I did my graduate internship with the Humane Society of the United States a couple of years ago. And I had to look for a place to stay in Maryland. I didn’t know it. I didn’t know anyone in it. And I couldn’t have imagined my time there would lead to this post today.
Mieko King was the landlady of the house I finally rented a room in. Her son was Solomon. And over the time I spent with Mieko, I got to know Solomon. But I never met him.
Solomon was killed in a hit-and-run on Travilah Road, Rockville, Maryland, USA on 13th November 2004. The driver was never caught. Police have described the car as a dark Honda with dark, tinted windows, a 4-door model from 1998-2000. They said the right-front section of the vehicle may have damage from the collision.
But he was more than a faceless victim. Through Mieko, I learned about this special young man.
Solomon was a courageous soul.
Solomon’s life as a child was not easy but he overcame the challenges to become a brave, compassionate and witty boy who brought much laughter and joy to others.
Solomon’s father died when he was four. Mieko King, his mother, brought him up to be a strong young man with sound values so as she put it, “people would never have reason to say he was lacking in any way because he came from a single parent family”.
Solomon suffered third degree burns on his right arm when he was young in an accident at home. He covered his hands for a long time, afraid of stares and what people might say. Then with the love and support of his friends, one day he bravely bared his scarred arm. He inspired great respect for his courage. At one time doctors predicted that Solomon would not write; yet he went on to even continue with his etching artwork.
Solomon was a poet
Solomon was an artist.
Soloman was a friend.
Solomons’ friends loved him. They still get together with Mieko on his death anniversary – almost ten years after he died. That is testimony to the kind of person he was.
Here’s what two of his friends said about him after he was killed:
He was a friend, he gave advice when someone needed it and most of all you could trust him to never leave your side when you needed him… During the school year, Sol and I would always talk about what we were going to do later that afternoon. …These talks helped me to get through many things I couldn’t have gotten through by myself. Sol helped me to get a better understanding through by myself. Sol helped me to get a better understanding of myself and everyone else around me. Sol I love and miss you so much. Life is going to be a lot harder without you.
You were one of the most caring, loving, whole-hearted funny people I have ever known…. On my fifteenth birthday at exactly 12.00am you called to wish me a happy birthday and came over to celebrate with Alex Santini and I in the snow. You made me feel special. Then we went to sleep and when I woke up my driveway was shoveled. What a wonderful surprise birthday present from my best friend.
Soloman was a friend to animals too.
He adored Hana, his dog.
And when birds crashed into his home window, he would bury them in the garden, remembering what his mother had taught him on respect for even dead animals.
Solomon was thoughtful.
Mieko transforms Pain to Love
“I raised Solomon for 16 years and in a second someone took his life away…I don’t want to see young people die.” – Mieko King
Despite the grief of losing her only child, Mieko has acted with such grace and compassion.
She made the decision to donate Solomon’s organs after his death.
Solomon loved art. So Mieko set up a scholarship in honour of Solomon’s extremely giving spirit. The scholarship aims to support Wooten High School students who would like to take pursue art-related courses outside school. Priority is given to students from single parent families. The Scholarship Fund is managed by Wooten High School. Mieko aims to include students who may not be straight-A students but who have a passion and inclination for art. She wants the scholarship to let them know she believes in them – and so would have Solomon.
Solomon, Hana, Mieko and I
When I first rented a room in Mieko’s house, Solomon’s room was left in the same way it had been since the day he died. Hana hid under his bed a lot. She didn’t used to when he was alive.
I only stayed for part of that summer. But Hana , Mieko and I became friends. She looked after me like family.
The next time I visited Mieko months later, something had changed. Solomon’s room has been tidied up and I stayed there. I wasn’t afraid because I had come to know who he was.
During that trip, I took a photo of Solomon’s photo in the living room. And suddenly the flowers near his photo caught the sunlight and became very beautiful. It was like he was the Light. I felt a warmth in my heart.
I write this for various reasons.
I want to humanise Solomon and Mieko. They represent the many faceless people whose wellbeing we may not think of as they are “strangers” we’re just passing by on the road or through life.
Yes, it would help if the person who hit Solomon owned up now. But I write this also for the rest of us.
Let us learn to be present wherever we are, especially if we are behind the wheel. I now see many people using their phones when driving. Each time you feel like doing that, please think of Solomon. You may hit someone just like him.
Hit-and-run accidents happen not just on roads but in our daily lives. Sometimes we hurt people emotionally and move off not knowing the impact we have had.
I never met Solomon but I got to know him through Mieko’s eyes. He was precious – as precious as each of us. And so is Mieko. May we learn to be conscious of the impact we have on each other’s lives.
Let us learn the value of owning up to our mistakes and understand that we may hold the key to greater closure for someone.
Let us learn to apologise: Sorry – Part 1, Sorry – Part 2 I often feel we are so advanced technologically but have forgotten the basics of how to treat our fellow human beings. If for some reason, you cannot apologise directly to someone, you can post on the Levine’s Apology Page. You could donate to or support a cause that is related to how you may have hurt someone. And of course, the best sorry is personal transformation.
I thank Mieko for continuing to allow Solomon’s story to touch and change more lives. To me, he is an angel, still helping us after he has left.
How has this story impacted you? Please leave any feedback so I can share it with Mieko. Let her know how Solomon has left a legacy in your life. Thank you.
We don’t know what was happening with the driver that caused the accident. But I do know that texting and driving is becoming a threat to many lives today so please support the Stop the Texts campaign and take Oprah’s No Phone Zone pledge. Help share this powerful video.