Can you imagine being 24 weeks pregnant and not knowing? That was the last thing that Jackie expected. There was no way that she could be pregnant. She was still having regular cycles. If she was pregnant, that would be three children within the last three years at the age of twenty. She thought the symptoms were simply the flu. She decided to go to the doctor to see what was going on. There, the doctor gave her the news that it wasn’t the flu. Instead, she was carrying a baby. That baby would be known as Preston “Rock” Dozier, II. Even tho having a child was unexpected, Rock was a blessing to her life. Sadly, his life on earth was short lived.
Preston “Rock” Dozier II was born January 25, 1995. Jackie said he was not like his two older siblings, Laquarius and Teeana. He was a momma’s boy. He enjoyed being at home with his mom. There was a time that Cederia, his grandmother, had to tell him that she was his grandmother, and that it was ok to be with her. Rock was more of a loner. Jackie said he was never one to be with the crowd. He was quiet. He didn’t have to have anyone to be happy. All he needed was something to eat and a video game. He enjoyed himself.
Rock never gave Jackie any problems growing up. She didn’t have to worry about him getting into trouble. With a laugh, she said he was the typical teenager and a ladies man growing up. I asked how was he as a brother. She said that he and Laquarius would disagree and wrestle. Laquariaus was older, but Rock was always bigger. Rock’s body and feet grew like weeds. Even tho he might have been bigger in size, Laquaris wanted to remind know who was the oldest brother. 😊 With his bigger size, he was Teeana’s “big brother.”
As an adult, Jackie said that if you were ever to Rock’s home that it was a privilege. Remember, as a child, he didn’t mind being alone. As an adult, he still didn’t believe in crowds. He was not one to just have people over to simply have people over. If you were at his home, you were special. You were his friend or family. That meant, he really wanted you there.
Rock had two biological children of his own and two others that he raised as his own (Malaysia, Jayla, A’myah, Preston III). After his parent’s bitter divorce, his father wasn’t a presence in his life. Rock was determined to do fatherhood differently. If Rock wasn’t at work, he had his children with him. He made up in his mind that he would devote his time with his children. He took fatherhood seriously and was committed to being the best father he could be before the fatal accident took his life.
The dreadful day of February 3, 2020, Jackie’s life was never the same. Her world was turned upside down. She remembers it as if was yesterday. She was at work and had been in a meeting without her cell phone. After she got out of the meeting, she had numerous missed calls from her family and the hospital. She returned her husband’s, Donald, call to ask what was wrong. He informed her that Preston had been in a wreck. He thought it was bad because they asked him to come off the road (Donald drives 18 wheelers) and come to the hospital as well. She tried to return other calls to her family, but no one was answering. She grabbed her purse, told her boss that her son was in a wreck, and she had to go. She remembers praying to God and saying “God, I’m not going to be worried. I know You got this.”
When she pulled up at the hospital, the first person she saw was her sister, Valerie. Valerie was headed to Jackie’s job to come pick her up. Valerie already knew the news. All Valerie was doing was crying and couldn’t speak. Jackie went passed her to go inside to see what was happening. After she entered the room, the first person she was was the coroner. She knew something was wrong. The coroner began the routine questions. “Are you Mrs. Shumpert? Is Preston Dozier your son?” The next statement was “I’m sorry. There’s been a wreck.” At that moment, Jackie blacked out. When she returned to consciousness, she asked the coroner was she sure it was her son because Laquarius was known for allowing others to borrow his car if they had a need. She wasn’t wishing death upon another parent’s child, but she didn’t want it to be hers. The coroner handed Jackie Rock’s wallet. Then, Jackie knew it was her child that was no longer here on earth. Jackie didn’t go see his body until after her husband and family arrived at the hospital. She said it looked like he was sleeping because he slept with his eyes open. After closing his eyes for the last time, she walked out the room. When she walked out the room, she was surprised by the outpouring of people that came to surrounded her with love. Her sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, pastors, church members, and coworkers were there. The hallway was full. It was over the “certain” people that the hospital said could come. Jackie is thankful for the love and support she received that day. She knows that she could not have done it alone.
