By Hakim Abdul-Ali
The cloud of death hovers around everything in life. It’s an evident reality that all living things and beings will experience sooner or later.
I’ve been writing about this ever-present shadowy phenomenon from time-to-time as a reminder to myself, you and others that each moment in time that we’ve been given is a valuable thing. Some global ethnic folk know that this undeniable reality is pure spiritual solidified wisdom and, sadly, some others act like they don’t know or care.
Last week, a local young Afro-American man, Troy Allen Smith, Sr., 50, who I’ve known for a very, very long time, reached out to me to inform that his youngest son, Troy Allen Costen, 21, had passed. “Little Troy,” as young Troy was known, died unexpectedly of a seizure. Tiffany Costen is his mother. “Little Troy’s” father went on to explain to me that his son had been the victim of senseless gun violence about three years ago when he was randomly shot in the head. He survived but was struggling to deal with his ordeal in the subsequent time after his tragedy.
Upon hearing this, I had to stop for a moment and think of what “Little Troy’s” family was going through at that moment. After all, death is and should be a wake-up call to the enlightened masses among us because it serves as a sign from the Most High Alone of how costly each moment in time really is. As I thought of “Little Troy,” who I remembered as a small child, and his older sister Latrice Smith, now 29, as youngsters seeing them way back then walking with their father through the community where we lived when we all resided in the same downtown Lowcountry neighborhood. They were a happy and loving grouping, joyously feeding off of each other’s love for one another.
That was almost fifteen years ago and then, in that instance, it all seemed like yesterday to me. And, in that difficult and awakening occasion, my fond and reflective memories made of father and kids, it me think of remembering “Little Troy” as being especially close to his dad as was his sister.
Like vintage flashbacks, I recalled the closeness of those young Black kids clinging back then to their father and how proud of them he was. In later years Troy, Sr., always seemed so full of pride whenever he spoke of Latrice, “Little Troy” and his two other kids including another son, Troy Allen Smith, Jr., known as “TJ,” and stepson Demetrius “Meechie” Costen.
I can only imagine how much “Little Troy’s” death now challenges the Smith and Costen families to see the beauty of what a short, but memorable, lifetime that they had with their son and brother. Like I’ve said a thousand times before, life is nothing to take for granted, so I believe that we should savor it with peace and love while we’re still able to.
Even though “Little Troy’s” death and passing may be something that some short-sighted folk may not give any credence to except the immediate families and friends of his, I’d like you to think of what it seriously means to me and you. Death is real and we all should know that each waking moment that we experience is a gift from God Alone. I know that I know this, and I also know that death has a unique way of making real spiritually aware folk think a little more deeply. Are you following me, or are you somewhere lost in another distracted illusion? I hope not, because knowing and realizing that death is not a far off mystery signals to all of us how fragile each moment in time is. Think!
We must all know of and will become eventually a “Little Troy” at some point in our lives. And, it’s at this point where the spiritual side of me kicks in for this article and the reason why I’m writing this is because it’s time for all of us in “hue-manity,” especially those of us in the Afrikan-American communities, to stop the violence that is killing and crippling our youth and others. “Little Troy” was a victim of this insanity, and it’s still maddening to see what’s happening to our youth as disrespect and violence seems to go together like hand and glove. From Chicago to Charleston and from Los Angeles to Boston, I’m saying that “enough is enough” of the comatose Black on Black crime that’s destroying our nation, communities and families.
I used to, on many prior instances before “Little Troy’s” death, speak with Troy, Sr., about gun violence, family values and Black survival in our community. This consciously aware father would tell me of how important it was for him as a father to be there for his kids because he suffered from not having his own father in his life.
Troy’s father was the late Corporal Leroy Brentley, who was a squad leader of Company G, 2nd Division, 5th Marine Unit, and he died in Vietnam in 1969 while valiantly serving our nation. Because of his having served with such honor, Corporal Brentley was posthumously awarded the distinguished Naval Cross Award for Valor and Bravery. Like I previously mentioned, I’ve known Troy, Sr., for a very long time and at this time of unspoken grievances for his son that he and his family, friends and loved ones are going through, their loss touches me deeply. No one can replace a loved one, no matter how that soul leaves the earth. Some folk get that. Others don’t. Do you?
That question and preceding written utterance by me draws me closer to the fact that my belief in the Creator Alone helps me know that we all need to celebrate each precious moment in the living process that we have in this phase of life as a praiseworthy thanks to God Alone. We have to, and we should be doing this with the utmost prayerful sincerity because you never know if this next second could be your last second. In speaking with Troy, Sr., he deeply misses his son, but he knows that the Most High Alone is in charge of life and death. This wise father let me know, in distinct references, that his son’s death is a powerful spiritual sign that he doesn’t disregard.
Somehow, I’d like to think that all of the ethnic souls in this land, who’ve previously experienced, or are currently experiencing the loss of a loved one, know that life goes on. This is so very important to understand in the overall grieving process, a point that I can’t help but emphasize for the uninformed. Life is a fleeting journey and no matter how short it may be in some folk’s estimates, it’s still an engaging ongoing learning experience. It’s reasonably understood that way for all spiritually sound beings, even the grieving ones, who are of faithful consciousness.
An unknown author is reported to have offered, “Life asked death, ‘Why do people love me but hate you?’ Death responded, ‘Because you are a beautiful lie and I am a painful truth.” Please think about that as you most certainly know that death will visit somewhere, sometime in our worlds of experiences. It’s said that death of some loved one brings families together, even when they’ve been separated in this phase of the living process by so many trivial differences. Again, death is real and the quintessential spiritual symbolisms of any departed loved ones’ lives is that their lives were not unknown ones to God Alone that were lived in vain.
Understanding that time waits for no one, and to give praises to the Creator Alone for being here presently in the here and now, are recognizable constants that are the most precious of commodities to decipher and invest in. That’s something that I hope and pray that “Little Troy’s” family, and all other grieving souls everywhere, respectfully, fully comprehend at this trying time in their lives. May God be with you.
Please remember that The Most High Alone creates life and death. So, whenever death visits, always keep the faith in the Creator Alone knowing that, in time, “this too shall pass,” and that everything will be alright. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”