RICHMOND, Va. –
In the mid-1980’s, the late pop icon Prince recorded a song for the Under the Cherry Moon soundtrack titled Sometimes it Snows in April. In it, he laments “Sometimes I wish that life was never ending, but all good things they say, never last.”
It’s an emotion Gail Gillus, a supervisory program analyst within Defense Logistics Agency Aviation’s Command Support Directorate’s Resource Management Division at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia, has experienced for the past five months.
“Life is not the same anymore, my heart is broken and will never be healed. We were close and talked about everything. He was my confident, my best friend but most of all, my son! I miss him a lot,” she said.
On the night of Oct. 1, 2021, Gillus said her 25-year-old son Darius was making a familiar drive from Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he worked as a real estate appraiser, to her home in Chesterfield, Virginia. As Darius traveled along Interstate-64 in New Kent County, Virginia, his car ran off the road and hit several trees. Gillus said she had just talked to him 15 minutes before the accident.
“My daughter came upstairs and told me to come downstairs because the police were there to see me. I asked them was this about my son and they told me to sit down. I asked again, “is this about my son?” The officer politely said please sit down. He then proceeded to tell me there was an accident on I-64 west at mile marker 209, my son was involved, and unfortunately, he didn’t make it.
Gillus said after hearing those words, everything after that was a blur.
“We don’t think about burying our kids. We think about them burying us.” Gillus said. “I can’t imagine Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, his birthday and all those other significant days without him. Most folks don’t understand the pain we feel every day.
Darius was a standout football and baseball player at L. C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, Virginia, leading the school to back-to-back state football championships in 2012 and 2013. His baseball talents earned him a scholarship to play at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He graduated from ODU in December 2018.
Gillus said her son doted on his sisters, LaTisha and Jasmine, little brother Alejandro and niece McKenzie.
“He was funny, compassionate, hardworking and his smile is unforgettable. We were close and talked about everything. He was my confident, my best friend, but most of all my son!! I miss him a lot,” she said.
Darius also had a close childhood friend, Brandon Pearson. Brandon was a few years older, but growing up, they played together, had sleepovers at each other’s house, went to various events and played for the same little league football association.
Both attended the same high school, Brandon played in the marching band, Darius focused on sports. Brandon, like Darius, also graduated from ODU.
Brandon’s mother, Gwen Pearson, like Gail, works at DLA Aviation in Richmond where she is a senior procurement analyst in the Procurement Process Support Directorate.
“Brandon lived, loved and laughed. He was a charismatic, compassionate young man. He was energetic, charming, funny, loving, friendly, and very comical as he loved to laugh. He was very passionate with his beliefs and opinions/logic.” Pearson said. “He had a promising future that was cut too short.”
Tragically, on the morning of Oct. 29, 2021, 28-year old Brandon was killed in a car accident on Interstate 64 as he was driving home to Virginia Beach from Richmond. Brandon attended his childhood friend Darius’ funeral just three weeks earlier.
“Just feeling loss, numb. It’s been so surreal. I still cannot believe my baby boy is gone. It’s been difficult trying to take care of things for him. I try to stay busy working. As long as I am making a difference, I feel okay. l look at his pictures and videos for a short time and then it sends my stomach into a knot,” Pearson said.
Pearson says she, her husband Warren, and daughter Brittany have leaned on each other for support since Brandon’s death. She said friends also check on them.
She did reach out to the DLA Employee Assistance Program after Brandon’s funeral. Penny Ginger is the EAP manager on DSCR.
“Everyone grieves differently. They may reach out right away, before they return to work or when they return to work or months later. Whenever they feel the counseling will be the most helpful,” she said.
Ginger said EAP can provide counseling services for the employee and any interested immediate family member. The program can refer employees to local grief education and support groups.
She said DLA employees and their families can also utilize EAP legal services for assistance with preparing a will and funeral planning, i.e., researching for services and other specific information.
EAP also provides support to supervisors by providing guidance on how to handle the employee returning to work and offer handouts and resources.
Ginger said it’s important to note that EAP can’t reach out to someone who has lost a loved one. The person must reach out first, which can often be difficult.
Pearson said after reaching out to EAP, she was referred to support groups, but has found it too difficult to talk about Brandon dying, at that point, to attend any meetings.
Gillus said she has yet to utilize EAP but is thankful the resources are available if she ever needs them.
Gail Gillus and Gwen Pearson. Friends and co-workers. Two women who will forever be reminded of the unimaginable pain of losing a child.
“God needed Brandon more and has a better place for him. He is an angel watching over us and still helping others,” Pearson said.
“I don’t wish this pain on anyone. Tell your family and friends how much you care about them while they are alive to hear it,” said Gillus.
A sentiment summed up in the last line of Prince’s song, “And love, it isn't love, until it's past.”
More information about EAP can be found here: www.magellanascend.com. It’s available to entire families and provides a wealth of articles, webinars and other information on dealing with grief.