"Purpose is not related to a career.  Purpose is not related to a job.
It is related to what God put inside of you to give to the world.”
~~Chadwick Boseman

Hi all,

So as you've probably gathered by now, I tend to work out my emotions via writing.  Currently, I'm still working on a story about Andrew and Co. dealing with the first couple months of the pandemic.  However, earlier this week I put that on hold to write the following.

I've never been one to rush out to see the latest superhero movie.  In fact, I've seen an embarrassingly small number of them.  But when I saw the promos for Black Panther... I dunno.  I just knew I really, really wanted to see that one.  So the family and I headed to the theater and watched the adventures of T'Challa and Shuri and Nakia and Killmonger and all the rest.  And I really loved it.  I loved the strong female characters.  And on my most recent viewing, I really zeroed in on how it highlighted the impact of trauma through generations.  And, yeah, T'Challa is definitely a superhero.  But he also checked a lot of the fairy tale/mythological prince boxes which I am, admittedly, more drawn to.  And, of course, I was going to be drawn to anything featuring a big cat-themed lead who experiences a sort of death and resurrection.  I appreciated the wider cultural significance of the film.  I was glad that a Black superhero had his own film... and it was HUGE.  And I wanted to see what came next for T'Challa and Wakanda.

And then Chadwick Boseman died the Friday before last.  And it just seemed really cruel to me.  We were only days out from another Black man being shot and this actor who had done so much to further representation and to celebrate Black history and culture was gone... seemingly so suddenly.  The King of Wakanda was dead.  And the more that came out about him... the bigger the loss to the world felt.  Nonetheless, I didn't intend to write about it.  I mean don't get me wrong...  I thought about Mr. Boseman meeting Joshua.  Because that's just what I do.  And I thought about how various characters would feel because, again, that's just what I do.  And I was also trying to find a way to sneak references into my Andrew and Co. story because I tend to do that when I'm impacted by the loss of a celebrity (example: "The King" contains a couple blink and you miss it references to Robin Williams' filmography).  So I had this idea that Ivy would have gotten Sy a black cat that he would have named T'Challa and I was gonna have the cat make a cameo.  I checked the birthdates list in order to determine whether, in a story based in March/April 2020, it would have been more likely for the cat to have been a Christmas or birthday present.  And then I realized that Sy's birthday was August 29th... the day after Mr. Boseman's passing.  I had randomly chosen that date years ago.  But it seemed significant now.  365 days out of a year and I picked that one...  I felt like there was a story there.  So I wrote the following.

Some notes: I obviously did not plan on writing this because I didn't expect to have reason to write this.  With the exception of part of the May 2020 flashback which I wrote weeks ago in light of all the horrible deaths of unarmed Black people, everything else was written in around a 24 hour period.  Because it takes place after the as-yet-unfinished Andrew and Co. story, I'm going to have to explain a few things.  In short, Dyeland has mostly been in lockdown mode due to the pandemic.  Andrew is particularly anxious given JenniAnn sustained lung damage both from some bouts with pneumonia and having been shot.  But you will see he begins to make adjustments.  At the start of lockdown, Ivy and Sy quickly got married so they could quarantine together without going against their shared belief system.  Also of note, Max and Rose discovered they were expecting their second child.  I think that should explain everything that comes up.  I usually don't share stories out of order but... this was a very special circumstance.

God bless,

Requiem for a King

Friday, August 28th, 2020

Joshua stood on the edge of a cliff in Africa, overlooking a verdant valley below.  Before him, the sun rose, coloring the sky with an array of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples.  Another man stood to Joshua's right, smiling at the beauty before him.

Joshua turned to him and smiled sheepishly.

"I'm sorry," he apologized.  "I know this is cheesy but..."  He raised his fists to his shoulders, making a W.  "I'm a fan.  Wakanda Forever."

The man bowed his head and chuckled.  When he looked up, Joshua's arms were held aloft.  Without hesitation, he moved into Joshua's embrace.

"Let's go Home, good and faithful servant."

With Joshua's words, the two disappeared, leaving only footprints where two kings had stood.


Saturday, August 29th, 2020

Sy awoke with a smile on his face.

It was his twenty third birthday.

He was married to a beautiful, amazing woman.

And he had reason to suspect that Ivy had something exceptionally special planned for him.  She had been giddy and secretive of late.

Sy realized with some surprise that Ivy wasn't resting beside him.  He glanced at the clock on his bedstand.

