My Best Friend

Although I’ve listened to it dozens of times, it never quite dawned on me how unique Kanye’s “Big Brother” is until hearing it the other day. The song itself isn’t very remarkable — it’s definitely not one of those tracks you go out of your way to listen to — but what makes it stand out is the concept behind it. Hip-hop is filled with tributes to women, mothers, children, and men who have already passed, but “Big Brother” is the only rap song I can think of where the entire song is devoted to a man who is still alive — a point Kanye makes in the song’s most memorable quote:

“If you admire somebody you should go on ‘head tell ’em
People never get the flowers while they can still smell ’em”

I thought of this line while leaving the hospital the other day, an act which has recently become a part of my daily routine. Wake up, edit stories for Ebony, feed the cat, write, call my mom, call my dad to see what time he wants to meet me at the hospital, check VSB, decide when I’m going to see my mom, eat, work some more, shower, drive to the hospital, watch TV with my mom, read Sports Illustrateds my dad stole from one of the hospital’s waiting rooms, give my mom a hug and do our secret handshake, leave the hospital, sit in my car, try not to cry, convince myself to stay upbeat and optimistic, drive home. Rinse, wash, and repeat.

It’s been almost a month since my mom first got sick. A week since the dozens of tests finally gave the doctors some indication of what could possibly be wrong, and, as of this writing, a few hours since that indication was confirmed — a confirmation that let us all know there’s a chance there may not be many more opportunities to give her flowers while she can still smell them.

With this in mind, I sit here at my laptop, staring at my monitor, deleting paragraphs as soon as I’m finished writing them, unable to decide what to say. I’m a writer, and writers are supposed to write I guess, but everything I think about saying feels inadequate, insignificant, unimportant. How can you blog about your best friend? What words could possibly convey how someone has meant everything to you?

And, even if I found the right words, what purpose would writing them possibly serve? They will not cure her. They will not allow me to rewind six weeks and remember that she asked me to let her know the next time I was going to church because she wanted to come with me, and they will not allow me to forgive myself for forgetting. They will not soothe her pain or make it so that she doesn’t have to look forward to chemotherapy. They will not remind me to savor the smell the last time I drove to my parent’s house on a Saturday morning when my mom was making French toast. They will not introduce her to the woman I want to marry, and they won’t make certain that she’ll be able to hold my first child in her arms and see if he has her eyes. They will not make it so that she can garden again, or go grocery shopping by herself, or go to an Earth, Wind & Fire concert with her girlfriends. They will not undevastate my dad, cheer up my sister, and assure my nieces that their grandmother will be around to watch them graduate from high school.

And, well, they will not assure her of the happy ending I haven’t been working hard enough to give her. They will not make it so that I can finally write a check and pay off my parent’s mortgage and car note and any other unnecessary headaches they may have. They will not rid me of this feeling that I haven’t done enough to take advantage of the advantages she gave me, that I haven’t always been the best friend to my best friend.

Fortunately, I do have time. I don’t know exactly how much, but I do know that I at least have some of it to somehow give my mom some flowers. But, time or no time, no flowers, no anything will ever be enough to fully express the depths and fullness of my love and appreciation for her, and there are no words to express how useless this makes me feel.

—Damon Young

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • I cried when I read this and I’ve never even met Mama Champ. God Bless you and your family, you’re all in my prayers

    • misstlb

      I can’t even express how my heart goes out to you. When i read this it makes you realize how much your parents mean to you. Your mother and family are in my prayers.

      • Britico Chick

        x a million. Take it each day at a time, Champ

  • Rayne

    That was really sweet and heartfelt.

  • Jay

    Wow. I sincerely hope that everything turns out well for you and your fam. I know firsthand how tough chemotherapy can be. I went through a year and a half of it at 19. I’m sure that your mother realizes, as much as you do, how special your relationship is. I wish that me and my mom had such a connection.

    • Iceprincess2

      Omg jay I had no idea. Wow what strength you must have to go through that as a teen.

