As many at-home readers probably know, directly after my mom passed, the NFL swooped in and publicized my brother’s and my grieving process, taking my brother on a whirlwind of documented good-works that they did to lighten his life (completely ignoring me). This time is still a very raw period for me. It would be raw anyway because it was directly following the death of my mom, but it was immortalized in articles on Facebook, magazine interviews, and short documentaries, which I was overall excluded from.
So now, it’s hard to talk about. During the whole process, it was first exciting, fun, interesting. Then it was complicated, frustrating, hurtful. And now looking back, it’s demoralizing, embarrassing, and dehumanizing. While my brother and I would not agree, our relationship still suffers because of this time. Because of it all, my brother and my uncle will not speak to each other. So much strife wouldn’t have happened if this coverage never took place.
My friends here at Vassar agree that this short publicity was an awful thing. That the actions of certain parties were cruel. I wish it had never happened. My brother became a celebrity for playing football; I received a full ride scholarship to a seven sister school and no one said a word. A school administrator highjacked my mother’s funeral to draw attention to me and my brother, a school administrator who no one in my mother’s family knew.
This is all a result of the small-town coming together that happens in Oklahoma. Everyone wants to offer their support, but so many people want to be the one that spreads the story, tells other the news, makes it so the attention is on them. Sure, my school came together to support my brother and I, but then I couldn’t be safe from the thoughts of anyone. Everyone knew. Everyone wondered how I was. I never got to decide or work through how to tell people that my parents had died, not until I got to college.
Here, at Vassar, I can decide who knows. I’m notoriously open about the passing of my parents, but I get to choose who I tell. And the people I do tell don’t go telling everyone else.
I really am just working through these thoughts. The last thing anyone should do is apply this to every situation, but so much publicity is stifling. There’s no room to grieve without worrying about worrying someone. No one tried to stop the NFL, or the local news stations, or the magazines, or anything else from getting to my brother and me. They invited them in.
So pay attention to what you’re doing. Speak like a normal person when someone brings up someone who has died, as if they’re speaking about a normal person because they were. And then just as you wouldn’t tell everyone where someone is going to dinner that night, don’t use the death to attract attention to yourself by bring it up. Be courteous. It’s not hard to have respect for other people’s feelings.