Yesterday would have been my friend MJ’s birthday. When he passed away last fall, I didn’t properly grieve. I was using all of my emotional strength to prop myself up for my third graders, but that’s no excuse. I should have honored him, thanked him, properly grieved the way such a dazzling soul deserved. I’m, sorry, MJ, and thank you.
When I first met him, we were working for AmeriCorps, both bringing poetry into schools where people kept telling us “these kids” don’t want to write. We bonded over a shared faith that poetry and art could make the world a better, safer, happier place.
We became closer friends when MJ joined one of my poetry classes at Big Blue Marble. He was open and wholehearted in every writing game, and it was a privilege to stand back and watch his poetry deepen and grow, to watch his already strong voice get stronger and more sure of itself.
What I admire most about my gone-angel-friend is how he put his art first. He had faith in the goodness of his talents and never compromised, didn’t let anything hold him back. He was a true artist and a loving, generous, and deeply kind friend. I don’t tend to believe that my dead loved ones can look out for me, except when I do. His spirit might have been part of what took me through these past few weeks, remembering sitting on the 23 bus talking and believing in poetry, in kids, and most importantly in our real selves.
Thank you, MJ, I will try to honor you by being more like you, by putting friendship, love, and creativity first. I miss you and love you very much, and I hope you knew how much you meant to me, how grateful I am for your enormous heart, your enormous contribution to the lives of children, your friends, and the world.