Who Remains for the Families of the Slain? | Sojourners

Who Remains for the Families of the Slain?

Rizpah cried out as her two sons and five other young men were murdered by the state, and yet she cried alone. Their bodies were left hanging, denied a proper burial and proper care. She alone remained, protecting the bodies of her sons and the others from the weather, the animals, and all who would wish to tarnish their image and make it seem as if these “thugs” deserved such a horrifying death. She alone mourned for them. Yet, her actions inspired the a political leader to right the wrongs and have them given a proper burial (2 Samuel 21:8-14). That is where her story ends in the Bible, but that is not where her story ends. That is not where the stories of the Mothers of the Movement and other family members of those slain by racism and police brutality end today.

What happens when the bodies of those slain are laid to rest? Who remains for the mothers, fathers, siblings, lovers, and children of the slain? Who cares for them?

On Jan. 9, Yolanda Carr, the mother of Atatiana Jefferson, the young woman shot in her home by police as she played with her nephew, passed away nearly three months after her daughter was killed. Jefferson's father died weeks after she was killed. In September of 2016, roughly two months after the death of her boyfriend Philando Castile, Diamond Reynolds struggled financially and struggled to cope emotionally with the death of her boyfriend. Her car had been taken as part of the investigation. She was in the process of being evicted as she no longer had Castile’s income, and she no longer had someone to watch her daughter while she was at work. She appeared to have lost the only source of support she had. On Dec. 30, 2017, Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, passed away roughly two and a half years after her father’s death at the hands of police. She had become an activist and had given birth to a son three months earlier. These are the struggles endured by the families of those slain.

What happens when the bodies of those slain are laid to rest? Who remains for the mothers, fathers, siblings, lovers, and children of the slain? Who cares for them?

This is what slow death looks like for the families of victims of police brutality. Slow death looks like having to cope with the murder of a loved one alone. It is the possibility of once again being homeless or having to live in another dangerous ghetto. Slow death is the loss of your care and support system. It is the trauma of seeing a loved one murdered by the police in front of you and having a distrust of the police exacerbated by that experience. It is the child growing up who has learned that police “shoot to kill” and how to survive in crisis situations. For black mothers who have lost loved ones, slow death is the need to always be a strong, independent black woman. Yet, it is impossible to always be strong.

What happens when the bodies of those slain are laid? Who remains for the mothers, fathers, siblings, lovers, and children of the slain? Who cares for them?

We, as people of faith, cannot be like those in the time of Rizpah, watching silently as these mothers mourn and suffer alone. The slow death crouching at their door, waiting to overtake them. As they give of themselves to their loved ones or give of themselves to the cause or simply just try to survive, who’s caring for them? Who’s pouring into them?

We, as people of faith, should come alongside them, weeping and mourning with them but remaining when the news story has faded out of focus and their experience feels as if it has been forgotten. We must work to strengthen them, fighting against the slow death, trauma, and grief that threatens to overwhelm them and take them out. We must pick up the mantle of Jesus Christ and care for the widows and the mothers and daughters of the slain.

What happens when the bodies of those slain are laid? Who remains for the mothers, fathers, siblings, lovers, and children of the slain? Who cares for them?

We are called to care for them, to see them, hear them, to remain with them. We are called to love them as Jesus loved.

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