The Tragedy of Unfinished Business

One week after the death of Monica Butler Johnson, another young woman lost her life in a case of intimate partner violence. E’Dena Hines, granddaughter of Morgan Freeman, was stabbed to death early Sunday morning by her boyfriend. She was 33 years old. Although I am angered by the perpetuation of violence against women and the continual lack of safe space for women of color, this is not a post about violence or vulnerability. Instead, this post is about unfinished business.

The Washington Post reports that E’Dena recently returned to New York from Memphis to film an independent movie. She was a budding actress with hopes of making it in the entertainment industry. She wanted to live out her dreams and she was well on her way when her life was abruptly taken. And I can’t help but wonder if her performance in this movie would have been the launch of a life-long award winning career. E’Dena had unfinished business.

I recently attended the memorial service of a good friend. She was a masterful educator, an intuitive mentor, and a compassionate minister. She closed her eyes for the last time at the ripe age of 40 years and one month. Some of her dreams and future plans are still in my Facebook inbox.

I once believed that dreams and visions were God-given and because of that, they had to be fulfilled. I didn’t think there was any possibility that the plan of God could be hindered, altered, or derailed. So when my cousin had a massive stroke in her early thirties, I leaned down beside her hospital bed and whispered in her ear, “You have a destiny to fulfill. Do what you need to do to fight.” But she died at 45 with a business plan and a logo and her vision still on paper.

Langston Hughes asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?” I want to know what happens when a dreamer dies with unfinished business. Does the dream continue to live in their belly? Does it cry out from their carcass for just a little more time? Does it beat like a heart because it refuses to believe that its time is up? Or does the dream simply die, taking with it cures for disease, works of art, life altering innovations? I believe that unfinished business is one of life’s greatest tragedies.

Maybe we don’t yet have the policies or prescriptions to prevent the untimely deaths of dreamers, but perhaps we can stop the derailment of dreams.

“How,” you ask.

“By doing it now.”

What is it? It is that thing that calls to you, that thing that sometimes seems out of reach, that thing that you’ve been putting off until you have the resources, time, support, qualifications etc. It is that thing that you’ve been working on for years but refuse to release into the atmosphere out of fear of rejection.

I remember laboring over my master’s thesis for years, putting my whole life on hold trying to finish that paper. Some of the delay was born out of my own procrastination. Some of the delay was the result of institutional politics policies. But after multiple revisions (that eventually resulted in a draft that eerily resembled an earlier iteration), I met with a friend who offered to edit my latest draft. When she discovered large chunks of text that had been added since the previous version, she sat up in her chair, moved her tea to the side, looked me square in the face and said, “You don’t need this to be perfect. You need this to be finished.” She told me that I needed to release it, that I needed to have the courage to let it go, that I needed to believe that what I created was good enough.

These days I’m learning that the stars may never align, but we have an obligation to the world to make our deposit anyway. We owe it to the earth to leave an intentional legacy and we don’t have the luxury of waiting for magic moments that may never come. None of us has an expiration date tattooed on our foreheads. We don’t know when the clock will stop. So, we’d better get to work NOW.

Produce NOW!

Release it NOW!

Build NOW!

Do it NOW!

Please don’t leave your dreams dying in a Facebook inbox message.


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