My former colleague and friend Rebekah Spicuglia has written such an honest reflection on losing her son Oscar to violence when he was only 17. Rebekah and I worked together at Race Forward for about 8 years. I never met Oscar, but I heard about him all the time. I know how much Rebekah cherished his visits to New York and how conflicted she felt about not being able to mother him full time.
Like the best writing, this piece reveals so much in the context of a story of shocking loss and grief. Rebekah is white; Oscar's father is a Mexican immigrant. Poverty, race, migration and family separation are among the themes of her family story. In their context, Rebekah considers her struggles to be a good mother from far away, the judgements leveled at Oscar after his death, and what it takes to keep going.
Reading this made me think long and hard about how we build community, and what happens when someone in our community hits trouble. I've known Rebekah for more than a decade now, and we were colleagues when Oscar was killed, but I learned so much about her (and him) from this essay. Even if you know someone "well," it's worth asking questions to know them better, especially about their early life.
I had Lasik eye surgery on Jan. 7, 2015, coincidentally my son’s 17th birthday and his last. For the first time, I was able to see without glasses. It was life-changing, one of the best things I ever did for myself for all the reasons people say.
When Oscar was murdered six months later, I discovered an additional benefit: It simplified crying. No more distracted concerns about contacts floating away. No fogging up glasses or dramatically setting them aside to wipe away tears. No visual impairment blurring the concerned faces of those around me, or the hard edges of what had happened. When Oscar died, I had 20/20 vision to take it all in.
I had raised a child, through all his struggles, almost to a man, while raising myself to a woman, through all my own struggles. I’d seen light at the end of a very long tunnel, light enough to breathe, only to come out the other side to this apocalypse where Oscar was gone.