As much as I love writing…as much as I need to write in order to feel sane…there are still certain types of pieces that I could never look forward to composing.
This is one of them.
Saturday morning (February 6, 2016) I woke up out of my sleep from a terrible dream. I’d dreamed about the death of someone I know, but I’m not very close to. The sorrow I felt in my dream carried on to real life because I realized that I had tears in my eyes as and when I woke up. I immediately sent a text message to a family member of the person I’d dreamed about, telling them to check on their loved one and I felt better…like maybe that person would get the help they needed. I felt that the possible problem had been solved.
I was wrong.
Later that morning, I logged on to Facebook and saw someone allude to something bad happening to my former co-worker and friend as they wished him a happy birthday. I checked his page to see if he’d made a remark about whatever had happened but all I saw was birthday wishes so I didn’t think much of it.
Hours later I received a phone call that I will never forget.
DeAngelo Gant Brown or “Gant” as I called him, was found dead from a suspected homicide on his birthday in his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi. Even as I type these words I’m telling myself that this isn’t real.
I’m waiting on him to announce that he’s OK.
I keep looking at his Snapchat waiting on a new story to show up but it isn’t.
And it won’t.
If you knew DeAngelo, you knew a vibrant young man with bright eyes and big dreams. I’m almost certain that he touched your life in some way whether it was by inspiring you with his story and/or intelligence or if he told you a funny joke that you laughed about for the rest of the day. Either way, he’s not someone that can easily be forgotten.
I had the pleasure and honor of working with DeAngelo as a fellow Undergraduate Recruiter for our alma mater, Jackson State University. We started our jobs on the same day and I remember being slightly intimidated by him because he already knew the position so well. There was no reason to be intimidated, as I soon found out, because he made sure that he taught me everything he knew….while entertaining me at the same time.
Because we were both new hires (even though he’d worked as a student worker in the department before being hired), we had to spend a lot of time together to get the hang of things.
We traveled to several cities together to go on recruiting visits so after hours in the car and nights of dinner together to pass the time, you can guess that we got to know each other pretty well. We talked about our dreams and hopes beyond being recruiters, we debated about Michael Brown’s death and why it was important to our culture, we laughed about the craziness within our department, we joked and imitated our beloved alumni members and most importantly, we talked about Christ.
What I remember most about DeAngelo, and this is no lie, is his love for Christ and how important it was for him to be great. I give him the credit for me not being ashamed to worship in front of my friends. Our first trip together was to Atlanta on a mission to welcome incoming freshman to JSU. He insisted on listening to gospel (yes, gospel) for the majority of the ride.
I didn’t think it was weird, but it definitely took me by surprise. I remember trying to wrap my head around a young, educated, gainfully employed man that was genuinely God fearing and unafraid to show it. I was so impressed and I knew then that he was special.
That’s why I must encourage you to cry the right kind of tears for him.
It hurts tremendously to know he was taken away from us so soon and under such tragic circumstances. It’s down right unfair and upsetting. I’d be lying to you if I told you that I’m not angry…because I am. Actually, I’m pissed off.
I don’t understand why DeAngelo had to lose his life. I don’t understand why he had to die alone on his birthday. I don’t understand why he was taken away after getting a new job and starting his life in a new city. It hurts to imagine what his last moments were like…what he was thinking as his life slipped away. I hope there was someone to greet him on the other side and I pray that his death was as serene as it could possibly be.
I’m still in shock and it’s difficult to write this but I’m comforted by one thing…
DeAngelo is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I’m sure of this. In fact, I’ve never been so sure about someone’s eternal destiny as I am about his. That’s why I have to check myself when I’m crying.
I can’t cry because he lost his life at the hands of someone else and at the age of 24. I can’t cry because of the circumstances surrounding his death. I can’t even cry because of what he could have or should have accomplished.
But I can cry because of the ways he touched my life. I can cry because of all the wonderful memories that still live in my heart and how much happiness they brought me then. I can cry because he is in a much better place than this evil world we live in. I can cry because DeAngelo taught me how to be unafraid of my salvation and to praise God wherever I’m at, no matter who is around.
If you must cry, try really hard to cry tears of joy and happiness. Not only is that what he would want, but those are the only type of tears he would’ve ever caused you to cry anyways.
In Loving Memory
DeAngelo Darrius Gant Brown