Jackie is a minister of the gospel. One of the questions I asked was how was her faith tested being a Christian and minister of Christ. The Saturday before Preston’s death, she had to preach at a women’s brunch. That week, she was preparing for a sermon and a topic, but her mind was blank. That morning, God gave her a title, “Don’t break before your breakthrough.” She assumed the sermon was for the ladies at the brunch, but the sermon was really for her. That following Monday, Rock was in the accident that took his life.
Preparing for the moments before hand and the funeral were some of the hardest things that she has ever done in her life. There was no way in the world that she thought she would be burying her child. She had to make phone calls to inform loved ones that Preston was dead and to prepare for his funeral. People told that once she began making arrangements and preparing for the funeral that it was might bring closure to her mind. For Jackie, that was the opposite. The finalization of things were the heartache. It made it reality because she was about to prepare a funeral for her child. She had to decide on which caskets, what clothes, and approve the body before the visitation and funeral. Life isn’t supposed to be that way. When she went to view his body, he had no scratches. Even tho he had the wreck and body was thrown around in the car, he died from internal bleeding. He appeared to be sleeping, but the touch said “he is really dead.”With the help of God, she has kept her sanity. Grief is real. It has no time period. A person can see something, hear something, smell something, and it can all remind you of the loved one that has gone on. She tells people that she is not a superwoman. She is weak. She breaks just like everyone else.
On the day of the funeral, Jackie had gotten everyone ready but herself. She’d bought everyone’s outfits. She wanted everyone to look the same. When she got them ready, she was going to send them off in the funeral and stay home. She thought that staying home would be a safe thing to do. She felt that people were acting a certain way. Would she be strong? Would be break down? She didn’t want to deal with people’s expectations. God spoke to her and said “there is purpose beyond your pain.” As a woman of faith, she told God. “I can believe everything you’ve told me, but I can’t believe this. What kinda pain is this losing me kid? My heart shattered that day?” Her uncle-in-love realized that Jackie wasn’t in the limo as everyone else. He inquired and asked was she getting ready. He let her know that he was not leaving until she was ready, but he was not going to rush her. That was the longest ride in her life.
For her, she wants to keep Rock’s memory alive. She will never let his memory die. Every other weekend, his children come over to stay. When Rock was younger, he had a speech impediment. He spoke really fast. For about a year, he was put into the special education program at school. They helped him overcome the issue. Now, his son speaks the same way. Each time she hears her grandson, she thinks of Rock at the same age.
I asked Jackie what advice would she give anyone that has lost a child. She said there is no manual or book that tells parents how to handle that loss. It is your child. Grief has no time period. For her, one way of coping with his loss is visiting his grave sight. Another thing is to realize that everyone’s relationship with their children are different. As loving parents, parents want to protect and save their children. It doesn’t matter what age the child is; no parent wants to see his/her child hurt. Jackie felt that she failed Preston because she was not able to save him that day from dying. That morning, Preston fell asleep on his way home from work. That’s how the wreck happened. He would always call his mom on the way home from work. She used to joke with him and tell him to call her instead. That morning, she realized that she didn’t receive either. She beat herself up. She thought she’d failed him. Without her faith, Jackie said that she would question it all. The devil wants to play with your mind. She has a grief counselor/therapist to help deal with grief. There were days that she had to force herself to get up, get dressed up, nor eat. She said to herself “if I’m breathing, I can do it.” There have been moments that she has had to scream it out. Her husband will just shut the door and let her do it. With help, she realizes that she never failed him. Preston knew that his mom loved him. His death was God’s will. God knows how long our days are numbered. We are the ones that don’t know. To the parents, there is no time period to grieve. She recommends people to have faith in God.
One thing she misses about Rock is that he loved family. If he wasn’t working, he would be there. She didn’t worry about food being leftover. He would either eat it up or take it home for himself. He would always have fun with the family and crack jokes on each one. The most important thing is his presence. With his death, there is a void in her life. Even tho Preston Dozier is no longer physically here with her on earth, he will always and forever be here “Rock.”