I am an undeveloped story of which none can retrieve complete facts/ instead they tend to lend my life to sound bites /well reality bites/ bits and pieces/ my life lives between the creases /where no one will ever know the complete truth/ it lies at the root of me /autobiographically. – Iya Isoke
(I’ve been asked on numerous occasions to share the words as I spoke them on the day Charles & Sandy were laid to rest. Here is the text in it’s entirety.)
It is a difficult task to sum a man’s life up in a few minutes, in a room full of people, inconsolable, broken hearted, each with their own private pain, private stories, private moments, and private thoughts. It’s a monumental charge to speak from the heart when your heart is twisted and wrung dry, cracked wide open, bleeding its own private ache. But I chose to deliver these reflections, to massage this message on behalf of the man who has been in my life longer than any other man, longer than my girlfriends and good friends and longer even than my own children. This is my final gift to Charles because he enjoyed my writing and reciting and it wasn’t until our recent trip to Pittsburgh that he confided in me that when he watched me on the stage he would get a chill, nervousness and an excitement in his bones. He told me that he loved to listen to me and I pray he can hear me today.
Charles use to say to me that mourning a person’s death was a selfish endeavor. He told me that when a man dies people only concentrate on what they lost, he’d say it’s selfish to grieve just because the dearly deceased will not be there for you anymore. He said that person is in the ground, gone and not worried about what’s going on with you.
Now I would attempt to debate him, & if you knew Charles you knew that you had better be sure about your facts or the stand you want to take, before you attempted to debate him about anything. He could break any argument down to the lowest common denominator. I’d say “Charles, that’s just wrong”, because he and Sandy had a way of presenting you with the truth – neither put a ribbon or a bow on it, they didn’t paint or pamper it, they just hit you with it – and Charles truth was like his love. Raw, Uncut, Unblemished and Unedited.
So I’d say “Charles, that’s just wrong” you have to grieve, it’s part of the process of life” and he’d look at me with those eyes, and he would cock his head to the side, he would adjust his pants, and He would get real animated like only Charles could get – you know when you knew he knew exactly what point he was going to make – he’d point that finger and get in that pose that told you; you were about to be broken in like brand new shoes, his voice would shoot up two octaves, his face would get real serious and he’d say: (Luke 9 59-62)(Matthew 8:22) “When you get off Planet Isoke you need to pick up your Bible, Jesus told the man to follow me, and the man said let me first bury my father and Jesus told the man, “no” let the dead bury the dead.” So if God ain’t worried about it who are you to worry about it!” And then he would go into a diatribe about whatever we were talking about. He’s the only man I know who could cover and quote stories and versus from the Bible peppered in every four seconds with his favorite curse word you fill in the blank – and make it all sound so right.
He believed in truth and could tolerate whatever your truth was, but a lie would turn him inside out. I learned that no matter what I did or didn’t do – all I had to do, was be truthful. And I tested his theory many, many, many, many, many times. And the truth always set me free but with Charles you had no choice – he could pry the truth from you, he would explore your story, poke holes in your story, extracting the truth from your story no matter how serious or silly the situation he would get his answers from you. I always told him he missed his calling because he should have been a lawyer. He’d say “Now wait a minute – you not just going to talk to me like I’m some stupid fill in the blanks fresh off the boat” “Now you told me you went to the store – then to Wendy’s and straight back to the house” “You said you didn’t go anywhere” “But the store receipt stamped on the ticket says 1pm – the Wendy’s stamp says 3pm and you got home at 3:30pm” “Unless the ride from Union Deposit to 13th street has turned into a two hour fill in the blanks ride I’m fill in the blanks missing something.” Now you didn’t count stopping at your mom’s to chat – you didn’t think about it, but he did. He was very literal. You learned real quick to simply tell him the truth and don’t bother hiding anything from him he will find the truth in a darkened room wrapped in a black blanket.
He opened a fortune cookie one time and it said “You have an affinity for knowing the higher truth.” And he never me or you forget that. “What the cookie say Sokey?” I have a what?” “An affinity for knowing the higher truth.” His favorite television character was House. He used to say “that’s one ignorant fill in the blanks, but he is never wrong, just like me.”
His tongue was sharp and his wit was sharper still and although he infuriated you; you all know you loved him all the more for it, just as I did. We share this commonality with Charles and Sandy because they were unique people. They were Yin and Yang fitting like legos – there was a closeness that they shared, a sibling bond, a loyalty that had crystal clarity to it, Charles, Bobby, Sandy & Missy – They are Lincoln logs of loyalty. Fitting together and building a trust that you knew you wanted a piece of; because if you are in their circle you are protected, safe and fiercely loved.
There weren’t many things beyond his family that moved him in this world, he had seen and experienced a great deal in a short lifetime. It was important to him to answer his mother’s call – he would look at his phone if he saw a missed call from mommy Carol he would call right back, his mother is his world, we spent countless days sitting in his fathers kitchen the two of them talking incessantly about nothing, I would watch him and daddy Stewart and I would marvel at the ease of their relationship, these two men who had grown together into father and son, he has gotten up in the mist of darkness to go to his brother Bobby’s aide, just as Bobby has done time and again for him, Bobby. Mike and Charlie was said together so fast so much that strangers thought it was one name. They are one. Squirt , Missy, China, Scoot, Cece, Asha, Bobby, Noah, Tink, Brian, Brandon, need only whisper his name to the wind and he would ride that wind to whichever voice resided on the other side. What you need to know today is that his plate stayed full and although it sounds like I may have been bumped on the totem pole I never knew it because he made me feel top of the line, he was that kind of man.
Charles reflected on his own life quite often, he was diligent in his quest to live a purpose driven life. He didn’t cradle societal stigma or nurse past regrets. He lamented the opportunities he squandered and those which escaped him, He never ever allowed you to take anything from him, be it material or mental. He acknowledged his life for what is was. He use to say to me “it is what it is Sokey” and that’s what its gonna be.”
We are all coming from an intense place of hurt, loss, rage, regret, we lament and we all want desperately to turn back the hands of time, we lambast the truth of this day, I say let the outsider revel in rumors and innuendo, what you need to know, in this moment of accepted selfishness is that we must remember and honor Charles and Sandy for the pragmatic people they were every single day of their lives, in every single situation they have ever faced, It’s not about how they died, or why it had to happen, or even what happened, , it’s not about finding fault or placing blame, it’s not about whose pain is greater than or lesser than – a rush to judgment is an ill fitting suit, and there is but one tailor equipped to take measure of a man’s life , these are self-centered endeavors that fail to move us forward, and succeed only in dragging us backward and back there, know there are no answers. And if you sit here puffed up & consumed with who you think you represented in their lives, instead of understanding and celebrating that they have gone on to a new journey together, as brother and sister, big brother leading the way so that baby sister can rest easy, then your motives are vile and revealing and I have a feeling that the Charles we knew would want you to know that your posturing is callow, uncouth, unnecessary & unappreciated.
Every one of us in this room had our place in their lives, a pocket here, a snippet there, a piece and a part – because they made plenty of room for you with sincerity in their hearts.
In the worlds of Charlie, Stew1, Charles Markay Stewart… ” well you know what man – it is what it is. And that’s what its gonna be.”
So if God ain’t worried about it who are you to worry about it!”
I hope I’ve done you proud baby and may your journey home bring you the rest and peace you have spent a lifetime trying to obtain.