6:23 AM

Maybe Ivy had gotten up to make breakfast...  He had dropped a handful of hints about missing her grandma's cinnamon rolls.

Grinning, Sy made his way to the kitchen.  He could hear shuffling... and there was a sweet scent in the air.  Cinnamon rolls...

However, when Sy stepped into the kitchen, his mood immediately dipped.

Ivy was pacing around the kitchen, stirring a bowl of icing.  Her eyes were puffy and bloodshot.  Leo lay beneath the table, looking on with concern.

Sy hurried towards his wife.

"Ivy...  Ivy... what's wrong?"

Ivy set the bowl down and embraced her husband tightly.

"Oh Sy...  Happy birthday, my love.  I... I'm sorry..."

"Is... is someone in my family sick?  Your grandma?  Mark?  The... the Friends?" Sy questioned.

Ivy stepped back and cradled his face.  She shook her head.

"No... no.  They're fine, Sy.  There... there was something in the news this morning.  Or... or last night but I didn't see until this morning because..."  Ivy's face flushed.

Sy smiled.  They had gone to bed early the night before... and then not gone to sleep.

"Let's sit down," Ivy suggested.

Sy's smile faded as the dread returned.  He pulled out a chair for Ivy then settled into the one beside hers.

Ivy took both of Sy's hands in hers.

"There... there was a post made last night on Chadwick Boseman's Twitter feed," Ivy began to explain.

Sy frowned.

"Are people going after him about his weight again?  It's a shame he felt the need to address..."

"Sy...  No.  He... he didn't make the post.  His family did.  He... he died, Sy.  He had... he had colon cancer and..."  Ivy shook her head as fresh tears welled in her eyes.  "He fought so... so hard.  But..."

Sy gawked.  Then he began to shake his head.

"No...  No...  It's a mistake."


"So... so maybe he has cancer.  And... and they wrote something just in case.  And then someone accidentally sent it."

"Sy... sweetheart.  I... I wanted to believe it wasn't real, too.  I even tried to convince myself that I'd forgotten who Chadwick Boseman was and... and he was just a background player in Black Panther.  Maybe one of... of the tribal elders.  I knew... I knew that wasn't right.  I knew I knew who he was.  But I tried to talk myself out of it.  Because it made me so, so sad and because... because I know what he means to you.  I know what he means to so many, many people.  King T'Challa...  But... it's true.  Sy, if it was a mistake... they had hours to correct it.  Hours to stop all the tributes from pouring in.  When... when you can... you should see them.  The Obamas, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, a bunch of the Avengers..."  Ivy rested her forehead against Sy's.  "I'm so, so sorry."

"But... but we need him," Sy protested.

"I... I know." 

"When was he diagnosed?"

"Four years ago."

Sy looked up from his folded hands.


Ivy smiled sadly.

"He filmed Black Panther and other movies in between surgeries and chemotherapy.  He... the unbelievable strength of that..."  Ivy shook her head in amazement.

Sy removed his cell phone from his robe.

"I want to see the tweet."


Looking at his phone, Sy realized he'd missed several text messages throughout the night.  Many were birthday wishes... but many more were school friends and buddies from the Wilsons' neighborhood texting in dismay. 

"Oh God..."  Sy looked to the ceiling.  "I... I can't read these right now."

"Then don't.  Take your time."  Ivy held her hand out.  "Let me."

Sy nodded and handed her his phone.

Ivy opened the Twitter app and pulled up the tweet for him.

Silently, Sy read, alternating between shaking his head and sighing in amazement.

Once he was finished, he set the phone down and held his hands out to Ivy.

"Pray with me?"

"Of course."

Ivy took her husband's hands and bowed her hand.

"Dear Lord...  We ask that Your healing peace and love settle upon the Boseman family... upon his friends and his fans.  We... we thank you for the amazing gifts Chadwick gave to so many of us... the ability to... to see ourselves as... as kings, as superheroes.  I... I hope he knows now how many lives he touched, how many... many dreams he... he launched.  I just... Joshua... I wish... I'm glad he's at peace now and... and I know he loves you but... I'm sorry.  I just... I wish he was still here."

Ivy wept softly as Sy collapsed against her and began to sob.


Two doors down, Andrew and JenniAnn were somberly preparing breakfast.

"Do... do you think they're up now?" JenniAnn asked.

Andrew checked his pocket watch and nodded.

"I do."

JenniAnn sighed.

"To find this out on Sy's birthday.  Unless... maybe they saw the news last night?"

Andrew shook his head.

"They didn't."

"How do you..."

