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Memorial service: ‘God we just don’t get it’
The Metroplitan Community Church congregation was silent when Rev. Deb Dysert asked if anyone from Corey Jackson’s family or circle of friends wanted to share anything about the young man who took his own life on Oct. 18.
Nearly fifty people, there for a memorial service in Jackson’s honor, diverted their eyes. Some looked around, waiting to see if anyone had anything to say. Most who sat in the rows of brown, velvety chairs had not known the 19-year-old Oakland University student. Many heard about the memorial through the media, and only knew that Jackson was one more in a series of young gay people who had taken their own lives. His suicide was the ninth reported nationally in a string of young, gay suicides since September.
In the front row, a handful of women from Jackson’s family wiped tears off their faces and said nothing. Three friends, whose pictures could be seen rotating on two large screens posing with the deceased at clubs and on campus, fidgeted and remained silent.
Two young girls in the front row nudged one of Jackson’s aunts. “Go,” said Abbey. “Go talk about Corey. Someone needs to say something about him!” The woman shook her head, and buried her face in her hands to cry.
Rev. Dysert looked around the room once more and began to speak, when the younger of the two girls jumped down from her chair and darted forward. Using a bold little-girl voice, she spoke from behind a mess of blond hair, shifting her weight from one foot to another and playing with the cuffs of her tiny pink jacket. “I wanna say something about Corey,” she said.
Dysert shared the microphone with Abbey. “I want to remember when Corey went swimming with us,” she said. “Me, Corey, Kate and Diane came and we all went swimming.” Smiles cracked throughout the room, and eyes filled with tears. Abbey’s older sister Diana called from the second row, “He was on the swim team.”
The little girls had stirred the room. Another relative stood up and talked more about Corey’s involvement in sports. She said that the night before, her four-year-old daughter was asking about him, and saying how handsome he looked laying in the coffin. “Corey had a little bit of a vain streak, and he would have liked that,” she said.
Another man, an artist active in the gay community who had not met Jackson before, said he was in awe of the turnout at a previous vigil held on the OU campus. “There was a time when people wouldn’t have come out to show their support,” noting several hundred had attended.
Someone else spoke about being at the club with Corey dancing the weekend before. “I remember when he announced that he and Mario were a couple, and we all looked at him and you could tell in his eyes that they were a couple, long before they knew they were a couple.”
But the service could not answer the most common question: why?
“God we just don’t get it. We don’t understand. Our hearts are heavy. Please open our hearts so we can understand. Open our hearts with the message he would have us have,” Dysert said.
Dysert did not know Corey, but she said his Facebook page was like a recipe that those who cared about him could use to move forward with life. “On his Facebook page he wrote, ‘Saying I’m complicated is an understatement.’ This is not the moment in our lives when things are going to make sense. I believe the way that we take our next breath is to find some place where we can put our trust, where we can put our hope. Corey’s words were a place where I can find some solace.”
And Dysert had helped the community move forward with Jackson’s own words.
Mourners came to the memorial service with a flower to be added to a large vase, creating an eclectic bouquet of love. “Like this bouquet, God loves every different petal, every different color, every size, every weight,” she said. “The bouquet represents the diversity that Corey would have wanted to see in the world.”