In honor of Father’s Day, Michael Brown Sr. wrote a powerful letter on how it feels to celebrate this day without his son, Michael Brown Jr., for the first time.
The heartfelt peace, published by The Grio, begins with a conversation Brown Sr. had with the Ferguson, Missouri teen, who was gunned down by a white police officer last August. Prior to his untimely death, Mike had a premonition about his father’s wife passing away.
“We'd been married only three weeks," Brown Sr. writes. "She had been diagnosed with chronic heart failure. Shortly after hearing the news, Mike called my cell phone. He told me Cal was going to die.
"'Man, you need to watch your mouth!' I said before hanging up. Those were trying times, and I was in a no-nonsense mood. A month before our marriage, our house had burned down. We'd lost everything. Literally. I couldn't imagine things getting any worse. They did."
Mike would be dead days later. The high-school graduate’s death vision was one of the many things that came “out of left field,” in conversations with his father, like wanting to become a rapper. "On the day we celebrated his graduation from high school, he announced that he wanted to be a rapper. ‘That's all fine and good,’ I responded, ‘but you're gonna stay in school and you're gonna stay focused.’
“He got angry and told the family, ‘One day, the world is gonna know my name,'" the letter continues. "'I'll probably have to go away for a while, but I'm coming back to save my city.' Like most parents, I wanted to support my child's dreams, but I wanted him to be realistic, too. How in the hell was I supposed to know Mike's prediction would come true?”
A couple days after the death conversation, Mike called a relative to explain that he had been “having visions and images of death,” and “bloody sheets,” details of which would later become the 18-year-old’s own story.
Two days later, on Saturday August 9, 2014, Brown Sr. got a call from Mike's maternal grandmother with whom he had been staying as he got ready to start college. She told him that his son had been shot.
Once Brown Sr. made his way to the “dreadful scene” he recalls seeing his son’s dead body covered with a tarp. Authorities wouldn’t allow him to get close, no matter how hard he tried. “To this day, I don't know how or why I didn't explode into a murderous rage when cops held up their hands to stop me from getting to Mike. ‘That's my son!’ I screamed over and over, as if those words would mean something. They didn't.
“I had to stand there like everyone else. Mike's body was covered by that time. There I was, a semi truck's length away from my son, seething with impotence and telling myself he wasn't really dead. My mind insisted he was still alive under that ugly black tarp. I searched the eyes of policemen, praying that one of them — perhaps a cop with a child — would let me go hold my son's hand while his body was still warm.”
It wasn’t until Mike’s funeral that things became “real,” Brown Sr. writes. As the casket of his first-born son was being lowered into the ground, he realized that the teen was “gone forever.”
The emotional experience has inspired him to reach out to other fathers and encourage them to cultivate relationships with their children by any means necessary. “God forbid you end up like me," he says in closing. "Thank the heavens you still have a chance to hear your children's voices on the other end of the phone. Cherish those moments when they confuse, anger, or mystify you. They are hidden opportunities to stay connected. Don't be plagued by things left undone or words left unsaid. Reach out."
You can read Brown Sr.’s entire letter here.
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