Poetic Tongues/Fabu
Mourning the Loss of Great
single day and honor them more because of what aging does to their body, mind
and spirits. I have older friends who are struggling with aches and pains, or
fighting diseases and cognitive declines, yet their love and wisdom remain intact
and encompassing.

I am also writing this column about the life and passing of Chef Rodney A. Ladson,
a managing partner of Bonefish Grill. Chef Rod was only 50 years old and his
swift, early death was a jarring shock. Like most of Madison, I knew Chef Rod
best through his fabulous food. It has only been in the last two years that I knew
him as a

professional because, as part of my job, I asked him to cater several of our
events. Recently I wrote an article for Madison Magazine about African American
chefs in Madison. We have a growing number and they are excellent in many
different types of cuisine. It has been my pleasure to work with several of them
over the years since I believe in supporting Black business owners and keeping
money in our community.

Chef Rod had it all: delicious, healthy food, professional manner (always early or
on time), beautiful settings for his food and willingness to always offer extra in a
warm and friendly manner. I enjoyed working with him as much as all of our
attendees enjoyed his superb food. He offered a well-attended food demonstration
during our 2018 Solomon Carter Fuller event that was a hit. The Wisconsin
Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center wanted him to give food demonstrations to
seniors about how to better shop, cook and eat healthy foods.

When I met with Chef Rod at Bonefish, he shared how proud he was of teaching
young people how to shop and cook healthy food. Many of these students would
meet him in the community and tell him that they were still cooking and eating
healthy. One of his dreams was to travel this city, Wisconsin and the across the U.
S. demonstrating healthy foods to people, proving that you don’t have to sacrifice
taste and flavor. Chef Rod designed the kitchen for One City Learning and was an
active member of 100 Black Men. In 2016, I attended a 100 Black Men recognition
of Black Educators on behalf of my friend and retiring school counselor, Sherry
Lucille. The ceremony was wonderful, but that breakfast was the best I had ever
tasted since leaving the South. Chef Rod was a devoted Christian and
demonstrated his faith with love. Food service is a demanding career, with the
added stress of being an African American business owner. African American
chefs, we not only love your tasty food, but we love you all too and want you to all
live long and healthy lives. We miss caring people when they leave this earth —
like my Great Aunt Martha and Chef Rodney Ladson.
I had intended to write this entire column about the life and the passing of my Great Aunt Martha at 104 years
and eight months in June. When such love and wisdom leaves the earth, one is left wondering who can ever
replace the length and breadth of her covering over all of our family. Frankly, no one can and that deepens
the grief. My Great Aunt Martha was emotionally and physically tired. She warned us clearly that she was
“ready to be with Jesus,” so I am grateful that Jesus allowed me to visit her one more time in May to touch
her soft hands, kiss her warm face and the fill my spirit with her presence before she left for the Glory Land.
Great Aunt Martha kept telling me when I was in Georgia, “I’m saving a seat for you in the Glory Land.”  If I
had been braver, I would have said, “Tell my mother, my father, my brother and all whom I love on the other
side, hello and that I won’t miss joining them in the Glory Land.”  I didn’t want Great Aunt Martha to see me
crying while she talked, so I stood a little off to one side so she wouldn’t see that my tears never stopped
running down my face as I listened to her say goodbye.

It doesn’t matter that she lived much longer than most people; it only matters that she wanted to go to heaven
and that she told us she was leaving on a Monday. She passed away on Monday, June 4. I’ll tell you the truth,
if you have an elder in your life — don’t think of anything, but making sure that they know you love them every