Learning about the loss of a good friend through Facebook is rough. But for one, it triggered a necessary change.
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. ~Abraham Lincoln
We grew up in a place where everyone was looking for a chance to prove themselves. Youngsters anxious to squeeze the trigger, without a second thought. Arguments escalating too far, leaving us wondering if they were worth it. Wear the wrong color and you might end up slumped on the sidewalk. Going out for a dive into the nightlife almost always resulted in some type of altercation. The Bay Area was our home, but for how long? I never thought I’d be leaving.
“Babe, wake up. Your alarm is going off,” my wife groaned at me.
Damn, what a time to be alive. Shit, it’s 6:32. Gotta get to work by 7:30.
“Sorry babe, I didn’t get home from playing basketball till like 1:30 in the morning,” I replied back.
“It’s okay. Who did you play with?”
“Marcus and Chris. We stopped by the house to see if Marvin wanted to play, but he said he was going out.”
“Oh okay, I’m gonna try and go back to bed. Have a good day at work, babe.” She said as she laid back down.
My usual morning routine consisted of smoking marijuana, scouring social networks in hopes of seeing some outrageous stuff from the night before, and taking a shower. On this morning, I sat in my steam filled bathroom, smoking a joint and listening to music like I usually did. Something told me to check Facebook first. Scrolling down the posts from the night before, I came across one of my best friends Windale’s post.
“Damn, R.I.P, to my brother, Marvin Jackson.”
Fuck, Marvin probably got drunk as hell last night!
I clicked on the comments in hope of a description of their night. Going out wasn’t a normal thing anymore, I was a father now. I lived through my friends, through their pictures and stories. One comment that read,
“I’m so sorry for your loss man..”
What the hell is he talking about? I texted Windale.
“What’s good, Windale? What’s Berto talking bout? I saw your Facebook post, who are you talking about bro?”
“Man, Marvin’s gone. He got shot in the head last night. He died in my arms bro.” Windale texted back.
Huh? This isn’t funny. Please tell me they’re playing some dumb joke on the world.
“Bro… Nah, stop playin’… You’re not serious, right???”
“Serious man. They shot him last night. I’m on my way to Stockton right now. I’ll see you when I get home.”
This can’t be real. Not Marvin. Please don’t let this be real. Please God or whoever is making this choice, not Marvin. Don’t take my brother from me. I didn’t have much in this world besides my friends that I considered my family and Marvin was no different. We had lived with each other and spent countless hours together. Marvin was always there for me. Whenever I needed advice or just to hang out with, he was there. Someone who genuinely cared about me is gone.
I stared at the phone screen, unable to take my eyes off. My phone felt heavier than usual and slipped out of my hand. The sound of shattering glass could be heard throughout the house, as my iPhone 6 Plus crashed on the bathroom floor. My knees wobbled. I didn’t consider myself a cryer but at this moment I couldn’t help it. I could feel my eyes start to water and tears poured out.
Hell nah, this shit can’t be real. I was just with him last night! Why didn’t I ask him if he wanted to come with us to play basketball sooner? He said he didn’t want to go out but had already made plans. Wow, please don’t be real.
Marvin Jackson was shot in the head on June 27th, 2015. He was killed in Downtown San Jose defending his younger brother Windale. An argument over a cigarette resulted in someone’s life being taken. The story goes, Marvin and a group of friends including his younger brother Windale went to eat after a night of clubbing. The place to be after a night out in Downtown San Jose was a local taqueria called La Vics. The food was greasy and somewhat cheap making it a popular place among drunk friends. The story goes, Marvin and a few of his friends including his younger brother Windale went there after the club to eat. Windale went outside to smoke a cigarette and was approached by a group of gang members. Words were exchanged, voices raised and Marvin came out to help his brother. One of the gang members flashed their gun at Windale. After a few words, Windale told them he was just trying to smoke a cigarette and he didn’t want trouble.
Marvin and the group started the two block walk back to their car. During those two blocks, Windale had fallen behind the group and had two members of the gang follow him. The two men ran up behind Windale and started attacking him. Windale began defending himself and fighting one of them in the middle of the street. Marvin was saw his brother in trouble and like the track MVP he was, he ran to his aide. Marvin never ran again. He was shot in the head only to die moments later in his brother’s arms.