"Joshua told me."

"Did... did he tell you anything else?  Like... are we supposed to do anything?  What can we do?"

"He didn't..."  Andrew was interrupted by his phone ringing.  He looked at it and smiled sadly.  "It's Zeke."  He answered the phone and put it on speaker.  "Hey, Zeke.  I'm here with JenniAnn.  You're on speaker but if..."

"No, no.  Speaker is good.  Andrew...  JenniAnn.  Good morning."

JenniAnn briefly closed her eyes.  Zeke's voice was hoarse.

"G'morning, Zeke," JenniAnn replied.  "I'm guessing you heard."

"I did.  Heartbreaking.  Kendra saw it on Facebook and... I think we all went into denial for the first few minutes."

"Same," Andrew agreed.

"I keep thinking about when we took the kids to see Black Panther.  At one point, I looked over at Sy and he was just... he looked like a little boy again.  Starry-eyed... proud.  I... I have to admit that I... I'd imagined taking my grandchildren to see the other movies.  Maybe not the second... didn't want to rush the kids.  But the third, fourth, fifth...  So I could see that in their eyes."

"I've thought about all the parents who are gonna have to talk to their kids about this...  To have to tell them that their hero... he... he died."  JenniAnn shook her head.

"It's a huge loss... and we've had so many losses this year," Zeke lamented. 

At Zeke's words, Andrew's mind drifted back.


Saturday, May 30th, 2020

Andrew pulled his gaze away from the TV and looked around the living room.

Sitting beside him on one of the couches, JenniAnn stared at the newscast, hers eyes filled.  Shelby sat beside her, hugging her arm tightly while her head rested on JenniAnn's shoulder.

On the floor, Takoda and Violeta shared an oversized bean bag.  When the latter jumped at the sound of screaming, Takoda gently rested a hand over hers.  For a moment, he made eye contact with Andrew.  He was visibly anguished.

In the corner, Marty stood in stony silence.  He roused when Max approached and rested a hand on his shoulder.  The ancient angel's reserve cracked and he began to sob in the young man's arms.

On another couch, Rose looked to Marty and Max with concern and then her gaze turned to the newlyweds seated on the couch with her.

Andrew's heart broke anew when he looked to Ivy and Sy.  The young man peered at the screen, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and his chin rested on his folded hands.  Ivy, tears streaming down her face, stroked Sy's back.

"Why... why do they keep killing us?" Sy bleated.

Andrew shook his head when the young man looked to him.

"I... I don't know," he stammered.  "I... it's unbelievable.  It's horrible.  It's... ingrained into so much of society...  Systematic racism is... evil."

Sy stood up.

"I shouldn't be here...  I should be there."  He waved to the screen.  "Hiding away...  It... it's not right, Andrew."

"Sy..."  Ivy stood and embraced him.

"Joshua!" Sy exclaimed to the air.  "Help me...  Help... us."

"Andrew.  Kitchen," JenniAnn directed.

The angel of death nodded and followed her.  She started speaking as soon as they entered the room.

"Sy is right.  We can't keep him here.  I know you're concerned about the virus.  We should be concerned about the virus.  But this is a public health crisis, too.  And you and me... we're spared it.  But Sy isn't.  His family isn't.  And any children he and Ivy have... they won't be spared, either.  And... and we have a daughter who is a person of color, Andrew!  Belle... she... she may not be spared either.  And I'm so... so glad that she's oblivious right now.  But she won't always be.  And when she's old enough to hear about all of this... I don't want to tell her that we made everyone hide away because we were afraid I'd get sick."

"Laja..."  Andrew heaved a sigh.  "I agree."

JenniAnn, who had been prepared to continue, relaxed.

"I'll take whomever wants to go to Omaha tomorrow.  To the protest there.  We'll all wear masks.  We'll all shower when we get back.  And if things get really rough... there's a portal only blocks away from where the protests are happening."

"Okay... thank you."  JenniAnn hugged him.  "And I'll stay here.  I don't want to cause you any undue worry.  I want you to focus on the kids and why you're there.  You... you can be there for me.  They just need to be able to do something, Andrew."

"Agreed."  Andrew kissed JenniAnn's hair and rested his head on hers.  "Let's go tell them."


Hand-in-hand, Andrew and JenniAnn rejoined the group in the living room.

Sy stood and approached Andrew.

"Andrew, I'm sorry.  You... you're right to protect your family and..."

Andrew rested a hand on Sy's shoulder and nodded.

