Today marks the 19th Anniversary of my son’s tragic death. Mickarl D. Thomas, Jr (Mikey) was 17 years old and had just graduated with his twin sister, Michelle, from Milton High School here in Massachusetts. The world was his. He would have started Morehouse College on a full academic scholarship that fall, but it was not meant to be. In the early morning of June 14, 1997 the world that I knew ended and my “new normal” began.
He died at a party hosted by family friends after drinking alcohol and going for a joy ride in a friend’s fancy sports car. All by himself, unbeknownst to anyone at the party. He was young, impulsive, carefree and happy to be alive. Suddenly he lost control of the car, smashed into a neighbor’s stone retaining wall and died within minutes.
My joy, happiness and memories of his graduation and the party I had thrown at my own house days earlier had turned to misery and the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life. Gone was his chance of graduating from Morehouse and entering law school to become a lawyer like his Uncle Wilson. Gone was the chance for me to see him married with children of his own. Gone was the loving relationship he had with his twin sister, older sister, father, stepmother, uncles, aunts, cousins, friends and so many more who loved Mikey.
It is PAINFUL to lose a child. At any age. For any reason.
And it is in that spirit that I reach out to the parents of the Orlando Massacre. I know their pain. Different circumstances but the same pain. My son was straight. Many of the Orlando victims were gay. But it’s the SAME PAIN. The funerals that are being planned this week remind me of the cemetery plot, casket and burial arrangements I had to make in the midst of family celebrations held just one week earlier.
We know what happened at the Pulse Nightclub on Saturday June 11, 2016. Over 300 mostly young adults, both gay and straight hanging out in then club for Latin Night during Gay Pride Month. And in the midst of their laughter and dancing lurked an angry, twisted young American who decided to mark the evening with brutality, slaughter and violence. Some 49 killed. Some 53 wounded. And mothers, fathers, siblings, other family members and friends now making the same funeral arrangements I made some 19 years ago.
Last year it was Emanuel AME Church, my sister church in Charleston, South Carolina. Same pain and suffering. And pick a country anywhere in the world from Syria to France To Kenya. The parental pain of burying a child who never comes home is the same.
Shortly after my son’s death, I started a commemorative month called STUDENT SAFETY MONTH to honor my son and call attention to the importance of keeping young people safe, alive and protected. I invite you to visit the webpage and download the FREE KIT that will educate, inform and inspire you to action. Here’s the link:
To young people of all races, ethnicities, ages. Gay, straight or trans. Regardless of where you live. I pray for your safety and hope that you may live a long, rich and fulfilling life.
And to the mothers, fathers and family members of the Orlando victims..including Christina Grimmie, the young YouTube celebrity gunned down in Orlando days before the Massacre … May God comfort and keep you in the long days and nights ahead. Feel free to call me at 508 947-5755 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you ever want a shoulder to lean on.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this sad occasion in our nation’s history.
And may the joy, laughter and spirit of my son live in our hearts forever.
-Carole Copeland Thomas
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Carole Copeland Thomas is a 27 year speaker, trainer and consultant specializing in global diversity, empowerment, multiculturalism and leadership issues.