Mourners in red

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The women in Bel Air road rage victim Patrick J. Walker’s life wore red and pink to his funeral yesterday, according to a story in today’s Baltimore Sun. Walker’s mother, sister and girlfriend sat in the front pews of St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church in Bel Air dressed in bright colors that stood out against the sea of darkly clad mourners behind them. Family members told the newspaper they wore the bright colors to celebrate the life of 23-year-old who died Friday afternoon after being stabbed twice in the neck. The man charged with first-degree murder in the case, 19-year-old Michael Razzio Simmons of Fallston, told police he was angry because Walker cut him off in traffic. Simmons, who attended Fallston High School and Harford Community College is being held without bail. The women who wore red to Walker’s funeral did more than celebrate his life, they took a color that had predominated any discussion of Walker’s killing and redirected its meaning. Every news account of the crime described blood in the street, on the suspect’s car’s windshield, hood and front fender and splattered on Walker’s car. Witnesses were able to direct police to the suspect and his companions – who were not charged — because they had blood on them. Walker’s family members took this dangerous color and harnessed its positive connotations. If any color can help you cope with grief, it would need to have red’s ferocity. My mother wore something similar when my husband and I married just a few months after we lost my father to lung cancer. She showed up at the reception held for our Baltimore friends and relatives in a red dress. Rather than cancel the event, wear black or sit on the sidelines, Mom danced in her red dress as if to say, “We’re going to move forward and celebrate the happy events in life.” Wearing red does little to lessen your pain. But it serves as a kind of banner in the darkness, a focal point when the waves of grief threaten to knock you down. And at the very least, it can lend you some bravery for the days you don’t think you’ll make it through.