Saturday, June 12, 2010

Horace was our big ball of sunshine

Horace Edward Banks, Jr.
The month he departed this earth, my life
was without light. Depression was my
friend for two years. Horace was my baby.
My last born. I expected to leave before him.

          Dorothy Charles Banks

A Loving Tribute To My     Son, My Baby Boy 
February 21, 1961--December 18, 2007

Horace Edwards Banks Jr. was the last child born to Dorothy Charles Banks and Horace E. Banks, Sr., February 21, 1961. I thought I would have him with me for many more years. My crystal ball failed me. It did not tell me the truth. It did not warn me of my son's pending death.

Horace attended Austin public schools, and I must say each of his teachers had her hands full, especially on days Horace refused to cooperate. Born with a mental handicap and epilepsy, Horace was easy to please and very protective of his personal belongings. He was a little on the stingy side, but he would reluctantly share with others if his mood was on his good side.

One day when he was living at home with me, he had a large bag of cookies. I asked for one. Not half of the bag. Just one! That's exactly what Horace gave me. A cookie! He laughed when I told him I was going to give him one cookie when I bought a bag of cookies for myself. He gave me one more cookie! Of course he was expecting more than two cookies from me.

When Horace was a child, and even before when he grew into manhood, he was a joy to his family, despite our sometimes getting upset with his stubbornness. He was his sisters brother, and my baby boy. He was our sunshine on bright days, even the dark days held a bit of light. People who grew up with Horace have never forgotten him. They never fail to ask about him when they see me.

"Where is Junbug" they ask. "How is Junbug doing?", "Tell Junbug I said hi."

Junbug was the nickname given him by neighborhood kids. He was seldom called Horace by those who grew up with him. I bet if I was talking to them today they would think of something funny Horace had said or done. In that every one in the neighborhood knew that Horace was mentally challenged, they were somewhat protective of him. Not even neighborhood bullies attacked him. Without realizing it, Horace left us with vivid memories that still leave us laughing when we recall those funny times.

Horace had a hell of an imagination, too! One afternoon when his sister Nanette and I visited him at Lincoln House, where he lived, he informed us that he had a million dollars in the bank, and his mother lived on the moon! It was so funny to hear him tell it. You have to see video to appreciate the conversation that followed between him and Nanette. He said James Brown was his father and he lived up the street from Lincoln House!

"Your mama is standing here in front of you," his sister Nanette told him.

"Naw. Naw," he insisted. "She up there in the moon," he said, pointing at the sun.

"Who is this?" Nanette asked, pointing at me.

"That's my mama," he said. "But my other mama is up there!" he insisted.

There was no way we could convince him that I did not live on the moon, and James Brown was not his father. Once an idea took root in Horace's head there was no changing his mind. Well, let me take that back. If I had a few dollars in my hand I could easily persuade him to think differently. When he got the money in his hands, he would grin from ear to ear.

One Christmas he told me again that James Brown was his father. I told him he needed to tell his famous father to start paying child support. I also captured this conversation on video. Thank God for camcorders and cameras!

Horace, my only son, had no idea that he was leaving us with all these memorable moments, all of which we will remember longer than his time on earth; memories that we will take to the grave with us.

His aunt Marie will miss him asking for a Dr. Pepper when he was at her house on holidays. I will miss asking him if he is ready to eat during those family gatherings. His sister Nanette and I will miss taking him out to eat, and then shopping. I will miss that big smile when he sees that he is about to get some money, or when he asks me to buy him something, and I agreed to do it, spending my money. He hated spending his own money.

Cover of funeral program
Yes, Horace Edward Banks, Jr., was our sunshine.

Today the sunshine in our eyes is dim, but we know our eyes will shine bright again, each and every time we think about our big baby. In fact, on Thursday night a group of us looked at him and his sisters on video and had a good laugh. The video brought him back to us. And all was well for a while.

Horace's death reinforced a belief that I have: If we live past the age of 40, 50, 60 or older, we think we have lived a long time. But when you compare that to eternity, we have only lived a half second on earth, if that long. That is why we should all live our 30 seconds like the half minute will quickly come to an end. Each time we live past a second, the next one is not promised. We are blessed if we live a full minute.

Because he was not "traditional" I decided not to hold a completely traditional funeral service for Horace. He did not like a lot of talking and fussing over him.

Horace Edward Banks is survived by his mother Dorothy Charles Banks, his sisters Nanette Marie Banks and Robin Michelle Banks, his father Horace E. Banks, his aunt Marie Ockletree, and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, especially the friends and caretakers at Lincoln House.

Horace is preceded in death by his grandfathers Adolph Banks, Ernest Smith Sr., his grandmothers Rose Lee Banks, Gertrude Fowler Smith, and his great-grandmother Leora Fowler Sterling.

Funeral service was held at King Tears Mortuary, Saturday, December 22, 2007, 2:00PM. Rev. Paul Jacks, officiated. Cremation followed the service.

The family wishes to thank all of those who came to help send Horace on his journey.

Psalm 23

The lord is my shepherd, I  shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me  besides the still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Replica of funeral program

My memories of Horace

Prayer  led by                                                    Rev. Paul Jacks

He Was Our Sunshine  read by                        Marie Ockletree    

Remarks by

Beverly Boyd, family friend

Laura Ockletree, cousin

 Jim Conroy, Lincoln House 

"Without the footprints of music, how bland would our joy be?"

Recorded Music

The Mighty Clouds of Joy

Donny Hathaway

Williams Brothers in Concert

Ruben Studdard

Liz McComb

Williams Brothers in Concert 11

Bebe Winans

Horace head down) his sister Robin Michelle (r), his niece Natarsha (3rd right) and her friend, his sister Nanette (front)      

 Horace and  I getting ready to go out to eat and shopping.  

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