"It's important to protect your family.  But... we're all family.  And this... this is important.  We'll take precautions... I'm gonna have to insist on that but... tomorrow I'm going to join the protests in the Old Market in Omaha and anyone who wants to join me... please join me."

Sy hugged Andrew tightly.

"Thank you.  I... I appreciate you letting us go.  But I appreciate even more that you'll be there."  He beamed at Andrew.

"I'm going, too, of course," Ivy promised.

"Me too!" Violeta chimed in.

"You can count on me," Takoda vowed.

"And me," Marty added.

"And me too," Max echoed.

Shelby looked up at JenniAnn.

"Your choice, sweetie."

Shelby stepped forward and rested a hand on Sy's arm.

"I want to go, too."

JenniAnn sighed.

"I want to but..."

Sy shook his head.

"No...  No, I appreciate that but... we need you to stay safe.  Maybe, umm, might be nice to come home to hot cocoa and cookies?" Sy suggested with a smile.

JenniAnn returned his smile and nodded.

"I'll have em waiting."

"And I'll stay back and help JenniAnn out," Rose added.  "Although I wish..."

Sy gestured towards her belly.

"No...  Best to keep you and that little one safe."

Rose nodded.

"I'll be praying for you all," she promised as JenniAnn nodded.

Ivy sighed with relief and hugged Sy.

The young man smiled at all of the friends gathered around him. 

"Thank you.  Means a lot.  Truly."

Then, still heartbroken and bewildered but with a sense of peace and possibility, the group settled back down to continue watching the news


Saturday, August 29th, 2020

Andrew shook his head as he returned to the present.  What they hadn't known that evening was that, as they were speaking, a young black man was being shot and killed by an Omaha business owner.  The local protests had grown more personal... but they had gone.  And then, somehow both exhausted and energized, they had come back to Dyeland for cocoa and cookies... and Wakanda.  The angel's eyes misted as he remembered looking over to see Sy watching intently, his eyes glistening with pride, as King T'Challa spoke to the UN.

"I had wondered..."  Zeke's voice trailed off.

"About?" JenniAnn encouraged.

"Well... since you'd agreed on letting us come today to spend it with Sy... and since we'll all be wearing masks, anyway...  Is that old theater there still operational?" 

JenniAnn smiled at the memories of Touched by an Angel and Tour of Duty marathons.

"We haven't tried in a while but... I don't know why it wouldn't be," JenniAnn responded.  "Were you thinking Sy might like to see Black Panther on the big screen?  We have the DVD."

"I really think it would be nice," Zeke affirmed.  "And a good way to honor Mr. Boseman, too.  It might be a hard watch at points but... yeah.  I think Sy would like that a lot."

"I'll go grab the DVD now and try it out," Andrew offered, glad to have something useful to do.

"Thank you!" both JenniAnn and Zeke called.

Just as Andrew was leaving the kitchen, a flurry ball of fluff entered.

"Oh..."  JenniAnn knelt down and scooped up their latest houseguest: a tiny black kitten.

"Everything okay?" Zeke checked.

"Yes.  It's just... Sy's birthday kitten.  Ivy was going to come over and get him this morning but... do you think I should bring him over there?  She probably got distracted with everything..."

Zeke was silent for a few moments.

JenniAnn's eyes welled when she heard him clear his throat.

"Yeah...  Please...  It... it was so good of Ivy to remember.  When we first saw the movie... Sy said that, when he could, he was gonna get himself a black cat and name him T'Challa.  Diana and I wished we could have done that for him but... with Kendra's allergies we just couldn't.  But Ivy remembered... and the timing turned out to be pretty perfect.  Sy could use a flurry fluffball right about now.  No offense to Leo.  I suppose I should say he could use another flurry fluffball."

"Agreed!  And I don't think Leo would mind.  Ivy brought him over yesterday to visit... just to make sure they got along... and poor Leo seemed upset when he had to leave without T'Challa here."  JenniAnn lightly bopped the kitten's nose then turned off the oven and set some sliced fruit in the fridge.  "I'll let you go so I can go do that but we'll see you later?"

"With masks and at six feet's worth of distance but... you bet."

"We're looking forward to it.  Take care until then, Zeke!"

"You too, JenniAnn!"

Once the call had ended, JenniAnn peered into the little cat's eyes.

"Well, little king, let's go meet your daddy."


Over at Serendipity, Ivy looked on in concern as Sy picked at his cinnamon roll.

"Love...  Try to eat.  Please," she pleaded.

Sy squeezed her hand.

