Those who know me already know I am a big fan of the television show What Would You Do? I always hold hope that most people would do the right thing in any situation. I do not like to think otherwise. Maybe that makes me naïve or optimistic. This television show presents real-life situations to see how people would react and if they would step up to speak up and support or defend others.
In the first scenario, they showed an interracial couple in a public place and had actors and actresses make comments on how they should “be with their own.” People would step in to defend the couple from the bullies. I was moved at seeing this. It was very emotional for me. If people were not so judgmental, so intolerable, this world would be peaceful and abundant with love. I know this hope is unrealistic, but it is wonderful to hope and dream. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed this same hope and dream so well.
If everyone could just see past the shell and into the soul and be accepting, Mike would be alive today.
Back in 1973 I had a friend, Mike, who was born of an interracial marriage. Mike’s mother was black and his father was white. His father’s family had disowned them all, so there was no contact with that side of the family. And Mike said his mother’s side was not very close either. He was having great difficulty fitting in with either racial group, both in the family and out in the world. Girls of both races would tell him they felt he should date “in his own race.” Yet he was both, and such a handsome blend at that. All he wanted was to find love with someone special. Mike and I were dear friends, could talk about many things, and not fear exposing our feelings. He called me his ‘pale sister. ‘
He and I and several other friends would hang out together; such a joyful group, going dancing, on picnics, to the beach, and always having fun just being ourselves—loving and accepting. But sometimes Mike would feel a bit “down” and we would talk, he voicing that he felt he would always be alone, and me assuring him that one day he would meet the perfect woman who would love him for him, for the lovely soul he was.
One night we all went out dancing together, laughing and enjoying ourselves and our friendships. He was happy, smiling and dancing, and enjoying the evening. We danced at one club until they closed at 2 a.m. and then all of us went to a place called After Hours where we danced until 5 a.m. We were so young and full of energy! After the evening was over, I drove Mike back to his place, and we exchanged hugs and good-byes. I said to him, “Call me tomorrow. Maybe we can all go somewhere, continue the fun.”
The next morning I received a call from a mutual friend, and he was very upset. Eventually he was able to tell me that Mike was dead. Mike had shot himself. He had committed suicide.
I remember the words swimming in my head-- so unbelievable, so incomprehensible. Why? Just several hours before we had all been dancing, laughing, and enjoying camaraderie. He was so happy. He had been laughing. How could this horror have happened? Why? Could I have done something to prevent it? Why didn’t he call me or someone and talk?
Such a handsome young man with so much promise, so much to give, was gone. I would never again see those stunning blue eyes, hear his staccato laughter, and experience the warmth of his heart.
We friends gathered together at my duplex that day, all of us stunned, sad and not really knowing how to handle this. We were so young. We cried, hugged, talked hugged, and felt traumatized. Mike was in the Marine Corp, so they were sending his body to Texas where his parents lived. We would have no goodbye.
We all decided to gather together and have an evening service of our own, a private farewell, at Laguna Niguel Beach (we were in S. Calif.) where Mike had so enjoyed spending time. One friend played guitar and we all sang, sobs intertwined with the words. We “spoke” to Mike, expressing how we cared for him, how we will miss him, and relating special memories with him. All of us uttered a ‘why,’ none of us able to understand. We even felt like we should have known, should have been able to save him, that we had somehow let him down. That cloud of a feeling still haunts me when something flings me back into that memory.
I only have one photo that a friend had taken of Mike and me together. Unfortunately I had been waving at friends, so my face is blocked. But you can see Mike’s smile. I will cherish that.