Xy & I attended the funeral of Danita “Measy” Jackson today.
I never really knew Danita. I gave her a ride once. That was just about the only time we ever talked. But Xy and I know her daughters, who live across the street from us: Danielle, Donika and little Willanita (who for some reason is called Mamaw or just Maw). I’d guesstimate they’re 12, 10 and 4 respectively. She also has a little boy, Will, who’s an infant. She was bathing him when she died.
Her funeral was at Little John’s Funeral Home on Earhart Boulevard in Gert Town. I’ve seen this place many times, and I’ve always been intrigued by the motto emblazoned on the side of the building: “We Mean Business.” It seems like an odd slogan for a funeral parlor. I’m not sure what it means.
I think Xy & I were the only white people there, and so again I found myself confronted by the differences that divide the races in our country — and the commonalities that unite us. And, to tell the truth, I wasn’t always sure which were which.
There were a lot of people there. One woman came with her hair in rollers. Why would you go to a funeral with your hair in rollers? There was a guy with bandanas tied around his head, hanging in front of his face. And a lot of people were wearing “dead man shirts.”
I believe my grandmother had a closed casket funeral. I don’t think I’ve seen a dead person since Grandpa Rudy died. That was over 25 years ago. That seems incredible.
Danita’s body seemed lifelike, but she didn’t really look like the woman I remembered.
As for the funeral service, there was a lot of weeping and preaching and singing. Her niece, Leshia (sp?), who often hangs out with the girls across the street, read a poem she’d written. It was very short. I remember a couple lines:
Nobody knows why she died
But everybody cried and cried
From what I understand, this is true. The cause of her death never was discovered. Sad thing is, I predicted this. She was only 32, but she was a poor black woman. How much investigating is really going to be done?
I wept, not for her untimely death, which was sad enough, but for Danita’s life. I understand she enjoyed life, but there’s no question that her life was also a hard one. Three of her children didn’t live with her, but across the street from us — several miles from the projects where Danita herself lived. I think that simple fact speaks volumes of pain and conflict.
I understand she was buried with beer, because she loved beer.
Update: I guess I was wrong about the cause of death not being known. I just found the obituary online:
JACKSON, DANITA ‘MEASY’ MARIE
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Danita “Measy” Marie Jackson, a homemaker, died Jan. 21 of sickle cell anemia at University Hospital. She was 32. Miss Jackson was a lifelong resident of New Orleans. She attended Booker T. Washington High School. Survivors include her companion, William Smith Sr.; a son, William Smith Jr.; three daughters, Danielle and Donika Jackson and Willanita Smith; her father, Willie B. Jackson; her mother, Quillene Howard; her stepfather, Charles Howard III; three brothers, Kendell Shell, Logan Jackson and Martin Howard; three sisters, Feebee and Catina Jackson and Ardena Howard; and her grandparents, Ardena Ussin and Wavine Jackson. A funeral will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. at Littlejohn’s Funeral Home, 7818 Earhart Blvd. Visitation will begin at 8 a.m. Burial will be in Resthaven Memorial Park.