“I am My Brother’s Keeper”

June 19

Anyone who knows me understands how dear my friendships are to me, and they also know about LaFredrick Coaxner who has been my brother for close to 20 years. “Fred” and I met December of 2000 at a program for potential incoming students at The Juilliard School, and we were two “country boys, “ from the South that instantly hit it off, and we have built a strong friendship and brotherhood. Our commonality stems from both being reared by strong mothers, and families that were rooted and grounded in faith.

However, when I return from the road, once I have caught my breath, one of the first people I try to see and have dinner with is Fred. One night Fred came to my house, and we had one of the most powerful conversations. 

Within three years, Fred lost his mother, and sister to cancer, and the only man he knew as a father and mentor, Mr. Dwight Woods, to an untimely death. So as we were entering our early 30s, Fred began losing all of the family members who shaped his musical and personal development. During the conversation at my house that night, Fred expressed how he had a really rough day at work, and all he wished for was to call his mom, hear her voice, and have her tell him the things that he already knows about himself, but still wanted to hear it from her. He wanted to hear her say, “Fred , you will be okay.”

We also spoke about a story involving media personality Iyanla Vanzant, and how she had an episode with men in their 40s who had unresolved issues with their mothers. During that episode, Iyanla went as far as to have these men lay in bed, fully clothed, and then she got in with them and held them as a mother would ahold a child. These men broke down in tears, cried uncontrollably, and then they fell asleep. Iyanla then got out of the bed, kissed them on the forehead, said goodnight, and pulled the comforter over them and let them sleep peacefully. Her show illustrated that at their core, they were yearning for the love, protection and comfort of their mother, and receiving those actions from someone who mirrored what they yearned, brought out all of those emotions. In many ways , acknowledging that yearning healed them. 

I also know as a man, my confidence doesn’t come from what I accomplish, if it is informed by who I believe myself to be. For some men, their confidence and belief is shaped by the initial lover and shaper of their souls which tends to be their mothers, and fathers. For those raised in single parent homes, one focal person who is committed to ensuring they know how special they are. 

A commitment that I made to Fred, during what I believe was probably the most difficult moment of his life, was that I would be his brother for a lifetime, and letting him know that when he needed me, I would drop everything to be there for him. The amazing things about this is that Fred doesn’t request that of me unless he really needs it. He also promised the same thing to me, and has proven it time and again.

I am most grateful to Fred, because he knows me, and my patterns, and gives me the gift of laughing at myself. When I step into his house, he doesn’t care about what exotic location I just came from, or what cool person I just met. He asks me, “Hey Bro, what you drinking?” He generously pours me a nice glass of something, and we sit at the corner table in his house, and just laugh, and exchange amazing stories that empower and further our brotherhood. When I leave his house, I feel so refreshed and alive, and it lets me know that he is indeed the right person to occupy that space in my life, because our time together is restorative. 

I am my brother’s keeper, and committed to whatever level of love that it will take to let me brother know he is kept and sustained by my brotherly love, and commitment.