When I knew , I knew

The day my mother died is the day I really knew she loved me. A strange thing to say, I know, but my truth nevertheless.  The understanding of all things from the beginning came with the ending.

I had crawled in bed with her waiting for her last organic breath in a sterile room. My nose irritated by the scents of alcohol and i.v.  Her nose bloody from forcing oxygen. I tried to clean her face.  Lotion even but tears would fall from her left eye.  My strong mother didn’t  cry. She “leaked” as we would call it. I didn’t want to take it away from her.  Truth is, I didn’t  want to lose them myself. If I wiped them, I would never again see the strength of her womanhood again.

She hadn’t spoken for 3 days.  Not since she had given me some rather poetic instructions.  Even now I laugh that she and I could never have a straight conversation.   Always a movie script of some kind.  Meaningful now, drama back then.

When the silence came, her heart monitor spoke for her.  The number of beats would rise and fall as different voices entered the room and addressed her all with the same tone. “Sister?” “Ma’cia?”  “Mama? Mama? MAMA!!”

I knew her 3 day rule. If she didn’t rise in the three days like Jesus did, then she didn’t want to be hooked to nothing that would change that.  She was adamant about not being trapped in weakness. 

But I punked out.  I sang “He’s sweet I know” as if that were going to change her mind.  She waved a few times. I never knew if she was raising her hands in worship or telling me to shut up.

I have always felt I failed my younger sister by allowing her to sign those dreaded papers. I remember the mix of sadness and anger in her eyes as she penned her name and then literally ran from the room. It would be days before I saw her again 

I’m was not quite cognitive of where my older sister was in that moment.  I knew she was there. I suspect she was no longer the Big Sister at that moment but too was again the child with the single pocahontas ponytail praying for Mama not to go. She, like Mama, would try hard to not show it, but vulnerability reveals itself even in stone. 

 I only found out today that they had their private moment at some point  that I must have slipped away. There was a forgiveness time involved and a phone conversation with her best friend. I pray she will tell you all about that someday. 

The youngest was barely a preteen.  Sheltered in the room with the grandchildren.  The “adults ” always feeling the need to protect them from the inevitable. 

I too made that mistake.  I had sent my two youngest kids to school that Monday. Not sure if I was shielding them from death or from seeing me in a child like desperation. Children need to know that their parents are human too.

The treatment of my eldest, I regret the most.  I had him when I was 15. He was her baby. Her son that I birthed. She would laugh and say that I was just the “egg bearer.” 

Through well meaning “it’s going to be okay” I neglected to talk to him about God’s Will and how a person’s will outweighs our tears.  At the moment of her death, he comes flying in with a bouquet of get well balloons, not realizing that her version of getting well meant leaving us behind. 

Let me correct that. She didn’t leave us behind. She left this world behind and we just happened to be still in it.

The room was full though. Sister’s sisters and Sister’s brothers (one on the phone was in New York). There were so many, 10 of them total.  Being on the oldest end, she was a second caregiver to most of them. Missing completely was the youngest brother. He was her original baby boy and had been murdered by a robber a few short years before. Honestly, I believe that was the day she really died.  Her broken heart never quite recovered and affected her body from that point forward.

Her mother, the rock of our family, had been in and out,  wheeled in a chair. But I still  can’t picture her in the room at that moment. I was told later how she drew close to her daughter and gently rubbed her forehead. A silent expression of love that is the hallmark for much of my family. This was the second child she had lost at too young of an age. The baby boy, Ronnie at 33 and my mom not quite 54. Her soul was hurting in ways I cannot and will not try to imagine.

Slowing beeps and tubes being removed, counting each deep draw and release. Five. The number of grace. A number I now have a love / hate relationship with. On Valentine’s Day no less.  A day she has previously disliked and one I still avoid 21 years later.

 I remember my pastor/godmother trying to pull me away and I screamed at her “she brought me in this world, I can go with her out.” I don’t think I ever apologized to Cat for that.  Not sure I should,  that pull almost took my mother’s love from me.

In that moment, holding fiercely to my mother’s arm, I felt her.  Not just a shockingly strange amount of energy that only those who have held on to a transitioning person know.

But I felt her. 

It should have been a peaceful moment. But I was 31 years old  and wasn’t ready for her to go yet. I had questions only she could answer. I screamed. I cried.  I prayed in tongues so strong and loud that Cat asked the  nurse to give me a sedative.. Even now I believe my comical mother got a chuckle out of that. 

But I felt her.

She was free. She was seeing her Savior.  She saw that Ronnie was okay.. Everything that ever burdened her was being released. 

But I felt her.

Though it was only mere minutes it felt like hours. Holding on to her arm,  that ironically had no more strength or warmth, I believe I was selfishly trying to hold on to her.  Hold on to her because  I still needed her. I still wanted her.  

But I felt her. And she was finally fierce. 

Her love was intense. It was given. It was written. It was unspoken. It was taken for granted. It was appreciated.  It was too much and not enough all at once. It hurt her. It hurt others. It healed her and she healed others. 

