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Salute To An Elder

It was a beautiful Spring afternoon in the city of Los Angeles. I had just gotten through with some errands when I stopped at a local McDonald’s after getting off the bus. The place was often lively when I visited; there would be colorful conversations between gentlemen as they played Chess or Spades. I’d see some of my friends there too, from around the way. But there was always one man I’d sit and talk with, anytime I came through to purchase a pack of chocolate chip cookies and a Sprite with no ice. This was around 2014, I’d like to say.

He’d sit at the corner table closest to the door and near the cash registers, sipping his tea and reading his Bible. He was much older than I was, enough to be my grandfather, so I would often show him the utmost respect. Among African families, be they blood or extended (spiritual), the eldest is regarded as the highest order within the group. Because of that, I often addressed him as Elder whenever we would converse. Me being a young woman in his presence, I made sure that I carried myself with dignity, integrity, grace, and decorum. The Elder would ask me questions to keep my mind sharp, and we would sometimes discuss what to do as a people. He would even share a scripture with me, and I would bring up a current event corresponding with said scripture.

For years, I’d have moments like this with the Elder. We’d sit and chat about spirituality and scripture while he had his tea and apple pie, and I had my cookies and Sprite. There were times that some of my friends would join us when he had something to say, or they’d already be there when I got in. Other times, I’d stop by and engage in another meaningful conversation after visiting the African drum circle every Sunday at Leimert Park, since Mickey D’s was right around the corner. One thing was certain; the Elder would always give me something to think about after a talk and a snack.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, a lot of businesses were forced to close its dining areas to prevent Covid from spreading. As a result, there would be no more insightful conversations with the Elder and my buddies. There would be no more lively games of Chess, Spades, or Dominoes. The virus had brought everything to a halt.

I often wondered if the Elder would be okay, considering he was up there in years and that he was more at risk of contracting the virus. Thinking back on a conversation we had about knowledge of self, I had shared a message with him that I try to live by, for as long as I am able to breathe. These were my words: “If you’re not being yourself, then you’re not being true to yourself.” This was after he would give me lessons on scripture.

I eventually found out from a friend of mine that the Elder passed away as the pandemic was taking its toll on everybody. My heart was saddened by the news, but I knew that this was bound to happen. I dedicate this story to the Elder, for he was like a grandfather to me. He was a gentle and wise soul. And to show my respects, I will honor him as an Ancestor. The lessons he taught me, I will carry them with me in my spirit and DNA.

Thank you, Elder, for sharing your wisdom. May The Almighty Creator protect you, and may the Ancestors guide you. I am truly proud to have known such a kind spirit as yourself, and I am grateful to you.


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