i heard he sang a good song
i heard he had a style . . .
On the night my mother died, we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken for the ﬁrst
time. A lot changed in the moment of her death, but at the time, Kentucky
Fried Chicken was for me the most vivid and immediate marker of that shift.
A nurse anesthetist by profession and, by many accounts, quite stoic to stories
that would shock or repel most people, my mother was one of the true believ-
ers in the urban legend that the Colonel had fried up a rat and sold it, and that
black folks had died eating it. Kentucky Fried Chicken was neither purchased
nor allowed to cross our threshold while Mommy was alive. But everything
changed in the week she died. We got to stay home from school, watch tv,
and wear our pajamas for most of the day, and our house was full of people.
Neighbors, church folks, and friends stopped by at what seemed like all hours,
and family members drove in from far and wide. And as I would witness time
and again at the passing of other family members, they invariably brought
tons of food. Of the vast array of sweet and savory dishes that ﬁlled every
available space on our kitchen counters, we gravitated immediately to the red
and white stripes of that majestic cardboard bucket. My sister, brother, and I
whispered conspiratorially as we stealthily snatched our ﬁrst pieces. I secretly
feared our mother might strike us down from on high as we ate, vengeful at
such a betrayal so soon after her departure. As I licked my ﬁngers and savored