It’s almost comforting to be here again, in the face of death. Death and I are so close, I almost feel neglected when it doesn’t come around to see me. I’ve seen it intimately. I’ve seen it crawl past me in slow motion, dragging two aunts, my Pap-Pap, and my Gram in its wake. I’ve had it rob me, silently snatching my Nan and baby Jayden, mid-day and mid-night. I’ve had it taunt me, erasing faces from my yearbook, and making me wrack my memory for final exchanges between classmates with whom I shared a stoop on a summer day, or stood in line in the cafeteria, or swam at Westridge pool. There was Ashlee, and Alex, Shelby and Kristen. There was Monica, Destinee, Alexia, and there was Nikki. I’ve dressed myself for sixteen funerals, fourteen of which were for people who I knew and loved well.
The more that death has imposed its shadow over my life, the more inclined I feel to prepare for my own walk down that dark hallway.
Because death doesn’t give a damn how young, sweet, talented, popular, or promising you are. It is coming. And I, being Type A+, began to make arrangements long ago.
If you look hard enough, you will find them, tucked between pages of my favorite books and hidden under stacks of clothing. They’re laced throughout my journal. They’re taped behind my dresser. They’re not suicide notes. They’re instructions, detailing the way I want things to go, just in case heaven won’t wait for me. But, since my sister is probably the only one well versed enough in all things Roco to know how and where to find them, I thought I’d lay them out for you here. Just in case.
So, if I die young, throw a freaking party. Yellow balloons and lots of Lauryn Hill. In lieu of a viewing, have an open mic night and let everyone tell their version of our story.
If I die young, take care of my sister. Feed her twice a day and walk her in the fresh air twice a week. When she resists, bribe her with Chipotle (white rice, chicken, sour cream, cheese, no veggies) and caramel cookie crunch Talenti. Give her two months to mourn in bed, then remind her that Ro wouldn’t have wanted this. Drag her from her low place. Tell her we’re still Backstreet Boys from the other side– she’ll know what this means.
If I die young, remind my mother that I did things on my own time. Remind her that I was born two weeks late and learned to read two years early. Remind her that I got my license when I was 19 and my Bachelor’s when I was 21 and that nothing in the world could ever rush me or slow me down.
If I die young, tell my father that I had a head just like his– inside and out. And tell my brother that he was my hero.
If I die soon, polish my nails, bury me in whatever box you see fit, and don’t you dare let my socks match.
If I go next, know that your sadness is selfishness. Any weeping you do is solely for you. Know that I was ready and unafraid. Know that I woke up one day and decided to do everything I ever wanted and from that moment on, I lived.
Know that I have no fear of being forgotten when I’m gone. Feel no obligation to repost an Instagram picture on an annual arbitrary date. I won’t need any hashtags in the afterlife. Once my bones are in the ground my work is done. Know that I went knowing that there are a few people who will touch others’ lives because I touched theirs. They’ll pay it forward, and that’s enough for me.
If I die young take care of the future. Pick a kid, any kid, and change their lives so that they’ll never let a monumental moment pass without thinking of you. This is how we change the world. By the root. One by one.
Don’t lament over my potential. Don’t worry about all of the things I would, and could, have done. Know that I did my best to leave no person unchanged by my lovin’.
If I die young, remember that you were my favorite and I would have wanted you to live on, to smile when you see the color yellow, to take hot baths, to write beautiful words, and to make a beautiful life.