A Death in the Family

Matthew May
Ayone who lives in our neighborhood knew when the mail was about to arrive when Marcus was on his route.

Marcus has been our regular letter carrier for the last couple of years. Built like a tank, he indeed played some college football at Mississippi State, served in the Marines Corps, too. The furthest thing from stoic, Marcus always signaled his arrival with booming laughter and animated conversations with the residents of the neighborhood or whoever had the pleasure of being on the other end of the Blue Tooth device seemingly stapled to his ear.

But we won't be seeing Marcus around the neighborhood anymore. Marcus was murdered last week. He often went to Detroit to check on his mother, who still resided there. In the course of attempting to stop a burglary in his mother's home early Wednesday morning, he was shot in the back and killed.

It is a good rule of thumb to avoid using the terms "always" and "never" as much as possible. But never could anyone catch Marcus in a bad mood on his mail route. He always had a smile, a wave, and more likely his signature baritone laugh accompanying his smiling greeting and a shake of the hand.

Even when he was visibly fatigued on an oppressively hot day or admitted with a wink he had been out a little late the night before, he never failed to mention how blessed he was and how God was looking out for him. He was never in too much of a hurry to finish his route to stop and chat. He had the endearing habit of alternating the colloquial "What's up today, brother?" with "How you doing, Mr. May?" - despite repeated pleas to cease with the formal.  

More importantly than his interaction with the homeowners along his route, Marcus laughed with our children, exchanged fives, mimicked their dancing, and lifted them up in the air when returning their hugs. They trusted him implicitly. Just last week, our four year-old daughter was discussing plans to help make up a box of Christmas cookies especially for Marcus, so fond of an impression he had made on her. Marcus was a pied piper with a mail satchel.

The weapon used to end the life of Marcus is immaterial. The killer could have had a knife or wielded a machete. The salient aspect of his murder is the culture of death and destruction that has been eroding the city of Detroit for decades. Do not speak of the "root causes" of such violence unless you intend to speak of the corruption, greed, and avarice of those who have been "serving" the city for those same decades. Such avarice breeds contempt and, really, evil. The motivation behind the action of taking another's life in pursuit of a few material things for temporary gain is not that of the desperation caused by Detroit's economy, but that of the rotting souls of human beings who have consigned themselves through their choices, their actions, and their votes to live and act as barbarians.

Oh, is that too harsh? As the orator Edward Everett said, "In grave matters it is best to call things by their right names."

Marcus didn't live in our neighborhood. But he was as much a fixture as any mom with a stroller or the familiar faces walking to school every morning. The bullets that ended his life ripped a gaping hole in our neighborhood. The sadness is palpable. No matter what good news may be within, receiving the mail around here will never be as joyful and bright. Never.

Matthew May welcomes comments at matthewtmay@yahoo.com

Ayone who lives in our neighborhood knew when the mail was about to arrive when Marcus was on his route.

Marcus has been our regular letter carrier for the last couple of years. Built like a tank, he indeed played some college football at Mississippi State, served in the Marines Corps, too. The furthest thing from stoic, Marcus always signaled his arrival with booming laughter and animated conversations with the residents of the neighborhood or whoever had the pleasure of being on the other end of the Blue Tooth device seemingly stapled to his ear.

But we won't be seeing Marcus around the neighborhood anymore. Marcus was murdered last week. He often went to Detroit to check on his mother, who still resided there. In the course of attempting to stop a burglary in his mother's home early Wednesday morning, he was shot in the back and killed.

It is a good rule of thumb to avoid using the terms "always" and "never" as much as possible. But never could anyone catch Marcus in a bad mood on his mail route. He always had a smile, a wave, and more likely his signature baritone laugh accompanying his smiling greeting and a shake of the hand.

Even when he was visibly fatigued on an oppressively hot day or admitted with a wink he had been out a little late the night before, he never failed to mention how blessed he was and how God was looking out for him. He was never in too much of a hurry to finish his route to stop and chat. He had the endearing habit of alternating the colloquial "What's up today, brother?" with "How you doing, Mr. May?" - despite repeated pleas to cease with the formal.  

More importantly than his interaction with the homeowners along his route, Marcus laughed with our children, exchanged fives, mimicked their dancing, and lifted them up in the air when returning their hugs. They trusted him implicitly. Just last week, our four year-old daughter was discussing plans to help make up a box of Christmas cookies especially for Marcus, so fond of an impression he had made on her. Marcus was a pied piper with a mail satchel.

The weapon used to end the life of Marcus is immaterial. The killer could have had a knife or wielded a machete. The salient aspect of his murder is the culture of death and destruction that has been eroding the city of Detroit for decades. Do not speak of the "root causes" of such violence unless you intend to speak of the corruption, greed, and avarice of those who have been "serving" the city for those same decades. Such avarice breeds contempt and, really, evil. The motivation behind the action of taking another's life in pursuit of a few material things for temporary gain is not that of the desperation caused by Detroit's economy, but that of the rotting souls of human beings who have consigned themselves through their choices, their actions, and their votes to live and act as barbarians.

Oh, is that too harsh? As the orator Edward Everett said, "In grave matters it is best to call things by their right names."

Marcus didn't live in our neighborhood. But he was as much a fixture as any mom with a stroller or the familiar faces walking to school every morning. The bullets that ended his life ripped a gaping hole in our neighborhood. The sadness is palpable. No matter what good news may be within, receiving the mail around here will never be as joyful and bright. Never.

Matthew May welcomes comments at matthewtmay@yahoo.com