Saturday would have been Meshach’s birthday. At a state representative’s office on the south side, his friends and family organized a celebration of his life that evening, and it was one of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Friends were sitting in a half-circle in the front of an open room playing various drums—djembes, congos, a dhol, and shakers. One by one people who were sitting in the chairs that were set up audience-style or walking and talking in back went up to a microphone and talked about Meshach. They showed pictures of when he was younger, talked about their fondest memories, and talked about where they wished his soul to go in the afterlife. A tall, lanky, older black man with a sparse, short beard and an old, beige head wrap said what’s been sticking in my head ever since, “we haven’t lost a brother, we’ve gained an ancestor.”

Towards the end of my time there, I asked Ruby if there was a basket up front near the microphone where they were taking donations for his family. For the most part, I was chilling in the back of the room, just soaking it all in. As I approached the front to drop my little contribution into the basket, I could feel myself just getting sucked in by the sounds of the drums. There was something about being right in front of the drums, right in the circle that was enrapturing. I returned to the back of the room, wondering why I was, so I took my coat and shoes off, and went back up front to dance in the circle a bit, and bid Meshach a blessing as he passes on.

The crowd there was very telling of all the people he impacted, and the people he touched in his life. There were a lot of people that seemed like they were his family, or close friends of his family, and a lot of people that had a connection with him through his music. But there were also a good number of people there like me, that may not have been best friends with Meshach by any means, but appreciated his contribution to the world I live in.

“Death isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. A beginning to being free.”