Jonathan Charles Booker was born on November 14, 1992. He died tragically at the age of 25 on December 3, 2017.
People often talk about the hardest things they go through. On December 2, 2017, if you asked me what is the hardest thing I have ever dealt with, I would tell you law school, bar exam prep, financial difficulties, or any other number of things like that. But after December 3, 2017, I would tell you that it was losing my little brother.
When I got the phone call that my brother had been shot and killed back in Memphis, I felt my soul leave my body. My heart broke into hundreds of little pieces, and I still haven’t retrieved them all. I literally thought that I would die from the pain because how can you possibly live when your heart has been ripped from your chest? When every breath has escaped your lungs? How can I possibly live when Jon can’t?
We were about 2 1/2 years apart in age. My first memories include him, and I didn’t know life without him. Fourteen hours from home, I waited until the morning after the 3 am phone call from my dad. My husband and I walked to the urgent care center one block from our apartment. When the receptionist asked for the reason for our visit, all I could say was, “My brother was killed last night and I need something to help me get through this.”
The nurses were all kind and the doctor was very understanding. She gave me a shot of valium and a prescription so that I could manage the long drive back for the funeral. I don’t really remember the drive home. I just know that suddenly, I was back in Memphis, standing in Jon’s bedroom at my parents’ house. I broke hard in that moment because I realized that he really was gone.
The worst thing about losing someone to a violent crime is that it starts to feel like their existence is overshadowed by the crime story. Jon was a photographer, a skateboarder, a car lover, and many other things. He was goofy and sweet with a ton of friends. But in a few seconds, that was all reduced to “murder victim.” Even writing this post, I feel guilty, because it adds to the victim narrative. But I can’t gloss over what happened because whether I like it or not, it plays a huge part in my grief.
He was a perfectly innocent person, walking back to his car with his friends after a music show. I knew life wasn’t fair before, but now I know how truly unfair it can be. There were several gang members, shooting at one another. Not one was hit. But Jon, the innocent guy on the sidewalk, was. The universe is a real bitch.
With Jon went my entire family’s joy. Our sense of safety is gone, and every one of us suffer from some amount of PTSD. There is an emptiness in our big family, and it feels emptier every day. But we keep going, because frankly, what other choice do we have?
I didn’t know life without Jon, but now I do.