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The Briar Patch | Horses and synchronicity of spirit

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This is my first Briar Patch column since becoming editor of the Yellow Springs News. Admittedly I backed off from the column for a while, wanting to better delineate where my editorial role for the News flowed into the opinions, thoughts, and ruminations of Cheryl the human being — or didn’t.

These boundaries — fluid, but rigid at the same time — are hard to navigate in Yellow Springs, particularly as a Black woman. This return column was supposed to be the one where I vocalize concerns that I have for our community around diversity. If we are serious about re-establishing higher levels of diversity as a community, I believe that the recruitment of Black women with families is paramount, but also challenging given the current cultural climate of Yellow Springs.

But I’ll have to save that for another column.

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I’d seen this ridiculous TikTok post. I was going to send it to Kam the day I found out he was gone. It was a skit, a satire of what it might be like to call 911 in Atlanta that was so on point it made me laugh out loud. Kam was my first love. I met him the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Spelman College after, unbeknownst to me, he saw me on a bus in Atlanta and decided to miss his stop to talk to me. He was also my first heartbreak. Then my second and third heartbreak after he married, twice, people who were not me. But somehow, spirit-connected, our friendship deepened, and he became one of my closest friends, and his wife, Denise, my sister.

Just before the New Year, on Dec. 29, Kam decided he didn’t want to live anymore, and completed suicide. He is survived by his wife of 17 years and two grown children. A gentle giant at nearly seven feet tall, he worked as a bouncer for the Atlanta club scene. Agile and light on his feet, he was a tremendous dancer who was fluent in Japanese, an anime lover of cosplay and a hard-core gamer. But he had struggled mightily over the previous year, battling a horribly painful cancer that caused him great suffering, though he was in remission when he made the transition.

The day that it happened, I was walking my doggie, Vesper, near the Riding Center, and as we often do on our journey, we stopped to watch the horses grazing and playing in the field. While we were watching, they did something unusual — at least to us. Eleven horses circled up in a kind of formation, and in single file galloped over to us, and lined up just in front of the fence where we stood, gazing at us. While Vesper yipped in delight, I was taken aback; like, “Really — what just happened?” I was close to one of the horses, who was staring at me with great intensity. The horse lowered its head a bit for me to pet it — or at least I interpreted it that way, not knowing a thing about horse behavior. So, I did. I thought it was strange at the time, but two days later, when I found out that Kam had passed away, I understood. I am a believer in number synchronicity.

Eleven horses; two plus nine equals 11. My birthday is Jan. 11, and Kam always called me on my birthday.

Another loss, another acknowledgement of a new ancestor.

Kam is, in part, the reason why I am here, working at the News. He always encouraged, even cajoled me to write more, especially because he knew my secret — I always knew I had a talent for writing, but not always the pleasure and the discipline to do it.

I don’t believe in death the way our society portrays it. I’ve lived close to the veil between the living and dying all my life, a late-in-life baby born into a large, older family. By the time I was 20 years old, I’d easily been to more funerals, or as we tend to call them, celebration of life ceremonies — including my own father’s — than to any other kind of ritualized ceremonies, including weddings and graduations. In my world, people aren’t buried and gone forever. Our ancestors reside with us — as Kam now does with me — as guiding spirits. Death is very much a part of life. But what about those of us who are left behind?

This is a time in which many of us are experiencing excruciating loss and are working through tremendous and sudden life-altering shifts. It feels awkward and even a little trite to repeat this, but here I am doing it anyway. Check in with your folks, tell them you love them. Hold them close.

And let’s all work a little harder to create supportive, healing spaces for grief and healing work in our communities.


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2 Responses to “The Briar Patch | Horses and synchronicity of spirit”

  1. Cheryl Durgans says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I appreciate your encouragement to write more about this.

  2. I am writing about your number synchronicity because I am a psychiatrist who studies meaningful coincidences. We each seem to have ways of being notified that a loved one is in trouble or is dying. My father died on my birthday. I encourage you to continue writing about your number synchronicities. My research suggests that meaningful coincidences like yours are quite common yet people are often afraid to tell others fearing they will be called too woo woo or too strange.

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