a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

07.01.82-03.06.14

Posted on: April 3, 2014

Patrice2My sister’s obituary

Patrice M. Davis was born on July 1, 1982, to Vince and Pathy Davis in Toledo, Ohio. She showed a love for art at a young age. Her parents encouraged her passion for the arts by enrolling her in the Young Artist at Work Program. Her medium was sculpting, ceramics and fine art. Ms. Davis attended Notre Dame Academy and graduated from Springfield High School. After high school she attended the University of Toledo. Her major at the University was Fine Arts. Patrice returned as a teacher to the Young Artist at Work Program and taught at the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo. As an artist she was on display at The Toledo Museum of Art and other fine art galleries around the city of Toledo.

She leaves to cherish her memory parents, Vince and Pathy Davis; sons, Jullian, Justice and Jacob Davis; sister, Erika Davis; uncle, Michael Davis Sr.; aunts, Shawana Davis; cousins, Kimberly Davis-Stewart, Tammy Davis, Vanessa Fenner, Kenny Davis, Kevin Davis, Amber Davis, Michael, Davis Jr., Gabrielle Davis, Tawaan Davis, Shane Davis, Shaquana Valentine and numerous other relatives.

The family invites you to celebrate the memory of Patrice at the Braden United Methodist Church, 4725 Dorr St, Toledo, OH 43615, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 9, 2014. The repast will be held from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Braden. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you send a monetary contribution for her son’s scholarship funds. Checks can be made out to State Farm Insurance, 3344 Secor Rd., Suite A102 Toledo, Ohio 43606.

patrice and I

It’s been exactly one month since my sister died and it’s only getting harder. The first few weeks at home in Ohio were easy to deal with because wrangling three boys under 7 years of age tends to keep your mind occupied. The nights and mornings were the hardest, and sometimes seeing my sister’s face so clearly reflected in her sons brought me to tears.

Back in Brooklyn job hunting helped to occupy the spaces of my brain that would have normally focused on the things I miss about her, the things I wish I could have said, the future that could have been. But as the days turned to weeks and my resumes seemed stuck in a limbo of their own, my mind became more clear and thoughts of my sister and all that we had and could have had came flooding back.

My sister was:
Hilarious with an infectious laugh.
Incredibly talented
Beautiful
Smart
A smart-ass
When we were girls she followed me around everywhere. She wanted to do everything that I did and wanted to be where I was. It was annoying. I have three really great memories to share.

1. When I made her stand in the corner.
She loved to sleep with me and I love sleeping alone. I still really like sleeping alone, but don’t tell Mirs 😉 Whenever Patrice wanted to sleep with me I made up very strict rules: No loud breathing, no touching me, no moving around. And if she broke any of these rules she would have to stand in the corner. It didn’t matter how many nights she spent staring at that corner for an offense, she always wanted to sleep with me.

patrice and I 2

2. She was up for anything, unless it was dangerous to me.
We lived in a beautiful old Victorian home fully equip with dumb waiters and laundry shoots. While we couldn’t ride the dumb waiters like Webster, we did have one particularly fun experiment with the laundry shoots. One shoot was in the pantry on the first floor. Since we could see the basement fairly clearly from the pantry shoot, we figured that we should go down that shoot. Because I was the oldest (tallest) it was decided that I should go first. We reasoned that if I was hanging from the shoot it should be a fairly quick drop. I climbed into the laundry shoot and as the darkness enveloped me we both got really scared. I was sure that once in the shoot I’d be able to touch the bottom, but as I mentioned, WE LIVED IN A MANSION. It was a long way down and we both freaked out. I had her go down to see how far I’d fall. I hung, she ran to the basement.

“You’re REALLY far, Er!” She hollered up to me.
“Come pull me up!” I shouted back.

She ran back up stairs and burst into tears. We tried to pull me back up, which didn’t work. I had no choice but to fall, but all of a sudden we both wondered what would happen if I kept going down! Would we fall through the bottom into a turn of the century crypt buried deep under our house? I let go and fell. She cried. I was fine and made her swear to not tell Mom and Dad.

3. When we “accidentally” burst our parent’s water bed.
Our parents were cruel (well to us as kids they were) and after one punishment or another we got the cleaver idea to puncture the water bed. We thought we’d put a tiny cut into it and they’d…actually, now that I’m remembering this story I really have no clue what we were thinking. If Patrice were here I’d call her to ask. Whatever our reason, our revenge was the bed. I watched her grip a corner of the bed and snip it with the scissors. And I watched at least a gallon of water flood out the bed. We rushed for towels, but it was too late. The bed emptied in about a half hour and there was a pretty major leak. We got into a lot of trouble (and arse whooping) followed. Though, rather than confess to our sins, we made up a lie about being on the bed with scissors that punctured the mattress.

patriceOf course our teenage and adult years were harder and we drifted apart to the point of barely speaking.

Last Christmas she text me that she loved me and I didn’t respond with I love you.

In January I text her saying that I wanted to work on our relationship, but that I needed time. She text back “OK” and I never did follow up.

I wish I could’ve been a better sister to her.

Was I a bad sister?
I asked my parents this on the Tuesday night after her memorial service. I cried in their arms, in the same bed we crawled in as children, and they assured me that I was a good sister, but was I?

These thoughts now occupy my mind. Could I have helped? Could I have been better? Was I selfish?

patrice and erikaThere’s a fabulous line Baptist folks tend to say, “G-d doesn’t make mistakes.” I also know that we’re all on borrowed time. Despite the worried thoughts that enter my mind, I know that her death wasn’t without purpose. It’s taught me not to take things for granted. It’s taught me to appreciate my family. It’s taught me to be present. It’s taught me to not hold grudges.

Our talents, our lives, the way that we impact one another are all gifts from G-d. We shouldn’t waste them and we shouldn’t forget to say I love you.

Patrice is my only sister. My children won’t have their aunt in their lives and her children won’t grow up with a mother, but somehow, we’ll make it through. We’ll tell the boys stories of their funny, spontaneous, crazy mother and I’ll remember the good times Patrice and I had. And with time we’ll move forward because that’s the way time works. We can’t, I can’t, change the past but I can work towards making sure that I’m always present. Present in my family’s lives, present in my nephews lives, and present in my life.

Shloshim, the Jewish period of mourning, is coming to an end. As I look up from my grief I’ve noted that while I seem stuck in my sadness, the world is buzzing with life around me and it’s finally spring in NYC.

 

5 Responses to "07.01.82-03.06.14"

You were a GREAT sister… We went thru that, me and Dani late teenage years and we just drifted apart, especially after she moved to Detroit. She knew you loved her, just like you know she love you. For whatever reason this was the path and now you’re here… Yall had a great sisterly love… please always know that.

I have not read your blog for a while, so I found out about your sister only today. I am sorry your sister passed away. I am sending my best wishes to you and to your family.

Hi Erika,

I only met you once or twice but was looking for information about your sisters passing and found this. We came to a wine party you had at your house in Toledo in maybe 2003-2004. She was a beautiful person, and I remember her talking about how much she loved you and I felt the need to respond to your blog remembering the energy she said this with it was strong. She definitely felt connected to you when I was in her life and I am sure there after. My condolences.

Thanks so much for your kind words. She’s definitely very missed.

[…] readers will remember that their mother, my sister (z”l), passed away from complications of long-term drug abuse. Since her death my parents […]

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