Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Letter to the Harris Family and "Mona"

The world lost an amazing woman this week. She changed my life. Here is a link to Mrs. Harris' obituary. After the letter is a poem I wrote to remember Mrs. Harris.

Dear Harris Family:

For 17 years, you have welcomed me into your lives, and into your home. I have spent Thanksgivings, Christmases, and Easters with you. I have met Grandmas and Aunties, cousins and siblings. I can remember Marcus before Shelley, Shane before potty training, and Nicole when she started dating Erik....the first time.

I remember the first time I met Mrs. Harris. It was after the regional speech tournament. I had just won a medal for storytelling and Mrs. Harris gave me a ride home from South High School. I think I talked non-stop through the entire ride from S. Minneapolis to Camden. That poor woman.

Over the last almost 20 years, your family has become my family. If I didn’t show up for a holiday, I heard about it the next holiday...from the entire family (including new relatives that I hadn’t even met yet).

When I heard Mrs. Harris was sick, I wasn’t worried even a little bit. I had just lost my cousin to cancer. So I refused to believe that God would take away two people that I loved from the same disease. Plus, I thoroughly believed that nothing short of the second coming would move Mrs. Harris from here to Heaven. That woman was a force of nature. But, God had other plans for Mrs. Harris, and, as happens more often than I like, his plans and my plans weren’t the same. Good thing He is running things and not me. When I got the call from Noodle last weekend that Mrs. Harris was in hospice, I quite seriously was unbelieving and stunned. I had just spoken to her not too long previous to that. I had just spoken with Mr. Harris more recent than that. When Noodle called to tell me that Mrs. Harris had gone home to her King, I was walking down the street. And I felt like the world had gotten colder and darker. A great light was taken away from all of us on Monday.

I believe in God. I believe in his mercy, his love, and his justice. I don’t understand Him sometimes. And I don’t undestand this. Perhaps I am selfish. But I want to hear Mrs. Harris’s laugh again. I want to see her smile. I want her to hug me. She once came to visit me in the hospital. I had been with friends all evening, and I had not cried. But when the nurse said that she was there. When I saw her. When that beautiful spirit walked into my darkness, the glory of God was made manifest and for a moment, I had hope and the darkness was blasted away by the power of her spirit. She held me as I cried. She made me believe that I would be ok. Mrs. Harris knew all my secrets and she still loved me. She taught me that I didn’t have to hide anymore. That I was worthy of being loved. I never really got to tell her what that meant to me. She was the angel God sent to me that day. She never treated me any differently. Her heart and her home opened wider to me. And I thank God that Mrs. Harris allowed me to be a part of her life.

I wish I could be there with you all today. I wish I could hug Mr. Harris and thank him for 17 years of laughter. I wish I could hug Marcus and tell him thank you for the years of joking and welcome. I wish I could hug Shane and thank him for being a part of my family. Most of all I wish I could hug Noodle, my big sister, my friend, and give back some of the love and warmth that she has given to me since I was 14 years old.

I never once called Mrs. Harris by her first name. I was raised old school by my Mom. And the parents of friends are Mr. and Mrs. Period. But, I thought, this one time, Mrs. Harris wouldn’t mind.



I remember her smile, can call it to memory
like her laughter
like her phone number
the only one
besides my lover’s
that I have memorized

I remember the angel
that walked in a mother’s clothing
in a minister’s robe
in a sister’s body
in a wife’s spirit
in a friend’s embrace
who cooked banquets
fed spirits
til they swelled
with blessings
til they filled
with hope

I remember the woman
who loved me
when I was too lost
too alone
too scared
too broken
too heart worn
too burdened
too wounded
to love myself

I remember the gift
that opened her home
and her heart
her family
and her life
to an awkward boy
who loved her daughter
who laughed too loudly
who stayed away too long
who left a voicemail
to say goodbye

I remember the teacher
who dedicated her life
and her body
her wisdom
and her strength
to tear down obstacles
to clear paths
to build roads and bridges
into brighter futures
for Northside children
that the world
tried to ignore
or throw away

I remember Mrs. Harris
the woman
the gift
the teacher
the bridge builder
the wife
the Grandma
the Sister
the Mother
the friend
the angel
that God called home too soon

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-Oakland, CA
-12 February 2009

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