When Death Became Him: My Father’s Biggest Secret

Lacresha Berry
5 min readAug 6, 2021
My father and I in his last moments.

My father never left this country. I’m pretty sure he didn’t even own a passport. He, a reclusive athlete from the east side of Cleveland, only knew work and more work. Leaving the United States was something he never talked about. He rarely smiled. I only saw him cry once in my whole life. My dad showed his love through everything barbecue, old school camp songs and breaking down every performance of Jimi Hendrix. He adored nature shows and could sit for hours watching the lifespan of a praying mantis. I never had to read a science book, I just asked my father. So I knew adventure was hidden deep inside those big hands. He was from the soil. A son of the dirt. Birthed from a whole terracotta Geechee woman grown out of the hills of middle Tennessee. And even though he grew up around the concrete, his spirit longed for ancestral land. I knew he wanted to escape.

He started his own garden back in the summer of 1999. He was in the thinning hair stage of middle age, in year 24 of his marriage, and all of his kids were grown. With life weighing heavy on him and too many ailments to even mention, my father needed a release. So, he began to grow his own food. First, it started out as just a few tomatoes. When he brought them to the dinner table, he handled them like newborn babies. His eyes bright with pride as we cut into the fruits of his literal labor. He explained the difference between store bought and homegrown and wanted us to know pink was never the right color for a tomato. Then, the sweet peppers and the mini watermelons. His skin was glowing. He seemed renewed and invigorated.

I was fascinated by this new man. Where was the dad I knew? What happened to the stoic man who played guitar for hours at a time and never left his room? The man who called me just to say a sentence or two about the game last night? I had to investigate. I told my parents I had to do laundry just so I could get some answers. It was the wee hours in the morning when I finally finished my laundry. Then, I hear footsteps coming down the stairs. He held a package of seeds with him. He kept moving his head from left to right checking behind him to see if the coast was clear. I didn’t move but watched him through the kitchen window as he tiptoed through the living room all the way to the sliding patio door. He left it slightly ajar. That…

Lacresha Berry

I love to speculate about the world and reimagine narratives.