On July 12, 2000, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. We were given the news while she lay in her bed at Central Florida Regional Hospital in Sanford, Florida. I remember the date because it was my husband’s birthday and he was off by himself on the holiday we had planned together. I had not gone with him because a few days before we were meant to leave I got the devastating news that my mother was sick.
It was news that was both shocking and not shocking, as I had been waiting for it all of my life, as my earliest memories are those in which her life hung in the balance. Would this be the time he killed her? We clung to each other in the dark, listening and waiting and hoping it would not happen. Please do not let it.
Imagine a hunter is stalking you and it is dark and you know you’ve done nothing wrong. The fear is like that.
Imagine you are Trayvon Martin. Imagine that.
So when I hear Sanford, Florida in the news, I know Sanford, Florida. I have been there with you. I have sat on that bench outside the hospital and looked at the lake. I have seen the trumpet vine. I have snuck wine into my mother’s hospital room so that we could drink it together while we watched the first season of Survivor.
So, I want to tell you that Sanford, Florida is not all George Zimmerman. It is also Mary, who was my mother’s nurse for those nine months–on and off–that she stayed at the hospital. Mary took care of us all. She made sure we had sheets for the pull out chair. She and my mother teased each other. She knew my mother was a pain in the ass and she loved it. She loved her. I felt that love. She gave it freely. She was fearless in her love of someone who was dying. Someone she could not save, but didn’t give up on anyway.
For tonight, I’m going to remember Mary when I think of Sanford, Florida. I going to remember that there are people like Mary who care for those who are dying and have no hope. There are people who show compassion to the families of the dying. There are people who give you all of their own heart no matter what they have going on in their lives.
Tonight, I will remember Mary as a representative of Sanford, Florida instead of this man who took to the streets out of fear and anger. Who, under the guise of protecting his neighborhood, made so many of his countrymen feel unsafe and angry and afraid.
He protected nothing. He murdered a child and now he is free, but he does not, I hope, represent who we are, because we are also, Mary.
We must also give of ourselves freely and without fear. We must do this. We must do better.