"It's delicious, Ivy.  Really it is.  My stomach is just... all in knots."

"I understand.  You know... it's okay to be upset.  Even angry at God."

Sy shook his head.

"No.  He was a Christian and... and he talked quite a bit about God and I don't think he would like it if I got mad at God because of him," he protested.

"Okay.  That's a good point.  But it's okay to be mad at the situation.  Even to be mad at cancer.  Something doesn't have to be a someone for you to be angry."

"Yeah..."  Sy nodded.  "I am mad at the situation, at cancer, at the timing...  It just... it seems so cruel.  In the midst of a pandemic... in the midst of an epidemic of violence against Black people... while we have a president who.. who makes excuses for cops who kill and calls some racists 'good people'... now... now during all of that... we lose our king.  And I... I'm not crazy.  I know it wasn't real.  Wakanda isn't real.  But it... felt real.  T'Challa... felt real."

Ivy flung her arms around her husband.

"It doesn't sound crazy, Sy.  It really, really doesn't.  I... I know I can't fully understand how you feel.  But I don't think it sounds crazy.  Not at all."

Sy kissed her.

"Thank you.  I really appreciate that."

Ivy felt a jolt in her pocket.


"Yeah."  Ivy checked and her eyes went wide.  "I have to go check on something.  I'll be right back.  Promise."

Sy chuckled softly.

"You don't have to babysit me.  I'm fine.  Really.  Upset... but fine.  Take your time."

"Okay."  Ivy kissed his hair then left the kitchen.

While he waited for her to return, Sy took a few bites of his cinnamon roll.  It really was delicious...  He drew in and let out a few calming breaths and prayed. 

Suddenly, Leo jumped out from beneath the table. 

Sy looked up to find Ivy had returned... and she wasn't alone. 

"What is..."

"I... I hope it's still okay.  I picked him up yesterday morning.  He spent last night at Willowveil.  I... I wanted to surprise you on your birthday but now..."  Ivy peered down at the kitten.

Fresh tears filled Sy's eyes but now they were ones of happiness and gratitude.  He held his arms out.

Ivy gently transferred the kitten to her husband.

"He's... mine?" Sy asked.

Ivy nodded.

"So long as you want him."

Sy brought the kitten up to his face and nuzzled him.

"T'Challa..." he murmured. 

The kitten purred. 

Sy held him securely with one arm and wrapped the other around Ivy.

"You remembered... when we saw the movie, I said..."

"Yeah...  I told myself that the first birthday or Christmas that we were married... I was getting you a black cat.  I just had no idea how the timing..."

"It's perfect timing," Sy assured.  He stroked the cat.  "He's perfect."

Ivy beamed as Sy kissed her hair.

"Happy birthday, Sy."

"Thank you...  And... just know that in spite of everything... it is a happy birthday.  Because I'm spending it married to you.  I love you, Ivy.  So much."

"And I love you, too.  So much..."

Leo began to whine and scratch at Sy's leg.

Sy laughed.

"All right... all right..."

He crouched down so the little black cat and the little black dog could examine each other.

Leo lay down and stared at his new brother then let out a sigh.

"Aww!" Ivy cooed. 

T'Challa tentatively stepped down from Sy's arms and stood next to the dog.  He walked around Leo, eying him.  Then he plopped down beside him.

Ivy snapped a photograph.

"Too cute..."

Sy beamed at her as he pet them both, prompting another photo.

"Our little lion and and our little panther..." he murmured.  "Perfect..."

For several minutes, the couple sat together, silently admiring their little ones and feeling the sadness of the morning begin to give way to peace.


That evening, the Roseate Theatre saw its first guests in several years. 

The Willowveil household and the Wilsons watched as the king of Wakanda defended his people and his land... and started the process of bringing Wakanda's peace and prosperity to the outside world. 

With misty eyes, they watched King T'Challa speak to the United Nations... and to them.

"'Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows.  We cannot.  We must not.  We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other.  Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence.  We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us.  But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers.  We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.'"

"Wakanda forever..." Sy murmured, with tears in his eyes. 

Ivy squeezed his hand.

Sy smiled at her and knew, years later, he would watch the movie with their children... and, together, they would see who would take up the mantle of the Black Panther.

But they would never forget the one who had brought T'Challa to life and given so many the opportunity to see themselves in a superhero and in a king.

The End

This newsletter is dedicated to John Dye, Chadwick Boseman, and all those who give us inspiration and encouragement via their creative work.

JABB Portal
JABB 579