  • Val

    Hold on to the love. That’s the only real comfort any of us has.

    I’ll be praying for your mom.

  • Toria

    I cried reading this. I will be praying for you, your mom, and your family. I’ve been in a similar situation with my grandmother. I pray that she able to overcome this illness and face the things ahead with a smile, knowing that she is very much loved. I wish you didn’t feel useless though; the time spent means a lot. Your love for your mother only needs to be felt and I’m sure she does.

    I think I will call my parents today just to say hi.

  • Juiciest Mango

    I speak nothing but peace that surpasses human understanding in your life and that of your family, during this turbulent season. May He, watch over your mother and grant her the strength needed to endure chemo. Most importantly, I pray for the restoration of her health. Amin.

    Please listen to Donald Lawrence’s [Encourage Yourself] Be Blessed :)

    • Ditto, Mami. I love that song!

  • legitimate_soul

    This was beautiful and touching. I sent up a prayer for you and yours. I have been there.

  • Wow. I’m praying for you man. That’s got to be something really tough to deal with. I don’t personally know you, but know that I’m praying for the best for you and your family. Positive thoughts!

  • Ronniehoequotes

    Smh I bet you heathens feel like shit for being so mean to him yesterday…

    All jokes aside, Champ, I’m sorry for what your mother has and will endure during her illness and treatment. I’m also glad you’re recognizing that, while you should definitely be optimistic, you need to make the most of this time. I regret thinking a dear friend (friend is not the right word; she was my 5th grade teacher…my bff’s mother and…and just one of the most amazing spirits you will ever encounter) was invincible simply because I assumed the strength she possessed would laugh in the face of something as trivial as cancer. She kept asking to see me, but I was too busy with teenage bs. Anyway, like I was saying, I’m praying that your mother will be in remission in no time, and I hope that you know that the most you can do for her is keep your head up and be there for her. *hug*

  • chameleonic

    you know, im just gonna be honest. i have a lot of pent up anger towards men because sometimes i have moments where it really is too much and i need someone there and i just look at men like you havent done enough. i get so angry. what were you doing all your life that you cant help me right now or be there for me. why did you waste all that time, why arent you prepared, why cant you hold me up? but i never say that. i feel it. but i can never quite bring myself to say it.

    ive been sick for awhile now too. i havent really told my family i just feel weird about it. im always the go to person. weve been through a lot. when i go through a personal problem i tend to shield them from it. when i got sick it was a long time coming. i had too much on my plate and i outright lied to everyone because i could have a broken leg and run a marathon if people were looking up to me. im not gonna tell them but i feel bad that i cant be around my family and i feel bad that i cant be honest and i feel bad that im even out of commission. my lifeline…..is my eldery father.

    thats stressful. ive been telling him for years to retire and now i just feel like i failed in life bc i cant seem to manage. and then i get mad because theres no help coming so i have to pull these impossible feats out of my butt and it takes quite a toll. all these problems and worries and responsibilities and i just blow through it with a level head and a strict focus. then i started burning myself out so i became withdrawn so my family wouldnt have to see it. then i started getting sick so i made life a little easier for myself, but now?

    the past month has been HARD. my condition is just alarmingly piss poor. a few weeks back i got out of breath walking to my bedroom door; it takes me over an hour to put on pants and a shirt. my vision is always flashy and spotty. i finally convinced myself to look up my symptoms i damn near threw the computer through the window i got so pissed off. im 23 years old theres no way in the devils orange hell im that ill. ive had the flu ONCE. i get a cold maybe once every three years. i dont have a history of illness i cant possibly have……its all in my head. na. im fine. i havent been to the hospital, i refuse to see a doctor, i wont even tell anyone stuff that is CLEARLY progressively life threatening bc in my mind….you cant do anything about it. its a problem; ill solve it myself.

    i cant even fix my own food or hold up a pitcher of water…..but i can fix my life and everyone elses all by myself. i just need to focus.


    for what its worth, sometimes when things get REALLY bad all i really want is someone to lay in bed with me and say sweet things about me. all i want is my family. i just want them there because for the absolute first time in my life im resigned to the mindset that i cant. not this one. it would mean the world to me to have someone there everyday but i guess i truthfully want a man there that can carry me through solutions. thats a very hard lesson when you realize they cant. be there for your mom. i mean REALLY be there. stop your life for her because its going to get really hard and shes going to need time and effort. a lot of it. so be there for her.

