I have sat around the majority of this evening trying to find the words to express my sentiments regarding the homegoing of one of the greatest voices in literature—not African-American literature but literature period. I spent a few hours answering advice emails, played with a strange puppy that wandered onto my doorstep, joked around with my children, and even played online Spades; all the while trying to think of what I wanted to say—or if I should even say anything at all. Then I decided that I had to say something and I had to do it before I went to sleep tonight.
I was on a business call around one o’clock today when I read a message on Facebook from a young lady informing me that E. Lynn had passed. Stunned does not quite capture my initial thought. Death is never easy but it seems almost implausible when someone is as full of energy, determination, and talent as he was. A true visionary, E. Lynn’s voice will be legendary and he opened the door for many others to walk through.
When I read his autobiography years ago, What Becomes of the Brokenhearted, I could not help but to admire the courage that it must have taken to not only write down everything that he had endured, but to allow the world to share in his plight. He was able to accomplish so much, despite everything that he had overcome. I know that feeling well but do not think that I could ever open up my life like that to the world. It would be much too painful for me, but E. Lynn did it with grace and dignity, realizing that by exposing his trials and tribulations, it could and would help others. E. Lynn was always willing to assist in any way that he could. Last year, I asked if he would travel to Dallas to do an event at the Black Academy of Arts and Letters. He immediately accepted, even though his assistant would have to drive him there and even though the stipend offered would not even cover his expenses. Like me, he realized that there was a much deeper purpose to our presence there and it was a wonderful weekend for a worthy cause.
I saw his book on the new releases shelf in a bookstore last week and I was so happy for him to have “birthed another baby.” That is what books are for authors who are passionate about their work. Books are like our children that we have to eventually cut the umbilical cord on and send out into the world alone. I cannot help but wonder, had not God called him home, how many more children he would have realized.
After I heard about his death, I had to leave home to attend my daughter’s hip hop dance recital. My thoughts on the way to her summer camp were that it was such a shame that he would not get to see his work on the big screen. I realized that it meant so much to him; we had numerous conversations about it. Hollywood has a tendency to option our books and then go out and commission screenplays that could never truly represent us like novels. Novels have intense storylines, flushed out characters, and are beloved by avid readers; three elements that “written-for-the-screen” movies tend to lack. Later on, I read an article that stated that he was in California to discuss movie deals. I can only imagine his excitement that maybe, just maybe, after so many years someone was going to finally “get the point.”
I will not go on and on; you all know how long-winded I can be. However, I want to stress a few things that all of us should take away from the life (and death) of such a wonderful spirit. Every day is truly a gift. I do not say that on a constant basis simply to say it. It means something to me. I even have a plaque in my office that states it. Every day is a gift that must be embraced because that day will never come our way again. Life is too short for pettiness and drama. As I walked through the Harlem Book Festival last weekend, and many people who used to talk down to me, or about me, came up to me and embraced me or spoke to me, someone asked me how I could be so kind to those who had tried to destroy me. My response was that I do not carry things like that in my heart. Only I truly understand my journey and what is for me will be for me. Just like what was for E. Lynn was for him, and no one could take that away, or distract him from his path. So for those of you who loved him, I am sure he loved you back. For those of you who criticized him, I seriously doubt that he took it personally. His talent could not be disputed and his voice could not be silenced, for as long as we had him in our presence.
I hope and pray that E. Lynn will continue to do God’s work and that his death will serve as motivation for the tens of thousands of people who aspire to be published writers, or those who wish to realize any other dream. It is important to thank God not only for all of the things that He has given us, but also for all of the things that He has taken away. For without failure and a great deal of loss, one can never truly be inspired. I will miss you, E. Lynn, as an author, as a humanitarian, and as a friend.