A Prayer for the Mothers

Photo credit: Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Photo credit: Robert Cohen, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Two days before Michael Brown was shot dead in the streets of Ferguson, MO, I was watching old media footage surrounding the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till.

I was struck by the grace and poise of Emmitt’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley. She insisted Emmitt’s funeral—attended by tens of thousands of mourners—be open-casket. She invited the whole world into her pain and grief. She demanded we all face the evil and inhumanity of her son’s death.

And now I watch history repeat itself, as it has too many times before.

And I keep thinking about Lesley McSpadden. I keep trying to imagine what she is going through.

But I can’t, really. I’ve never had to raise a black son in America.

If my fair-skinned sons walked down the middle of the street in broad daylight, no one would give them a second glance.

I feel sickened and helpless.

So I cry out to God and offer this prayer for Lesley McSpadden.

And for the mothers of too many black boys, whose lives have ended too soon.

Jesus, dear Jesus, how can you let this happen?

Don’t you see the mothers? Don’t you see their sons?

Michael’s mother. John’s mother. Eric’s mother. Jordan’s mother. Trayvon’s mother. Oscar’s mother. Sean’s mother. Amadou’s mother.

Too many mothers. Too many sons.

But you are one of those sons.

You were mocked. Spit upon. Conspired against. Unjustly accused. Stripped naked. Treated like an animal. Cut down in your prime.

A crazed mob screamed for your death. A sham of a court delivered your verdict.  A savage security force hung your limp body for all to see.

And in the moments before your death, you thought of your mother.

Your mother was one of those mothers.

She sobbed as she cradled your broken and bloodied body. She spoke your name over and over as she rocked you.

She struggled to believe it was all real, kept thinking surely this was just a bad dream, if only she could wake. And in a haze of pain, she made arrangements for your funeral.

Her grief was public. Your death was part of a bigger story, which she understood and embraced. She hoped your death would help end further injustice in the world.

But at the same time, she was simply a mother struggling with the death of her young son.

So may you grant mercy to the mothers.

May you have mercy on us all.

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