    • Iceprincess2

      Way to make it about you smh. Get well soon though.

      • Boo Radley

        Ice Princess,

        I do believe you are my id personified. I can’t count the number of times that even as I formed a thought I convinced myself not to write, I scrolled down to find that you’d already hit the nail on the head.

        • Iceprincess2

          @booradley We have ESPN!! :-)

      • chameleonic

        well, lets hear the inside scoop from another female with (potential) cancer. if your head wasnt so firmly up your a*s you would be able to comprehend the purpose of this comment was to express the hardship of this illness. it was meant to express what someone could potentially feel and experience. it was also an encouragement of he and his family being there for his mother. it was also a plea for him to put her above all else because sh*t is tough when you go through it alone. YOU made this about me.
        because youre too f*cking stupid to ever get a point.

        • chameleonic

          the problem with people who are dumb as sh*t is that they cant tell. if your minds ability stops at ‘you made this about yourself’ than thats on you. like majority of your replies to me you are wrong. you simply can not think deeply enough or have the perspective to make an accurate statement. just because youre an idiot who speaks doesnt mean my comments are what you say they are. you simply state all they could ever be to YOU which displays how lowly you are.

    • SweetSass

      Girl, get your crazy arse to a hospital. You cannot solve this on your own… Clearly.

      • Kema

        Yes… Write down the symptoms. Go see a doctor.

    • WIP

      Please go to the hospital. People can’t be there if you never let them be there.

      • Are You Serious?

        Hey VSB Land,

        I wouldn’t spend too much time replying to chameleonic. She’s actually been going from website to website changing her name and posting these type of messages for months. She will drag down the comment section with negativity and unrelated comments if you let her. Several people have suggested she go get help, but she just keeps trolling. I highly suggest you ignore. Today’s comment is one example of what she’ll do everyday for as long as you pay attention to her.

        • SweetSass

          Yeah, I smelled an alt too.

          • Iceprincess2

            Yep, pretty much. I knew she was bat sh*t crazy from jump.

        • Anastasia!!!

          Okay, I kind of figured she was not real or she was a TROLL. Thank you for saying what I was thinking!!!

        • chameleonic

          why did you blatantly lie? seriously. ive been on one website prior to this one. my response to a cancer topic was “no, i dont know anyone with it and if i did i wouldnt deal with it.” at which point the author responded in the most disrespectful tone of voice, something along the lines of ‘she has a jaded opinion because she hasnt experienced the horrors’ at which point i harshly corrected him. another topic came up about a woman taking sick leave having had two forms of the disease and i shared that i recently took off for that very reason. so dont sit there and try to make it seem like i frequent every major blog asking for peoples sympathy when i outright lie when the topic even comes up.

          i left that blog because the community was too limited to provide the necessary comforts of socializing during such a dark period. seeing as how im too f*cking sick to leave my home, seeing as how im accustomed to having to hold my ground with high powered adversaries, blame your interpretation of my behavior on your lackluster perspective.

          you truly should be ashamed of yourself. you just outright lied to paint a negative picture of me. and for what? to get away with slander….you can f*ck all the way off turn around and apologize for your reckless, deceitful accusations. i literally was trying to help a man make sense of what his mother could potentially be going through, encouraging his presence in being there for her, in being honest about my own plight for the first time…hoping it would help him in some way.


          not because i troll blogs. because i dont have a family to speak of and i know how it feels to have no one there for you. dont try to sh*t on me because the equivalent of your life is regularly patrolling the blogosphere. youre a loser for even knowing that lie about me. infatuated a*s.

More Like This