Theory & Essay

April Showers: In Memory Of…

Y’all gon’ have to forgive me, because today I just feel like sharing.

I remember when my life changed.

I don’t know if everybody experiences life changing moments or goes through events that cause them to really consider life and all of its possibilities or not, but it happened to me.

The problem for me is that the very experience that changed my life is one where somebody else’s life came to an end. And that is something I’ve been dealing with for 12 years now. I only have one real regret in life. But over time, I realize that had I done something different that night, and thereby erasing my regret, I might have ended the lives of two other people. Not just the one person who’s life did end that night.

April is the birthday month of my cousin. Or would be if he was still alive. April 21. It’s a day that for years has pained me, since for the past 12 years, I’ve never been able to get to Atlanta to celebrate his birthday with my family. Every time I do make it back to Atlanta, one of the first stops I always make is to the cemetery to visit the grave of my cousin, and now my grandmother as well, who is buried right next to him. Just as God intended them to be.

One night, in July 2000, my younger cousin and I went to the movies. We saw Scary Movie . I don’t even remember if it was funny or not. I do remember a conversation my cousin and I had about religion and our upbrining in the church and how we felt at the time. I was 21 and she was 19. The movie was over at about 1135pm. We lived on the Westside of Atlanta, Adamsville to be exact, and we were at Magic Johnson’s in Greenbriar. It takes about 10 minutes to get from Greenbriar to my grandmother’s house. We got there are about 1147pm.

My grandmother’s house has a split driveway. You can either pull into the left side or the right side. I pulled into the right side. Parked. And walked into the basement door. As I was walking in, my cousin, T, was walking out. He would go to our grandmother’s house every day at least once to check on his mother and my grandmother, who would cook dinner for him everyday. You get things like that when you are grandma’s right-hand man. I hadn’t seen him in about a week, maybe. Which wasn’t normal. Not that anything was up, he would either stop by my spot to see me or we’d meet up at my grandmother’s house to say what’s up a few times a week. We have a pretty tightknit family like that.

T: What’s up folk, I ain’t seen you like a week, cuz. What’s up, you ain’t got love for your cuz no more?

Me: What’s up T, you know good and well I love you man. I’ll give you a call in a day or two.

*dapping up in black man handshake hug*

T: Alright, folk. I’ll holla at you later. Bye momma…

He walked outside.

I started to walk towards the stairs. At this point there is about 10 feet between us. He’s outside, I’m inside.

My other cousin, who is his little sister, is between the two of us. And then it happened. He yelled, “don’t hit me folk!!!”

He was gone.


Shot once in the heart. Died instantly.

I honestly never heard the gunshot. And to this day that bothers me. Everybody else heard it but I didn’t hear it so for a second I was confused at what I was seeing. I didn’t see anybody else’s face. I just saw T laid out on the ground, his car door open…

A total of 30 seconds at most passed between the time I got to the driveway and he was killed. At my grandmother’s house.

Which means that whoever did it, was there when I pulled up and must have been hiding in the shadows of my grandmother’s carport, which is literally right next to the door we walked into.

Do you remember the scene in Menace II Society where Stacey is trying to revive Kaine after he was shot? That was us. We were shaking him and trying to wake him up, refusing to believe he was gone. Little did we know he was already dead. One of the paramedics told me that later that he died instantly. At least there wasn’t any pain. I had to make all of the phone calls to the family because I was the only person who could hold the phone. There were four other people in the house when it happened. My aunt (his mother), my grandmother, and his two sisters, one of which went to the movies with me. One of his sisters ran into the street and collapsed. His mother lost it as well. My grandmother and other cousin, both of who have the strongest relationships with God of anybody I’ve ever met, both cried, and then prayed.

It took about 10 minutes for it to dawn on me.

The person who killed my cousin had every opportunity to kill me. He had to have seen my face and my other cousin’s as well. For all we knew, he KNEW us. I was afraid to go to my grandmother’s house, or anywhere else for that matter for a week.

I could have died that night. Had I made the decision that would have erased my regret, and parked on the other side of the driveway, I would have seen him, and he might have killed me and my cousin in order to get away. He was clearly going to kill somebody that night. He came there to complete a job. He succeeded.

And that changed my life. I don’t really remember my demeanor before it all happened. I know I was still a happy person and that I wasn’t very negative in nature. But now…

…it’s hard for me to get upset or really depressed. I have my moments like everybody else. But losing my cousin like that, and being so close to the situation and realizing it could have been me, well, everyday I’m alive I’m happy to be here. I have quite a few friends who have asked me how I seem to be so happy or jovial so often and why not much gets me down. I nearly always respond: because I’m alive. Life has been good to me. And it took that day to make me realize just how lucky I am.

My family was scared for me for quite a few days. My father in particular. I was leaving for a summer program in DC a week later so it was a very tense week in my neighborhood for me. I was scared. But somehow, I was just thankful to be alive. I feel that way lots of times. I have a weird peace in my life nowadays. Some things suck, but it takes me very little time to get over certain stuff. I realized how much I love and value my family.

I love life and living. I appreciate every day that I get. Even the people that drive me crazy are appreciated. Not being afraid to live is one of the best feelings ever. Sure I slack at times, but I know that life is grand and that my cousin is looking down on us while he and my grandmother play backgammon in heaven, something I could never play on Earth.

