Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Against All Odds

My cousin had known her ex boyfriend since they were in grade school. She had just turned 31 when the incident happened.

Her ex-boyfriend, a deputy Sheriff in New Orleans, decided one day to beat her ass pretty bad for not agreeing with him on some point. The beating put my cousin in the hospital for three days, and she officially ended the relationship.

Instead of leaving her alone, Mr. Deputy Sheriff decides that if he cannot have my cousin, nobody would. He ran around New Orleans promising to kill my cousin and anybody who was with her. But because he was a Deputy Sheriff, none of the authorities seemed to care.

Finally, one day, Mr. Deputy Sheriff decided to stop by my aunt’s house and make his threats known to the family. This aunt wasn’t my cousin’s mother, but was my cousin’s aunt (my Dad had two sisters). When he got there, he proceeded to tell my aunt about his “endless feelings” for my cousin, saying he could not live without her after knowing her for all these years. Since my aunt had known him and his family since forever, she never managed to interpret his threats to the magnitude she should have. But she did call a family conference to discuss the issue.

She, my other aunt (my cousin’s mother) and my Dad all got on the phone to figure out what to do. My cousin’s mother wanted to send my cousin to Cincinnati to live with us for a while. She also wanted to send my cousin’s daughter (who was about eight at the time). Of course, my cousin refused to leave because she felt that her ex might do something to the rest of the family in New Orleans because he couldn’t get to her.

So, she stayed.

About a week later, she went out to dinner with a male friend of hers. Unbeknownst to both of them, her ex boyfriend had been following them the entire time. When they arrived back at my aunt's house, my cousin got out of the car. Within an instant, her ex boyfriend pulled in behind the car, jumped out and proceeded to beat my cousin worse than he had before. She ended up in the hospital for one week. He loosened her teeth and pulled out most of her hair. He cracked a couple of ribs and bruised her pretty extensively.

Once she got out of the hospital, she spent a couple of days at home and then decided to go to the police station to file charges against him. The friend who had taken her to dinner was going to drive her to the station, but they stopped back by his house to retrieve his lunch.

Mr. Deputy Sheriff was following them. When they got inside the apartment, the ex-boyfriend armed two pistols and proceeded to the apartment he thought they were in. He kicked the door in only to find someone else. Irritated, he put one of the guns to the neighbor’s head and ordered him to tell him where my cousin and her friend were. He told them, and Mr. Deputy Sheriff left the guy’s place to go upstairs to find my cousin. The neighbor proceeded to call the police.

When Mr. Deputy Sheriff got upstairs to the right door, he kicked it in and started shooting. He shot my cousin’s friend several times, and my cousin ran to the back of the apartment to hide. She must have heard several more gunshots, because her ex shot her friend at least nine times before stabbing him extensively and then using the heel of his foot to cave in the man’s face.

Then he went to find my cousin. He found her on her knees in the back bedroom. The police say she must have been begging for her life based on the position of her body. He shot my cousin 11 times, even inserting the gun into her vagina to shoot again.

When he was done, the police had already arrived. So, he walked down to them and said that he had just killed two people upstairs. My cousin was dead at 31. And she left behind a daughter…

Once my cousin passed away, the entire family wondered what would become of my little cousin. She would live with my aunt, her grandmother, but we still wondered what would become of her. All of my aunt’s children were grown. The cousin who passed was the oldest of the bunch. We wondered just how much energy would be left over to raise this youngster without her mother around for guidance.

My little cousin’s father was still on the scene, but I was never very informed about his parenting skills. But God obviously had a plan for my little cousin.

She graduated high school and went off to college. She chose Clark Atlanta University…my alma mater. When my cousin arrived at school, I found her and her best friend an apartment in my apartment complex. This way, I could keep an eye on her and reinforce the fact that she had a close network of folks who cared about her even though she was miles away from the home she knew.

During her second year at school, she was dating a dog-of-a-dude who dumped her for another chick. This sent my cousin into a deep depression, and the next thing I knew, she was part of a church group that many likened to a cult.

The church group allowed only minimal contact with the family, and my cousin was not permitted to have friends or boyfriends outside of the church.

The entire family became frightened at this point. We didn’t want to lose our little cousin to a group of people we didn’t even know.

But my little cousin kept assuring us that this group was the best thing for her. Turns out…she was right. My cousin graduated from Clark with honors and got a job as a public relations consultant with an advertising agency.

And then, she met the man of her dreams.

Also a member of this church, my cousin’s man was a reformed drug dealer who had spent time in prison and decided to turn his life around through the church. He met my cousin and fell in love with her instantly.

Last Christmas, he gave my cousin a charm bracelet. She wore this charm bracelet for an entire week before she found out its significance.

She and her man took a trip to New York for vacation over the New Year’s holiday. They were out at dinner when her man told her that one of the charms could be opened. She opened the charm and inside it read, “will you marry me?”

Once she read the charm, he presented the ring. They got married this past Saturday at a small ceremony in Atlanta. It was, by far, the happiest day our family has had the pleasure of spending together. All the previous times the family got together, it was to attend a funeral. Prior to this weekend, we had not all been together since my aunt passed in 1999 from lung cancer.

I must say that I have never met someone I admire more than my little cousin. I’ve never seen her quite as happy as I did during her wedding weekend. Her husband seems to worship the ground she walks on, and she deserves nothing less.

I can’t thank her enough for proving us all to be unnecessary worry-warts about how she would turn out. With all the chips stacked against her, she came through like a champ and serves as a model for all of us.

She is the youngest of the lot of cousins, and is the only female to be married. She has remained committed to following a Christian lifestyle, and I can’t tell you just how many compliments we heard about her from her church friends.

So, this post is dedicated to you, my dear cousin. Thank you for giving me such an inspiring weekend. Thank you for proving us all wrong. And thank you for showing us the true power of God’s work. We are inspired, and we love you.

May God grant you more happiness than you can endure in one lifetime. You are my shero!


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