If I would’ve known September 4th, 2016 was the last time I would speak to my brother, I would have said, “I love you,” a million times over, and cherished the memory of his smile, one last time. Nobody knew it was his time, until the day God called him Home. After being inexplicably shot by a young man – excuse me, an old coward, Julian was rushed to the hospital, where he spent the next three days among the people who loved him most. I prayed for his strength and for the strength of my family; it was a time when we truly needed each other, when Julian needed us. He was a fighter, and although he pushed, his heart belonged with The Lord.
Julian Kyrai Washington was a light on his own; there are no true words that could ever describe the amazing spirit that he was, full of laughter and optimism. His life, taken tragically, was nothing short of beautiful. He was more than my little brother … he was my hero for always remaining unique to himself. My baby brother had a taste for living; through his eyes the world was full of pain and yet, the slightest bit of beauty. It was as if he aimed to leave his mark somehow on everything he touched. His stories were elaborate, his life … passionate. With him, there was never a dull moment.
But when all is said and done, and we’ve said our goodbyes, where do we go from there? At his funeral, I hugged the physical form of Julian one last time, but I knew he wasn’t truly gone. When we grieve, we mourn over the fact that we can no longer call our loved one … hug them … spend time with them, but we fail to realize that their spirit will forever live with us. Everybody grieves differently, some are angry and some are utterly devastated. I was both …. I am both, but in taking the time to heal myself, I realized that we have so much more to look forward to than we think.
The circumstances surrounding Julian’s death changed my life; we grew up together, and the memories that I have with him will always be cherished. In my heart, I know he is with me, but I can’t fathom how some coward could pull a gun, and take a man’s life, a man he did not know. I wish I could say that I don’t replay that night I got the phone call over and over in my head; it has truly haunted me, but nothing haunts me more than to think that the man who shot him is free.. I know that in his time, his punishment will come, but to confront the man who murdered my brother is, quite possibly, one of the strongest things I will ever have to do. Through this tragedy, I have learned to cherish my family, even more so than before.
My sister, LaQuetta, passed in 2009; she had cancer and in a sense, it was as if the doctors and our parents had prepared us for what was going to happen. When she passed, yes I was sad … I was angry, but to know that Julian is no longer here at the hands of a murderer leaves me with so many unanswered questions and I wish I had just a few more minutes to spend with him. I will always carry his memory with me, there will never be a moment when I forget about Julian, or the things he taught me: to keep my head held high, despite the circumstances because somebody out there will always have it worse than I do, or to teach peace and love to our nieces and nephews so that they may grow up with nothing but positivity in their heart. Cherish the memories, never let those die along with your loved one. Carry on their spirit in everything that you do, live for the moment. When you feel they are near you, be open and accepting of their love.
Even the smallest gestures could mean so much.
Julian’s passing brought much more light to our lives than we could imagine … than I could ever imagine, myself. I thank him for teaching me to relax and let go, to remember that everything happens for a reason and what we can’t control, we learn to accept in our own way. We worked together … we laughed together, and of course we shed many tears. But through every once of pain, Julian always reminded me to smile. This was the only time I wished I could still call and vent, just to hear his voice one last time. It was almost like the time I spent being his “boss,” was much needed, because it helped our relationship grow. We saw each other in a different light the summer of 2016, and even though I was overly stressed and extremely underpaid, it was the best time of my life, because I spent it working with my baby brother. I thank God for bringing us together in that hectic time because I saw Julian, the leader, the conqueror; the man I knew he was destined to be his entire life, even when we were angsty teenage rivals …. I saw my brother as a man, and I loved him so much more for that.
I thank Julian for bringing those who had drifted apart in my family, together. For giving my brothers, Jontré and Drazey strength, though they had spent years not speaking to one another. I look up to them, more than they will ever know, more than they could ever begin to imagine in their wildest dreams.
Jontré and Drazey, I dedicate this to you.
God made plans for us to cross paths many years before; there is something so beautiful about how Julian has lived on through the two of you. As your older sister, there is nothing I want more than to protect you, to shelter you from the world. In the last few years, I have learned more from you than I could have ever taught you growing up. You’ve given us courage … strength. I can’t thank the two of you, the three of you (Julian included), enough for teaching me how to get through some of life’s toughest lessons. You are some of the most important men in my entire life, and I don’t know where I would be today without your love and support.
And to you, Julian, thank you for giving me one of my greatest gifts: to be your big sister. You will forever be in my heart, and remain a beacon of light in my life. I love you, I love you, I love you, a million times over.