For a good year, I got really nervous at my grandmother’s house. Even today, every time I walk by the spot it happened, I have to look over and stare for a while. I can’t get the vivid imagery out of my head, and I’m not sure I ever will. It’s part of me now.

I miss my cousin a lot. At least I got a chance to tell him that I loved him. Anytime we have a family function, everybody always makes sure to mention T and make sure we remember him. And because my family is tres ghetto, somebody always shows up with their RIP t-shirt. I myself have two of them.

So every April 21, on his birthday, I make sure to give thanks for his life and remember his death. My life is what it is now because of him.

Always missed, always loved. When they reminisce over you…

One thing that experience taught me is that we’ve all got stories. And that you’d be amazed what people have been through if you just listen. If you’ve got something to share, feel free. If not, that’s all good.

I know it’s heavy for a Friday, but I’ve been hesitant to write about this for years on this site. And today I felt like sharing.

Welcome to Panama’s City.


 PS: For your reading pleasure, check out Champ’s latest article at Ebony, “5 Reasons Kim and Kanye are a Match Made in Heaven”. And for those looking for more philosophical fodder, check out Panama’s latest at Guyspeak, “What’s Worse: The Pr0n Star or The Ex?”

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Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at

  • MAG

    Thank you for sharing this, Panama. My heart is full, bro. Thank you for this.

  • IMJ

    frequent reader, but not usually compelled to post. this touched me and instantly made me remember something that happened to me. the night before i was heading off to my first year of college in atlanta, my cousin got carjacked in front of my house as he came to tell me goodbye. he and his younger brother were in the car and i was standing outside of it and saw the two guys running towards us with their guns drawn and their faces covered. although it felt like an eternity, i know it was only a matter of seconds. i ran and by the time i got inside to tell my parents to call the cops, we heard a gunshot. luckily for my family, no one was hurt but it was honestly the most frightening thing that ever happened to me. i felt so relieved to be leaving the next day, but also scared that i was leaving my family behind when the perps were still out there and knew where we lived. i didn’t sleep well for about two months. i felt guilty for leaving and guilty for running. the only consolation i had was that if i hadn’t run, i likely would have screamed, thus making the situation worse. i’m really sorry this had to happen to you. thanks for sharing and i hope that putting the words to paper (computer screen) that it brings you some level of peace.

  • mena

    I’m sorry for your loss and pain. It’s amazing how one moment can change your perspective on even something as simple as waking up the next day.

    Totally not too deep for a Friday.

  • Interestingly enough, this was the pick me up that I needed. Great way to put it all in perspective.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • TheAnti-Cool


    Nothing else to add of my own. I haven’t had a life-defining moment like that and maybe that is my problem.

  • Wow.

    I sat here a moment after reading this and…


    Great post, P.

    I think the one moment that sticks with me the most is when my Grandma died. My father’s mother. I had lost him when I was 12 years old to lung cancer, never knowing I’d lose her to the very same illness.

    But I did. I remember the day like it was… today. Not even yesterday. I remember it that vividly. I was in Dekalb away at college and the next day I was to visit my Grandma at the nursing home. It was a tornado warning and the winds were roaring through the cornfields and chilling my spine.

    I knew Grandma was in her last days which is why I had planned to visit her for what I knew would be the last time.

    I was sitting on the floor at my sister’s house, my mama was sitting on the chair across from me.

    Then the phone rang. And my sister went into her room to answer the phone. Her tones were very hushed so I couldn’t hear a word she said.

    But when she came out, I knew. I knew as soon as her teary eyes stared at me. And then she said it.

    “Vi (short for Viola) died.”

    I’ve written about this before and this is what I’ve written in terms of my feelings at that moment: I felt everything and nothing.

    All at once.

    Looking back, I realize my last visit with her at the nursing home was of her jovial and while thinner and sickly… she was herself. I always figure that maybe I didn’t want to see her in her very last stages. And yet I still regret the fact that it was not even a full day before I was to see her again. I regret the things I never got to tell her… to show her. However, a larger part of me cherishes the fact that the last image I saw of her was one of my favorite images of my life: her smile.

  • Leila

    I’m sorry for your loss Panama. Thank you for sharing and beautifully written.

    Tomorrow April 13th is exactly 13 years since my mom passed away. I was 20 yrs old and it was a day that I will never forget and changed my life forever. I was very close to my mom and it was a very hard loss that changed my perspective on life. Like you said it does make you love life and living.

  • Damn man, that’s rough. I’m glad you wrote about it though. When my father died, I wrote about what I was feeling at the time, and it actually helped me find the strength to do what needed to be done at the moment. You never know whose life you’re going to touch or whom you’re going to inspire when you share things like this. Sorry for the loss of your cousin, but I’m glad that you came out everything a stronger person.

  • Iceprincess

    Damn. Your cuzzo got murked IN FRONT of you?! Hey man im so sorry. So what ever happed with the case? Does it remain unsolved? Sometimes thats the worst part, unanswered questions. Lack of closure. Again my condolences to you & youre family. *big e-hug with one hand rubbing your back*

  • I’m sorry for the loss of your cousin…As a victim of gun violence, I know that I am truly blessed to still be here. One Juneteenth many years ago, I was shot by a person who recklessly fired his 9 into a crowd of people; I was the lucky one who got hit. I didn’t even know what happened until I realized that I couldn’t run like everyone else was.

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