Tyrik, 

Remember when we were kids and I used to take you out of Time Out after you did something you weren't supposed to do? Ma would put you in the high chair so you could think about your actions, but I'd take you right down.

I remember always feeling the need to rescue you. I felt like everyone saw you as "bad," but I saw you as a kid who wanted, and needed, to be loved tenderly. And, although I didn't know how to say it when I was 5 and you were 1, I wanted to show you someone cared about you. When you would cry, I'd wrap my arms around you.

Remember?

Ma told me the other day how you took her car one Mother's Day while she was sleeping. When she woke up, you had a bouquet of flowers and a bottle of wine waiting for her. She was so surprised that she couldn't even be mad. I bet your bright smile melted her anger away. 

Remember?

The last time we spoke was brief. You'd just driven to South Carolina from Maryland to visit Grandma and I could tell you were tired. I told you I was working on a film and you said: "You need to make a film about our family, son. This shit crazy!" I said, "Yeah, you gon' help me write it?" You started laughing and the conversation trailed off. But I always wanted to follow up and share more about my films and writing because I knew you had so many stories you could tell. 

Remember?

Grandma told me one day y'all were riding around Graniteville, South Carolina, looking at homes. She told me how you wanted to build more homes for low-income folks. Your eyes bright with possibility, you saw things she couldn't know yet. 

She told me how, on the way back, you smiled big and put your hands over hers on the steering wheel and said, "Just you and me, Grandma."

Remember?

I wish I had more recent memories with you. And I think that's where my grief feels most present; yearning to feel closer to you. I felt this urgency to check-in on you, to talk to you, to tell you how much I love you—especially during the last few months of your life. But something always stopped me from reaching out. There was a part of me that didn't think you'd pick up or feared we wouldn't have anything to talk about.

My grief is circular, never-ending, omnipresent. I feel like I'd been grieving before you passed, Tyrik. Grieving the way violence and trauma disrupted our childhood and siblinghood. Grieving the way abuse estranged us from each other. Grieving not knowing how to talk about mental illness and PTSD in our family.

Within my grief is a deep yearning I have for familial closeness and connection that has felt so hard to obtain. I'm not sure if we've ever experienced it together. And I resent that. I resent that we could not, as a family, heal enough to come together and love each other. 

I thought we had time. 

When you passed, I felt my grief double in size; my pain deepened. Stolen from us were all the memories we could've and would've had if you were still here. I wanted to show you how much I loved you. I wanted to write stories with you, create films with you, and just exist with you.

I have this photo I took of you on my altar.  Now, when I speak your name, remember your smile and the memories we shared, I feel your arms wrapped around me and know you're here.


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Ireashia M. Bennett is a storyteller, filmmaker, and writer whose work aims to create worlds, and document moments, where Black queer, disabled folks can exist in ease, complexity, and pleasure. Their work takes the form of new media, short and experimental films, as well as written and multimedia essays. They are a recipient of the two-year RaD Lab + Outside the Walls fellowship at Threewalls and the SPARK Grant from the Chicago Artists Coalition. Their artistic work has been exhibited in art spaces such as the Sullivan Galleries, Arts Incubator, Stony Island Arts Bank, and Chicago Art Department in Chicago as well as nationally at the Museum of African American History in Boston, MA.