By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
This is another installment in The Birmingham Times/AL.com/CBS42 joint series, “Beyond the Violence: What Can Be Done to Address Birmingham’s Rising Homicide Rate?” Click here to sign up for the newsletter.
Clayton Davis, a Smithfield parent, knows the pain of losing loved ones. Over the last few years, his grandmother, father, mother, and sister have died. Through his job at a hospital, he has seen numerous deaths through the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2022, though, his son, Maurice Montrell Lewis, was killed by gun violence.
“I’ve experienced a lot of [death], and, basically, the way I see it is hopefully they are in a better place,” said Davis, who relies on his Christian faith.
The pain of thinking about his loved ones intensifies at times, but he doesn’t believe in letting the sadness take over his life. Whether it’s the first Father’s Day or the 10th since losing a child, the holiday can be a difficult time, said Davis: “You’re not going to get that phone call, saying, ‘Happy Father’s Day,’ or that gift, or [have] him come over and barbecue or something. That will be missed.”
Davis finds strength for dealing with his grief the way he finds strength for everything—with his faith. He also feels assured that his son’s death won’t go unpunished.
“Me, I just draw on my faith and ask for guidance and strength to deal with the loss,” he said. “That really gives me some strength and kind of humbles me. … It kills that old, bad, angry feeling.”
“They still haven’t caught my son’s killer or killers, but I know that in the long run, in the end, they’re going to pay. They ain’t gonna get away with it, so that’s my strength,” Davis said.
“I miss him when I get those feelings around holidays. I talked to [my son] every day. … You miss that, too. My biggest thing is trying to hold up my wife, [Pamela], and the other siblings,” said Davis, who also has three stepchildren: Brandon, Andria, and Briana, all of whom are in their early 30s.
Davis said his son’s death has had an impact on the family, and they have gotten a “tad better” through a lot of talking and praying, as well as some counseling for his wife.
“People say, ‘Well, you can’t be strong when you bottle up your emotions,’” he said. “‘I tell them, ‘Don’t get me wrong. I’ve cried and still cry, but people deal with death in different ways.’”
Davis was encouraged to see his wife recently connect with other mothers who had lost their children. She was able to meet the others at Lament and Hope, an event held last winter to memorialize those killed by gun violence in Birmingham.
“All of them gave her [phone] numbers, and I said, ‘Call them.’ That really has helped a lot,” Davis said.