I have heard it said before that a person who is about to die knows it. I can’t explain how they know. I guess it is a feeling that they have. I guess it is a feeling that my mother had. I asked her what she meant she was going to die. She said she could feel it and she was at peace with it. I, on the other hand, was not accepting this. I immediately went into daughter mode and said, “Lady, you’re not going anywhere. God has already promised me that you will be around for my wedding and graduation.” And for me that was final!
I completely shut down all talk about my mother dying. I went right to God. My mother wasn’t going to die. No way! My mother never mentioned it again and so I knew she had put those thoughts to rest.
June 18, 2010 was my last day at my job. I felt such a peace about it and was excited about what God was going to do. I was ready to start school in the fall as a full time student. And had all sorts of plans for my summer off. Yes, it was going to be a great summer!!
June 29, 2010 was my sister’s birthday and my niece’s baptism. It was a special day. I woke up to the sun shining brightly through my bedroom window. And I could hear the sweet melodic song of the birds. I always imagined that they were worshipping God. I said my prayers then started my day. It was going to be a joyous day!
I cooked me some breakfast then decided to see what was going on in the land of Facebook. As I scrolled through my timeline I saw the usual vacation photos, engagement announcements, baby photos, and of course the occasional rant. It was good to see that all was normal in the land of Facebook. As I continued to scroll through I came across an inspirational post that made me pause:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me ~ Psalm 23:4
As I read the scripture I thanked God for his promise that he would be with me, protecting me, no matter what I faced. It was comforting to my soul and gave me peace about my future.
I continued on my day, running errands before returning home to get dressed for church. Because I was in a leadership position I had to wear white and looking rather handsome I might add. I made the short drive to church. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw other churchgoers beautifully dressed and I could not help but think this was going to be a wonderful service.
As I parked my car I heard, “call your mother.” Initially I was not but then realized that I had not spoken to her all day. I dialed her number and as I waited for the call to connect I glanced at the car clock, 6:25pm, ok I have a few moments. After the third ring I heard my mother’s sweet voice say “hello.”
Are you sleeping already?
Yes baby, mommy had a long day and I’m tired.
Ok. I’m at church now. I’ll call you tomorrow.
Ok baby. Mommy loves you.
I love you too mommy.
As I hung up the phone I said aloud, “wow she sounded so peaceful.” She must have been in a good deep sleep, I thought. I walked into the church and as is customary greeted my church family with hugs and kisses. At 6:45pm the praise and worship team began to set the atmosphere for the nights worship experience. At the same time, announcements were scrolling on the big screen. It was the usual information, ministry announcements, upcoming events, job opportunities…..and then I saw it……the scripture for the evening sermon:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
I read it and thought, “didn’t I just read the same scripture this morning? Maybe God was trying to tell me something. Maybe I’ll have a clearer understanding by the time service is over.”
Praise and worship was high. Everyone was on their feet singing, clapping their hands and tapping their feet. Everybody on one accord celebrating Jesus! In the midst of the celebration I heard, “Check your phone.” I pulled out my phone and saw that I had three missed calls from my dad. It was 7:15pm. I stepped out into the hallway and dialed his number.
As I waited for the call to connect I noticed three deacons standing in a room talking and I could hear voices behind me. My dad answers.
Hey Mr. Butch. You called me?
Wait! What?! Who is gone?
She’s gone baby. Mommy is gone.
My entire world turned dark. I dropped the phone and let out a blood curdling scream. I could see the three deacons turn in my direction. I could feel myself slowly collapsing to the floor. Suddenly I felt arms around me and I could hear voices but I couldn’t form words. I was still screaming.
“Is she ok?” “What’s wrong?” “Oh my god, I hope it’s not her mother!”
It was the voices of women. I knew these women. But I couldn’t speak. I could only scream. They held me and someone was praying. After what felt like an eternity, they helped me up and led me into the choir room. Within minutes the room was full of people. I was being fanned. People were praying. I had stopped screaming but I was crying…..uncontrollably. Finally I said, “Please get my sister. She’s in the sanctuary.”
Within minutes my sister appeared. And for the first time I said, “My mother is dead.” Everyone gasped. Some people started crying. Someone else started praying again.
MY MOTHER IS DEAD!!!
My sister asked, “Who do you want me to call?” I gave her the names of my three people and she walked away. I asked someone to find my deacon so I could let him know. While I waited for him and as word began to spread and more people poured into the sanctuary, Minister Icie appeared. She grabbed my hands and started praying and I started sobbing again. After she finished praying she offered what was probably the greatest advice anyone outside of my mother had ever given. She said do not let anyone tell you how you should feel in this moment. Do not let anyone tell you how long your grieving should last. If you want to scream, then scream. If you want to curse, then curse. If you want to be angry at God, then be angry at God. But do not let ANYONE tell you how to feel. She hugged me then walked away.
I thought about what she said and the only thing I could respond to was, “why would I be angry with God? I can never be angry with God.”
Simultaneously, my sister and the person who went in search of my deacon appeared before me. My deacon had already left the church but a message was left on his voicemail. My sister had called my people and Joe was on his way.
As I sat there feeling alone, confused, sick, sad, and empty Psalm 23:4 came to mind. God was telling me something. He was preparing me. He was reminding me that he was with me and that he would comfort and protect me. My deacon and deaconess called. They prayed with me and told me to let them know what I need.
Joe finally arrived and I was glad because I needed air. I needed to be alone. I had to process what had just taken place. We stood in the parking lot for a few moments. My phone just kept ringing. My dad had called family and now they were calling me. First Aunt Rita. Then Jackie. Then my godmother Sheila. Finally Mrs. Toni. Then my friends started calling. Foya, Lenora, Will. It was so overwhelming but I know they were only concerned.
Joe followed me back to my apartment and when I walked in, it felt as though I walked in for the very first time. I slowly walked into the living room, sat on the sofa, and just stared at the wall. We sat in silence for a while before I said, “I need to call my brother.” I dialed his number. He asked why I was calling so late. I said, “Mommy died.” Silence. I asked was he ok? He said, “I’m ok.” I told him to call his job and let them know what was going on. I told him I would pick him up the next day so that we could go to North Carolina. He said ok and the call ended.
Joe stayed a little while longer before leaving. He told me to see him before I got on the road. He left and I was alone with my thoughts. But not for long. The person I was dating came over. I still sat there staring at the wall. He wanted to stay. I made him leave. I wanted and needed to be alone.
After he left I sat in deafening silence. I replayed the day’s events in my mind. How could a perfect day end this way? Then I said…….
“My mother is dead.”
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…….