Eulogy: For Reverend DePayne Middleton Doctor

depayne

 

 

 

 

 

My beautiful songbird

She’s going to be missed in church, in school, everywhere

Always a warm and enthusiastic leader

A gracious person who always had time for people

When people said ‘pray for me,’ she would stop and pray right there

She prayed for that young man

Faced with that danger, she gave praise

We know she did

We know where she is

Columbia College, BA in biology;

Southern Wesleyan University, master’s in management;

Community Development Block Grant Program, director;

Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, minister; choir member; mother

of four. You were planning to take your daughter to basketball practice.

You were planning to study for the AME ministry, like your father

before. You were planning on ushering kids into college–

you’d just taken that job in admissions, after years of writing grants.

What are applications but supplications?

What are grants but prayers on paper?

You always placed yourself, it seems, at the gates of a dream.

You understood that if you want something, you must ask for it, clearly,

and your family has asked this, clearly, of us–

that we move away from the sidelines and unite,

regardless of faith, to seek an end to hatred;

that we remove the Confederate flag

from the statehouse grounds;

that we recognize the connection

between racism, hate crimes, and racialized policing;

that we see see this attack on their family

as an attack on ours. Let these prayers come to pass,

on earth as it is in heaven, and as we approach the gates,

Reverend Doctor,

let our actions speak louder than words.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the ninth and final poem of a series honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of Reverend DePayne Middleton Doctor’s friends, family, and coworkers. The details of her life and professional career are from an article by the Charleston Post and Courier and a statement from Southern Wesleyan University, where Doctor had recently taken a job as an admissions counselor, and which officials recently announced will offer full four-year scholarships to each of DePayne’s children. The words that conclude this poem are paraphrased from a powerful statement issued by Middleton Doctor’s family following her death. I encourage you to read the rest of it here.

Eulogy: For Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr.

Rev. Simmons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gentle man with an easy smile

Dependable, an excellent administrator

He had a very good sense of humor

This man baptized me, married my parents, and eulogized my granny

A distinguished man who served his God, country, and community well

Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart: Allen University, Phi Beta Sigma;

Master’s of Divinity; pastor; father, grandfather.

How many times did you wonder if today was the day

you would die? Some days last longer than others, we know,

and the world must have slowed in its rotation the hour

enemy fire found you, the young black soldier

in that green heat, when your bright blood 

sought the earth. Did it return to you,

that green day, when enemy fire, as if traveling through time,

came to reclaim you? Those hours in the ambulance, the hospital,

the operating room must have been some of the longest

in recorded history. They draped the American flag over your casket

as your children and grandchildren lifted you up

in song, and it seemed as if the country itself, some essential part,

would descend into the earth that day. But you did not die young

unlike so many others whose names the nation

has lately learned to mourn. You died at seventy-four,

after three decades of saving souls; your children, grandchildren

are beautiful; and all the days you did not die can never now be

taken from you. Your family, not the enemy, had the final word:

“Although he died at the hands of hate,

he lived in the hands of love.”

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the eighth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of people who knew Reverend Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. Many of the details included in the second part are based on an article from Charleston’s Post and Courier, which noted that Rev. Simmons was the only victim of the Charleston massacre who survived long enough to be taken to the hospital, where he died on the operating table. The words that close this poem are from a statement issued by Reverend Simmons’s family.

Eulogy: For Myra Thompson

myra-thompson-singleton

 

 

 

 

She was sassy, very smart, just kind and loving

She was a part of an amazing sisterhood

A tireless woman

Her devotion to Mother Emanuel…was second only to her commitment to her family

You can tell by the crowd what kind of person she was

Bachelor’s degree in English education; two master’s degrees;

Delta Sigma Theta; schoolteacher; guidance counselor;

mother; grandmother; sister; friend.

Though one outlet noted you only as the wife

of Reverend Thompson, you had that very evening

received your certificate to preach, and preach you did,

the Parable of the Soil, which tells us of the seed

sown on the path, which the deceiver will brush away;

the seed sown on rocks, which will grow but last only until

persecution comes along; the seed sown on thorns,

which will grow but fail to fruit, overwhelmed

by the concerns of the world; and finally,

of the seed sown on fertile soil, which will grow, produce fruit,

and in time a crop—some thirty, some sixty,

some a hundred times what was sown.

Teacher, preacher, Mrs. Thompson,

Reverend Pinckney, Reverend Coleman-Singleton,

Reverend Simmons, and Reverend Middleton-Doctor

all came to share your lesson. You were calling forth

the word, that seed, broadcasting it

farther than you knew, and already

many hearts have hardened. Already, many deceivers

have brushed those seeds away; already,

the cares of the world have sought to overwhelm

that good seed, in our time of need, taking root.

