It’s a date I still mark
as a point of reference,
the apogee of a level of tribulation and pain
I haven’t known hence.
I’d just arrived in JFK from a dash to Haiti
– a shock to my view of the world, by itself.
Only a week earlier,
my ex had used my mother’s funeral
as an opportunity to try to snatch my kids,
and learning an order of protection
would take time,
my family sent me to the courts of Port au Prince,
for a hasty divorce,
thinking foolishly that one piece of paper
was as good as another.
To shield me from a husband’s rage.
Motherless and homeless
on that 8th of December,
I stepped off the plane relieved,
to at least be back in the USA,
where we don’t throw our poor
out on the streets,
and the sound of gunfire
didn’t pierce the night.
I read the newsstand headlines:
and thought at first they meant the Russian,
the Communist revolutionary
who died long, long ago…
It was John,
the revolutionary who dared to imagine,
caught in the gunfire of a New York City night.
Where was his order of protection?
My mother didn’t care much for the Beatles.
She blamed them for the drug culture
of my generation.
I remember begging,
if she’d just listen to the words,
she’d realize that
they believed in a lot of the same things
– except for the drugs.
In the days that followed,
I often wondered
if my mother would get to meet John,
in that other place of being,
where they were both newcomers.
Maybe standing in line for orientation,
they would strike up a conversation,
seeing as my mother never passed up a chance
to have a spirited debate.
I was certain they would like one another.
I felt my mother’s presence
often in the weeks that followed.
but my life only grew worse.
My family tried to shroud me and my children
in a cloak of invisibility
that didn’t protect me
any more than the Haitian divorce.
There are worse things than physical pain.
There is the day your son
doesn’t come home from school.
Anything life would throw out to test my mettle
would pale to the grief and loss
of that long winter.
The 8th of December
was just a day in the middle of it
– the day Lennon died.
It wouldn’t be the last terrible time in my life
But it was the worst.
And knowing I could survive even that,
Knowing I could lean on my family,
no matter what,
Knowing I was made of stronger stuff
than loss and grief and death…
That’s what I remember on the 8th of December.