trey’s funeral, that is what God has done.
I can’t promise I won’t cry in Arkansas like I did the last time. Who am I kidding? I probably will (sometime before I have to give the reading), because I’m sensitive like that. But I also know I’ll thank God for the path he’s put my friends and I on, for the funerals, for the weddings, for the men who have been and will be pallbearers, for the men who are and will be groomsmen, for us men who are brothers.
Life’s path is paved by God’s work. Watch for the speed bumps, take in the scenery, and most of all, enjoy the ride. It’s quite wild.