Did you know– In order for a caterpillar to become a butterfly, the caterpillar has to fall apart completely, decompose down to its very essence and devoid of any shape or consciousness?
It literally dies. There’s nothing left of it. Yet, the butterfly puts itself together from this liquid essence through a process called:
Pain is an inevitable part of life.
Pain can manifest in our bodies physically and emotionally.
Hurt is undoubtedly one of the most inescapable things in life. The Kubler-Ross model suggests there are five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. According to this model, I'm in stage one.
July 6th, 2022 4pm will be the day that I will never forget.
I had just gotten back into my office after a very important meeting. I picked up my phone to check the time and saw that I had several missed calls and a few missed text messages. The first text message I read said "Answer your phone now!" from my sister. I immediately called her.
My sister answers the phone, sobbing uncontrollably and hardly able to articulate her words,
"He didn't make it Najiyyah."
Confused, I asked "who didn't make it?" My sister says through her tears "Daquan."
Immediately my heart drops to the pit of my stomach. I dropped my phone. I became numb. I couldn't move, it's like everything around me stopped. I grabbed all of my belongings as quickly as I could. I told my team that I had a family emergency and ran our of the building. I ran to my car, and as soon as I sat down in my car, my tears began to fall uncontrollably. I was in utter disbelief trying to understand what my sister told me.
My baby brother was no longer alive. He was pronounced dead at 3:30pm.
The rest of that day and the days after seem like such a blur to me. The world around me continued to move, my world stopped.
Physically I am here but mentally and emotionally I am not.
My brother's murder made the news like most of the murders have in Philly. His murder was also captured on a ring doorbell camera. I regret watching that video.
A part of me wanted to see if I could identify his murderers. The other part of me wanted to see him alive just one more time.
On instagram I had several unread DM's. The first post on my timeline was from No Gun-zone, a Philly blog that highlights the murders in the city. In black and white was the story of my brother's murder.
At that time, he had not been identified. The picture posted along with the online news article was a picture of the intersection in which he was gunned down and the Police surrounding the crime scene.
That's just the world we live in. News travels fast. I thought to myself in that moment, it's funny how I have scrolled down on social media many times and would see something on the news that would make my heart ache for the family that lost their loved one and now we're that family who lost a loved one to gun violence.
Helping to plan my brother's Janazah was one of the hardest things I ever had to do.
As I reached out to different places to get a quote on the cost of his services, I was asked the following, "how many death certificates do you need? how many obituaries? do you have someone to wash his body?
In that moment I froze again.
I had never been asked those types of questions. I couldn't believe that we were making these arrangements. It was completely surreal to me and still is. Tears ran down my face as I spoke to the representative regarding my brother's funeral arrangements.
July 11th, 2022, I laid my baby brother to rest.
Surrounded by my family. I said my final goodbyes to my baby boy. That day was so hard for me. Whenever I close my eyes I can see his body in that pine box. He looked so peaceful. He looked as if he was sleeping. It broke my heart to watch them put him in the ground.
At 12:30am on July 12th, I couldn't sleep.
I had the persistent urge to go to the burial grounds to sit with him. A part of me wanted to get in the grave with him. My mind kept telling me that he was all alone even though I knew that it was not the case.
The next few days, that thought would run through my mind and I would have the urge to go sit with him. To lay on his grave. To simply be with him again. Every time I would see a picture of him I would burst into tears.
My poor boy didn't deserve to go out like that. 11 shots to his body and as he tried to run away from the gunfire he was hit by a car. I watched the car roll over his little body.
That video of his death made me sick to my stomach.
During one of my many sleepless nights, God put it in my spirit to do something special in remembrance of my baby brother.
It's funny how things come full circle.
I am a transformational speaker, author and self love educator. I always preach about turning pain to purpose and power. I help other women do the same.
When I initially began this journey, I was healing through the pain of my sexual abuse. As I sat in prayer this morning, I said "God, when I said I wanted to turn pain into purpose I didn't mean in this way."
A week before my brother's death I asked God to give me a clear vision of what he wanted me to do next in my life and to provide me with the resources and connections to get it done.
Two weeks prior to my brother's murder, I sat in a leadership meeting discussing ways to expand my prevention program for youth to help mitigate the gun violence in the city. In an odd way, God was preparing me for this loss and the next part of my journey of purpose.
“Don't let anyone tell you that these bad things happen and then everyone goes back to "normal"... You don't have to be 'everyone.' Stay with the grief. Stay with the anger. Stay troubled by it all. Stay open-hearted to those who grieve. Stay tuned to those working for change.”
– Morgan Harper Nichols
TOB BLOG | A Writers Path for Healing |
Najiyyah Cheeseboro, holding a MSW with 14 years of experience in the field of Social Services, is a Self-Love Educator, Author, Facilitator, and Transformational Speaker. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old daughter named Makayla.
Her purpose in life is to help women transform their lives and empower them to heal and love themselves.
“I believe that once the little girl is healed, the woman will show herself. From a caterpillar to a butterfly.”
– Najiyyah Cheeseboro