The days after Marvin’s death, my friends and I chose to visit the site he was killed, every night until his funeral. We struggled with the loss of a close friend but knew how to honor him. Each night we brought some of Marvin’s favorite drinks with us and drank late into the night. We exchanged special memories and moments we had shared with our beloved friend. The amount of love Marvin had in this world was unreal. In the years of knowing Marvin, I can not recall anyone actually disliking him. Some nights, there was a whole parking lot of people hanging out paying tributes to Marvin. We would all go about our days like normal, but nights ended up on the sidewalk where he was taken from us. No matter how early one of us had to work the next day, we made it there. For seven days we gathered around and helped each other through this difficult time. I used to love the atmosphere of downtown, the nightlife was unique for our area. But, the first night after Marvin’s murder, when I went to downtown San Jose and saw where he had been killed, was the moment I realized I never wanted to come back.
One of our friends laughed as he recalled, “Man, you remember that time Marvin got so drunk and came home at like 2:00 in the morning and still made it to work at 6:00 a.m.?”
“Hell yeah! That’s something everyone knew about Marvin. He always took care of his responsibilities and still was able to party his ass off!” Another friend shouted back.
That was true. Marvin was the type of dude to have the most fun he could and still get the important stuff done. I couldn’t believe he actually graduated from college! That’s my dude, man.
I decided to speak up and say, “Y’all remember all those times Marvin would tell us he was gonna go off and graduate and we’d still be doing the same bullshit when he got back? He used to tell me all the time to start acting like a grown man and stop smoking that devil leaf!”
Damn, we’re all laughing, but he was right. Why does it take drastic stuff to get my ass to realize the wrong I’m doing in my life? I hear you now, Marvin. I got you.
The funeral for Marvin Joaquin Jackson was on July 4th, 2015. Not how I thought I would be celebrating our country’s independence, having to say goodbye to one of my best friends. I had been to this same cemetery far too many times, burying young and old loved ones. The room was filled with flowers and pictures of Marvin. It was recommended to get there early for seating and once I arrived I knew why. The turnout to say bye was huge. Folks piled into the rows of benches while the late arrivals stood around the edges of the room. Perfume, cologne and hair spray crept through my nose. Family and friends gathered around to honor a marvelous man. The sounds of sniffles could be heard throughout.
I had one of the first rows of seats with Marvin’s family and closest friends sitting with me. I hated seeing Marvin’s father and mom sitting there looking lost. No parent should ever have to bury their child and that’s the part of this that really hurt me. I knew I lost a best friend but they had lost a son. As we sat waiting for the service to begin, vivid memories and encouraging words were exchanged. Sulking in shock as we reminisced about our moments with him. A gentle melody started to flow out of the speakers as a tribute video started to play. Tears quickly turned to gentle giggles as we watched some of Marvin’s moments being played over for us. Photos displaying his contagious smile literally brought a smile out of everyone. One of our best friends, Marcus, paid his tribute by saying some beautiful words about the life Marvin lived.
“Like many people here, I have struggled with the loss of someone I called my brother. Marvin was a daily reminder to live life the way you wanted. He always had a smile on his face and that’s because he was truly happy with who he was. That was his secret. No matter what was going on in his life, Marvin could simply smile his way to happiness.”
Marcus finished with asking everyone in the audience to close their eyes and talk to Marvin. Anything you weren’t able to get to say to him then, to whisper to him now. I closed my eyes and thought to myself:
Marvin.. I can’t believe this happened to you. I love you brother. This is crazy man, all those times we went out and got into fights or almost fought. All those times we were lucky, I never thought this could happen to us. Why’d they take your life man? Why’d they have to shoot you? I wish I could’ve convinced you to not go out. I can’t believe this. You didn’t know it but we all looked up to you. All those times you looked out for us. I’m so thankful to have known you. The years we lived together were some of the craziest times of my life. You kept my head on straight when I thought I’d lose mine. Till I see you again my brother.
I felt a strange hop in my step as we left the funeral. My mind became clear and everything I used to do didn’t seem right anymore. I knew the person I had become wasn’t who I wanted to be. Everything Marvin had been preaching to me finally hit me. I knew I had my guardian angel watching over me, waiting to guide me through life. I knew I would have Marvin with me wherever I went.
Friends and family came back to my house for some barbecue and drinks. Giving thanks for the life we shared with Marvin, we decided to be happy that night. Marvin could make any situation feel positive and we knew he wouldn’t want us to be sad. He’d want us to party like he was there. As the sun went down and the fireworks started to bang across the sky, I couldn’t help but think it was Marvin telling us he’d made it home. Rest easy my brother.
Photo: Getty Images