By Richard Ray:


Death is almost always a sad occurrence. It is tragic when someone or even a beloved pet loses its life too soon. Yet, there are some occasions, when someone has lived a long full life, when the notice of their death, while momentarily may lead to a reaction of sadness, does nothing but bring a smile to your face.

One of my favorite people ever passed. She was 87 years old and had lived a long life, more recently marred by health issues. When my mother initially had very little family support after my birth, Big J provided much needed love and support. She took care of a shy kid that apparently was a loud and habitual crier for the first hour or two every morning, allowing the newly teenaged mom the opportunity to work knowing her infant was well taken care of.

That is just who Big J was. She had four biological children of her own and the youngest, closest to my age, just happened to make it to the NBA. Brownsville, Brooklyn and Syracuse University legend Pearl Washington only played three years in the NBA, but his NBA and endorsement income was first spent on moving his mother out of Brownsville.


Her own children were grown by this point, but Big J immediately began to share her blessings, bringing in several foster children into the new house. She always had so much love to share and room in her heart, now she just had several more bedrooms and square feet to physically share with others who she felt just needed a chance as well. I lost count out of how many kids she ended up fostering, but believe it to be around a dozen. I know a few were adopted. Even as those kids became adults, their children were always welcomed into Big J’s. The house was always filled beyond capacity and you have never met a person happier to have the opportunity to help others.

I am a cautionary tale… a failure at properly keeping up with those I care for. Yet, no matter how much time passed between my seeing or speaking to Big J, there was never anyone that made me feel more special at how happy she was to see or hear from me. She always brought a smile to my face. She always provided me with a reminder as to how good people could be. She always told me she loved me…

As she got older, I knew her health was not great, but no matter how often I asked, she never gave me much more than “I don’t always feel my best, but talking to you makes it all better.” She was a mess, surrounded by a cast of characters. Yet, the most genuine and warm person. Her passing was hardly surprising. I definitely should have called and saw her more often… but I am not sad. I am glad that she is no longer physically uncomfortable… and I smile… thankful that such a wonderful person had enough left in her heart to share its warmth…



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#death, #PearlWashington, #Brooklyn, #Goodpeople, #sadeness, #mourning, #celebratelife


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