Some have sought to persecute those tender shoots with fire,

seemingly unaware that such destruction is in fact,

an ancient farming technique. You warned us of this

with your next-to-last breath, but reminded us too

that wherever the seeds of justice fall

across this fertile land, a hundred more

one day will take root.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the seventh of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of people who knew Myra Thompson, culled from various sources, including a story by ABC News. And though Buzzfeed noted only that she was the wife of Reverend Anthony Thompson, a vicar at Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopalian Church, the Charleston Post and Courier fills out her life and legacy in much greater detail. The Biblical scripture paraphrased in this poem is from Mark 4:14-20.

Eulogy: Ethel Lee Lance

EthelLeeLance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She was funny and a pleasure to be around

A strong woman who kept the family together

Granny was the heart of the family

I could call on her for anything

If she saw something wrong, she’d tell you

She wasn’t going to sugar-coat it

But she was happy, full of joy

Custodian, noun–

: someone who keeps and protects something valuable for another person

: a person who cleans and takes care of a building.

For thirty years, you kept that church

next to godliness, and the Gaillard Auditorium too,

where you took your children and grandchildren

to see the ballet, the symphony, the boys choir on tour.

All such riches were yours.

Others may have overlooked your stature, swept past

the lady with the broom, but there was nothing that belonged to them

that did not belong to you. A sexton of the church,

you rang that bell, calling on Christians to remember,

even as those recent, radical testaments

challenged them to forgive. 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the sixth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of Ethel Lee Lance’s grandson, Jon Quil Lance, her daughter, Esther Lance, and her former coworker, Cam Patterson. Ethel Lee Lance was seventy, a mother of five, grandmother of seven, and great-grandmother of four; she was known to spoil children by buying them gifts and taking them to the movies. She was the cousin of Susie Jackson, who was also killed in the Charleston massacre.

Eulogy: For Susie Jackson

 

SusieJackson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A loving person

She had no animosity toward nobody

She took care of this family for generations

She took in others

She was just that type of person

She taught us never to hate

Matriarch of the family; trustee of the church;

mother of two, one of whom credits you

with raising fifty more.  You brought up your kids

in the East Side projects. When your son moved out,

you took in two young people who needed a place to stay.

That, they say, was just your way. Cousins, nieces, nephews,

grands and greats–you dried tears, bandaged knees,

fed them on love and collard greens, and, one great-nephew said,

taught them right from wrong. One nephew died trying to save you.

You were fond of Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.”

If only those who’d raised the child

who sent you on to glory

had started him off that way,

you might have made it to that family reunion

you’d been looking forward to.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the fifth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of Susie Jackson’s family members. Many of the details about the keystone role she played in her family are taken from an article in Charleston’s Post and Courier. At 87, she was the oldest of the victims of the Charleston shooting; her nephew TyWanza Sanders, died trying to save her.

Eulogy: For TyWanza Sanders

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A quiet, well-known student, committed to his education

A young man filled with promise

A renaissance man of sorts

A warm and helpful spirit 

The peacemaker of the family

He always had a smile on his face

It was impossible not to like him

Allen University grad, Business Administration; poet, musician,

skateboarder; hair stylist. “Ambition over adversity,” you said.

“I want to go to grad school,” you said. Humble but driven,

you always told your mother you’d be famous. At twenty-six,

the youngest of those gathered to pray,

you faced the white man who’d pulled a gun

in the midst of your loved ones

and said calmly, “You don’t have to do this.”

He insisted that he did. You asked that he shoot you instead

of your eighty-seven-year-old grandmother.

He replied that it did not matter. He was

going to shoot you all. You dove to save her. You were

the first to fall. Your mother and niece survived

by playing dead, and there is no doubt

some part of them did indeed

die that day. There are so many things you could have been

famous for. No one imagined

it would be this.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the fourth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are those of people who knew TyWanza Sanders, including college administrators, family members, and close friends. The moving story of his heroism on the night of the tragedy are related in a story by the New York Times. Detailed reminiscences on his life from his four close friends, his “band of brothers,” appear in a recent article from Vibe.

Eulogy: For Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

sharonda-coleman-singleton-800

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, Reverend Chineta. This is Sharonda.

I know it has been some time since we talked,

but I want you to know that I love you.

All things are well. All things are good. 

I do want you to to know 

that all things are good. 

High school track star,

pastor, mother, teacher, coach–

she was a lady, first, he said,

elegant and articulate, the best

speech pathologist he had ever worked with.

Coach, your son plays college ball.

Mrs. Singleton, your children speak beautifully

of you. Pastor, Reverend Chineta, whom you called

to leave that message, thinks you knew

that you were called. She’s in a better place,

they say, which may be true.

She made this place a better place.

This we know is true, though all may not yet

be well.

 

The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the third of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.

The words that open this poem are from a voicemail that Sharonda Coleman-Singleton left for her college friend and fellow pastor Chineta Goodjoin two weeks before her death. Some of the words in the second half of the poem are from a tribute to Mrs. Singleton from her children and those who knew her at Goose Creek High School, where she had taught since 2007. Reminiscences on her life and legacy appear on the high school’s athletic association’s Facebook page.