How’s it going? Last night I heard some bad news-my cousin, Jason Smallwood had died. Normally, when it came to death, particularly death within my family, I always had a large amount of emotional detachment from the situation. In other words, when other family members died, my reaction was the same as if you had heard a celebrity died, “Oh, so and so died. That’s sad.” When I heard Jason died yesterday, my reaction was completely different-for the first time, I actually felt some kind of way about the situation. Granted, I still didn’t shed a tear because that’s not how I’m put together, but I could feel my stomach hurting and my temperature rising. Jason was the first person aside from my parents to make me feel good about who I am. I draw a lot of my inspiration from him because he was also the first person I saw that would do whatever he wanted to do at any given moment. He wanted to be a chef once and just started cooking one day and got really good at it. He decided one day that he wanted to be a rapper and he got close to getting signed. Needless to say, he could touch anything and suddenly become good at it with little work.
My greatest memory was when I was 14 and I finally got to have a real conversation with him. One of the first things he told me was that he was proud of me and that he thought I could do anything I wanted because I was so smart. I used to get teased for being smart and I always thought that was a curse, but when I heard it from Jason, a guy with a new Lexus and the freshest clothes and gadgets, it suddenly was cool to me to be smart. He showed me some of his raps and told me about his hustle. That was the first time I saw an example of someone who was doing “anything they put their mind to”. It always saddened me that he never lived up to his potential.
Another aspect of Jason’s death that scared me was it gave me a glimpse into my own mortality. When I was younger, a good amount of what I would call “fringe relatives”, relatives that you never really saw, were dying so death seemed like such a far away occurrence, something that only happened to the unlucky. Jason marks the first relatively close relative that I have that died. From here on out, any relative that dies after him is going to hit even harder each time and that scares me, it means that more people I love are closer to death than ever before. I find it ironic that back home, my closest friends call me “J-Smalls”. That was Jason’s rap name and to an extent, I am an extension of him and my whole family. Seeing how he ran into some pitfalls makes me want to avoid his same mistakes and seeing what he was able to do with his limited opportunities makes me want to completely maximize mine. Hopefully, I can be blessed enough to respect his memory and the memory of my family by reaching heights that they used to dream about. What was the point of them living and dying if the next relative doesn’t do better than they did?