1980                                        2009

This post is dedicated to the memory of my father John E. Wood
September 13, 1950 - January 18, 2010

This New Year, 2010, has certainly gotten off to a dichotomous start for many of us, hasn’t it? There have been immense blessings on one hand, immense tumult and melancholy on the other. While I and those of you reading this are blessed in that we’re still here, still in our right minds, still able to try again to achieve whatever it is that we’d like to achieve in our lives, many of our brothers and sisters are no longer with us and no longer have that chance.

As a planet, we’ve experienced a massive loss of life in Haiti, including my best friend Farahly’s beloved aunt and powerful Haitian women’s movement activist, Magalie Marcelin(iba ye). On a personal level, I experienced an abrupt loss with the death of my birth father, John E. "Johnny" Wood (iba ye).

The man who most people know as my father, Rev. Ralph H. Hoist III, is not my natural father. However, I will never refer to him my step-father as he has joined my mother in raising me since I was 10 and he has always loved me and treated me as his own child, as I have loved him, and continue to love him, as my father. Still, I did maintain a good relationship with my birth father that, while not always close, was enduring and had grown much closer and more beautiful over the past few years. The rebuilding of our relationship reached a high point with my visiting him last April during spring break from school. Sadly, that was the last time I would see him alive and able to talk, laugh, reminisce and – I’ll finally admit – beat me really badly at backgammon. Though he being in South Carolina and me being in New York did not allow us to see each other as often as we might have liked, we spoke, texted and emailed regularly and, thankfully, we had a wonderful conversation on New Year’s Eve that was filled with laughter and ended in "I love you"s. That conversation would be our last.

My birth father suffered from sarcoidosis (an autoimmune disorder that Bernie Mac (iba ye) also endured) and he passed away of complications from pneumonia – a common complicating disease of sarcoidosis – on January 18, 2010. Finding sunshine in what feels like a lot of darkness around me has been difficult, but I believe I have found it. Though my father is no longer physically here, I know that he lives on through me, my brothers and all those, whose life he touched. As I pray for the elevation of his spirit and celebrate the ending of his earthly suffering, I am ever thankful that I am a part of a beautiful spiritual-cultural tradition that holds ancestors in high esteem and provides wisdom on maintaining close contact with those who have gone on before. Every time I look in the mirror I see him – most people agree that I "look just like him" – and when I sing, laugh, act silly, or come up with an interesting and "out there" idea, as I’m prone to do quite often, I’m reminded by those around me who knew him that he had those same personality traits.

Those are my rays of light. That is the morning within my mourning. Even through my tears, I can see the sunshine and it's beautiful.