This will be the 11th Thanksgiving without me and my sister’s mother, Leslie Maureen Yoes. She was murdered in her home June 22, 2004. She was only 59 years old. I believe she knew her murderer, he has never been brought to justice.
Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.
She loved the gatherings at her mother Katie Maddox’s house. My Grandma Katie use to lay out arguably the phattest spread in West Baltimore: turkey, Smithfield ham, chicken, duck, roast beef, candied yams, collard greens, pigtails and sauerkraut, potato salad, mashed potatoes, pies, cakes, booze, you name it we had it and our mother loved it all.
So, that first Thanksgiving without her in 2004 I literally almost died of a broken heart. I locked myself in my apartment for three days and all I did was cry and pray until I could feel myself begin to fade away. However, God spared my life and then began to build me back up.
Let me tell you a bit about our mother Leslie. She was one of the first Black girls to attend and graduate from venerable Catholic High School in Baltimore in 1963. She went on to get her degree in nursing (she was a practicing nurse until the day she was killed). She was one of the first Black women to be hired as a pharmaceutical salesperson at Riker Laboratories (which was later purchased by and integrated into 3M) in the early 1970’s. She was also one of the first Black women to be hired as a liquor distributor for Churchill, (now known as Reliable Churchill) also in the 1970’s.
She was whip smart and beautiful. She had the most soothing voice I’ve ever heard (sometimes my sister sounds just like her on the phone). Although they divorced when we were very young my pops used to say, “Your mother could make friends with a snake.”
She loved God and loved her family.
Yet, despite how special she was to me and my family she is one of thousands of Baltimoreans murdered in the last decade. Perhaps more tragically, hundreds of those murderers walk the streets of our city today with impunity. I am convinced our mother’s murderer is among them, among us.
The current homicide clearance rate is 31.1 percent and of the 308 homicides (and counting) in Baltimore in 2015, as I write this column there have only been 65 arrests made.
I don’t state these facts to bash the police; on the contrary, I know how incredibly hard many police officers and particularly Baltimore homicide detectives work. In fact, I remember Detective Fred Miller (I believe it’s Fred, he’s now retired) who worked feverishly for those first 48 hours after my mother’s murder. But, they are overwhelmed.
I simply state these facts to make it clear I am not alone.
The three children of Kendal Fenwick, the young brother gunned down in Park Heights earlier this month, will be forced to endure the first Thanksgiving of their young lives without their father.
So will the family members and friends of the beautiful young sister Jennifer Jeffrey-Browne and her lovely seven-year old son, who were both gunned down in their home in May.
Unlike the beautiful people who have had only months, even mere weeks to grapple with the loss of their beloved family members and friends, I have had the benefit of years, which have seen oceans of tears and more oceans of prayers from me and those who love me and my family. Yet, time by itself doesn’t do anything; the spiritual and mental work you do during that time is what helps heal souls, assuage pain and guilt and enables us to cope despite the devastation of heartbreak.
I still miss my mother desperately and there is not a day that goes by that I do not think about her.
But, despite it all I am grateful today, I am generally happy today. And although the person who murdered my mother still walks the streets, “free,” I still claim a sense of peace because God’s will is sufficient.
The old folks use to say, `If I had a million tongues, I couldn’t thank God enough.’ Indeed, God has been good to me; far, far better than I deserve. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 pm on WEAA 88.9.