And in that moment, I felt her. I felt her love and I didn’t cry for her again for one full year.  My mother showed me she loved me when she let me feel her.

November 8, 2021. An excerpt from “My Mama’s Love Is Like …”

Heart Hungry

I was out in the Carytown area yesterday. One of the worst places to be when you know that you can’t have solid food for 36 hours before a medical test. But I was looking to pick up my last meal for a few days and wanted something special.

However my husband and I ran across homeless people near the trash cans of so many of these trendy restaurants . I began to weep when I saw them because this is America….the land of excess…and yet so many are living like this. Carytown flows with cash. Most times I can afford nothing there. It was heartbreaking seeing people of all ages and colors hoping for some wasteful person’s scraps.

This situation is only exasperated by Covid closing so many churches and shelter resources. It is also created by a ” I got mine. You get yours” attitude so many financially secure people have.

We don’t have a lot in our house but we are blessed. My husband and pooled what we had and bought as many sandwiches and fries we could handle. Thank you to the Carytown McDonald’s for asking what we were doing and donating a matching amount of bottled water.

I was shook so much by one married couple out on the corner with what seemed to be all of their possessions huddled against the cold. I freaked when I noticed a baby stroller but was relieved to find it was a very old dog wrapped in a blanket. I’m not a pet lover but I had to feed it. The poor thing was so tired looking he barely lifted his head at the smell of food. The young husband was so grateful he started to cry.

In the age of Covid you can’t touch, get too close or even see smiles anymore. But I was struck by all the emotions in his eyes and they spoke the volume of the problems in the human experience. His eyes were a golden brown color that I have never seen before and pierced right through me as a reminder to be grateful in all things. Even under the dirt and behind a make shift mask his face glowed.

I also noticed that they still wore their wedding bands. Tells me that they have not been out there too long. Most folks would have pawned for a room. Also tells me that they are determined to stay a family.

My husband and I made one last pass thru the street to make sure we hadn’t missed anybody we saw. Thought I had gone crazy because the couple and that old dog were suddenly gone. No way they could have moved that fast. We had just circled the block.

All I can do is wonder if we had been visited and tested. I pray we passed. My own food is still in the fridge. No need for it. My heart filled me.

No Seed Alone

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless the seed of wheat having fallen to the earth dies, it remains alone.
But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  –   John 12:24 (DLNT)

It is an awesome blessing that, in very recent weeks, my earthly father, most certainly under the direction of my Heavenly Father, had taken great care into making sure that I would be united with my slightly younger sister, Tammy. The two of them had only reconnected a few months prior and though I had heard her name in conversation before, she never really knew I existed.

As I would soon find, timing is everything. On January 5, ironically on my birthday, Tammy’s mother died. My dad was devastated at the thought of his baby girl being alone and though we could not make the services, we had made plans to make a 6 or so hour drive to see Tammy. Daddy felt she needed him and that she would need me.

I didn’t fully understand his urgency, until just 30 days later, on February 5, both Tammy and I would lose Daddy.

As I went through Daddy’s papers in preparation to celebrate his entrance into Heaven, I begin to find “bread crumbs on a trail” leading me where he wanted me to go. I found Tammy’s birth card from the hospital where she was born.  I found her younger brother’s newborn pics. Over and over, I found evidence of the six children he loved, lost in circumstance and had hoped to renew full fellowship with.

Tammy and I have not met yet, nor have I had the opportunity to meet two of my other siblings… yet. The memorial service is in a few days and I pray they will all be able to make the winter travel. But she and I have had a ball getting to know each other via text, phone and social media. We realized that we are actually pretty alike including our bad habit of not being able to sleep past 4 a.m. and that we are both warrior sisters who like to get stuff done and done right. LOL.

During one of our conversations, John 12:24 came to my mind… “Unless a seed falls to the ground…. It remains alone”. God knows we miss our parents. My mom died on a February day as well… on a day ironically important to Tammy’s mom too. But it seems clear to me that they had somehow planted seeds that are multiplying in us.

Seeds of wiping each others tears. Seeds of laughter. Seeds of hope. Seeds of forgiveness. Seeds of renewal. Seeds of never really being alone again.

Tammy says that she had always wanted a  sister. She just inherited more than a few. My sister Melody says that the  girls involved should never call ourselves half-sisters because we are all too chubby to be halfs of anything. Lisa can’t wait to embrace all of us.. thinking she was the oldest… but tickled to find out she was not.

I began to count out all the children from all the parents involved and realized that Tammy has a lot more sisters and brothers that she will be able to handle. All ages, sizes, colors and shapes ….not letting blood separate us …. But embracing each other as what my youngest sister, Cheryl, calls “grown orphans.” LOL.

Even though there are only 5 months between Tammy and myself, I am pleased that she thinks of me as a big sister. It remains to be seen if she will relish her role as a soon to be spoiled Baby Sis. I think we were both feeling loved when I got the chance to nag her this morning about making sure she lets me know that she got to work okay … snowy weather both here in Virginia and in New Jersey where she is. She agreed to comply with the request of this “mother hen.”

The seed has definitely been planted, Daddy.