How do you write a 9-year-old's obituary?

Tyshawn's murder should have been an object lesson for the whole city

Opinion

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

The home going service for nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee, who was assassinated on Nov. 2, took place about a week later on Nov. 10. Unlike other children who have been killed — caught in the barrage of bullets of gang crossfire — Tyshawn was stalked like prey by a human predator. That predator probably looked just like him and, if rumors hold true, was probably not much older than him. As I write this column, on Mon. Nov. 16, I don't know what news will come out by it is published on Nov. 18.

Tyshawn's funeral drew a huge crowd of people — some of whom were curious, some of whom mourned and some who may even have been responsible for his death. On the morning of his home going service, his father, Pierre Stokes, gave an interview on WGCI 107.5FM. 

When the female host said she had heard rumors that the name of the alleged killer had been disclosed, the father says he hadn't heard any names. Nor did he ask her what that name was. That was both chilling and telling.

I wasn't able to attend Tyshawn's funeral, so I watched what I could over the internet as people posted videos and the local television stations reported on it. There were things about the funeral which I liked and some that I didn't like. A funeral is not only the celebration of a person's life; it can, depending on the pageantry of it, send messages that reverberate in ways that words don't. 

Tyshawn's father had said that the boy's favorite color was blue. So it was a little disconcerting to see a glass hearse pulled by a three-wheel motorcycle arriving in front of St. Sabina Church containing a bright red casket.

The glass hearse made Tyshawn's death a visual reality. Had I planned his funeral, I would have had that hearse pulled by a pony wearing a sign that stated: I will be a horse one day … Tyshawn will never be a man. The glass hearse should've also taken a slow route from his murder scene to the church to remind those in the neighborhood who have information on the murder that a nine-year-old child lay dead on purpose, killed by a POS who should in turn be the catalyst for the restoration of the death penalty in Illinois. 

During Tyshawn's funeral, Father Pfleger gave a rousing sermon with the theme music from the Chicago Bulls playing loudly and professing that Tyshawn was joining Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and others who had been killed.  I disliked that point in his sermon, since Brown's and Rice's killers were the police or non-black people.

Tyshawn was murdered by someone living in his grandmother's neighborhood and in my humble opinion, the emphasis should have never wavered from that point. Tyshawn was our 2015 version of Emmitt Till — only this time the perpetrators are black thugs.

I would have preferred a more somber, yet still passionate sermon; a sermon that would have asked the questions that tugged at the very core of everyone who was there.  This sermon would have asked: How do you write an obituary for a nine-year-old? How do you tell the life story of someone who was at the beginning of life? How do we as a community live with ourselves knowing who the killer is and yet we won't speak up and tell?

I would have had more children be a part of Tyshawn's home going. A best friend who was the same age who would have stood at the podium and, being the same size as Tyshawn, emphasized how he was barely tall enough to see over it. It would have been a physical reminder of just how small and young Tyshawn was.

That friend could have told of the plans they made on the day he was killed — plans that now will never be fulfilled. No more first snow of the season snowball fights or making snow angels or just the simple joy of playing in the snow. They won't be betting on who will be the first to call the other on Christmas Day to tell of their gifts.

I would have had a young girl tell how she was supposed to be Tyshawn's first date for the sixth grade dance, where he would have given her his first kiss — a peck on the cheek under the mistletoe. 

I would have had others tells of all the things Tyshawn will never, ever get to do: Thanksgiving Day Dinners; his eighth grade graduation;  joining his high school basketball team; or having the entire neighborhood gather to see him off for his senior prom — all cut short, ended, because of a killer in the neighborhood.  

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