Life never prepares you for the devastating moments. Those moments that shred your heart into pieces. You’re never prepared to have your world rocked in such a way that you question your very reason for living. No, life doesn’t prepare you for or give warning of those moments. Instead, she comes on a mission, ruthless, not really caring who she hurts. And I was hurting.
The drive to North Carolina was the longest drive I had ever made. I had made that drive a dozen times or more, but the drive the day after learning my mother had died was brutal. My head hurt. My heart heart. My mind was racing. I could not stop crying. And my insides were screaming MY MOTHER IS DEAD! MY MOTHER IS DEAD!! GOD WHY?!!
After what seemed like a drive across country, we finally arrived in Greenville. My dad met us outside and immediately grabbed us and hugged us tightly. It felt like he was not going to let go and I expected him to start crying at any moment but he did not. I could see the hurt in his face and I have to tell you, I had not really considered the pain he was feeling. Not only had I lost my mother, he lost his life partner. The woman he met before I was born and vowed if he ever had another chance with, that it would be forever. No, I had not considered the pain he was feeling. I was caught up in my own pain. Selfish? Maybe. But the woman who gave me life; my best friend in this world; my cheerleader and biggest supporter; my inspiration; my mother was now dead.
I had a ton of questions so that night my dad and I talked. I told him that I had spoken to my mother an hour before he called. I told him that when I called she was sleep. He said he called around 7pm and did not get an answer so he left work and went home. What I did not know was that they had a code; if at any time he called home and she did not answer, he was to come right home. This code was put into place after my mother was home alone one day and fell. She was unable to get to the phone to call for help and had to lay there for hours until my dad came home. So on the night she died, after calling home and not getting an answer, he rushed home and found her on the bedroom floor.
My mom had a Do Not Resuscitate certificate above her bed. But in spite of that my dad started CPR. I can not say I blame him. And I can not say I would not had done the same thing. Yes, her wishes were not to be resuscitated. But in that moment emotions and adrenaline take over and nothing else matters but saving your loved ones life. My dad said after a few moments he realized his attempts were futile. So he called my cousins and 911. It is still unclear why she was on the floor. The assumption is that maybe she was going to or coming from the bathroom and her heart gave out. She never did get the heart medicine that she needed. The appeal was still pending. Ironically, three weeks after my mother died, the medication along with a letter saying my mother had won the appeal, came in the mail. To say I was mad is an understatement.
As I listened to my dad recount the events of that evening something hit me; I was the last person she spoke too. As I thought about that, I began to cry. God blessed me with hearing her voice one final time. I had not spoken to her all day on that fateful day and that was unusual. But God, in his awesomeness, spoke to me in his still small voice and told me to call her before I went into church. For a long time after her death I played the “what if” game. What if I had not listened to God but instead said, ‘I will call her tomorrow?’ I would have missed an opportunity to tell my mother I loved her before God called her home. I can not put into words how special that was for me. I can not adequately describe how grateful I am to God for that blessing. But not only the blessing of being able to say one last time, “I love you mommy” but also the blessing of hearing her say one final time, “I love you too baby.” If you have never buried your mother or anyone close to you then this may be hard for you to grasp. But for those who know the relationship I had with my mom, they understand. And it is something I will always be grateful to God for.
Planning my mother’s funeral was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. My mom was special, and I wanted the service to be special. I am grateful for my best friend who flew in to help and to keep me sane. I am grateful to my sisters Beth and Lenora who were unable to be there but helped in ways they can’t even imagine. I’m grateful to Joe and his mom and aunts who drove from Charleston with enough food to feed an army. I’m grateful to my church family and the countless other people who called, text, and mailed cards. The outpouring of love was truly amazing and I will forever be grateful for the love shown to my family during our season of mourning.
It is said that you never know how strong you are until you have to be. I found out how strong I was…..or wasn’t……when I saw my mother lying in the casket. Before Jesus came into my life I had visions of me jumping in the casket with her. But in that moment he was my strength. He held me together as I kissed her and told her that I love her.
The service was nice. Friends and family came together to say good night to my mommy. By the grace of God I spoke….and finished. And I played one of her favorite gospel songs, I Love The Lord. At the burial it all seemed to really become final. This was it. I would never see her again. I requested to not have the casket lowered while I was there. I don’t think I would have been able to handle that. I said my final farewell and left.
I would be remiss if I did not mention how grateful I am to Mrs Coley. My church’s annual women’s retreat was taking place the week of my mother’s funeral. I had not planned on attending so I never paid the fee. While I was in North Carolina, Mrs Coley called me and asked when was I returning to Philadelphia. When I told her she said, ‘good because I spoke to the organizer and told her what happened and she has worked it out for you to attend the retreat.’ I was flabbergasted. I did not know what to say. Mrs Coley told me that I needed to be around my church family, my sisters-in-Christ.
Two days after my mother’s funeral my brother and I bid my dad farewell and headed north. After dropping him off I headed to the hotel. I was greeted with hugs and kisses and words of comfort. I learned who I would be sharing a room with and it was at that moment that I realized God was still covering me and protecting me. As it turned out the woman I was sharing a room with had recently lost her mother. God knows what we need. And I was yet to find out.
During dinner there were conversations happening all around me. I did not have much of an appetite and honestly wanted to be alone. But I knew my sisters were not going to let that happen. Finally, the opening program began. The worship leader came to the mic and began praise and worship. I remember her saying how good God is; how faithful God is; how awesome God is. I remember her saying how he protected us and provided for us. And then she said, “you prayed for your loved one to be healed and God healed them” and in that moment I became angry with God. I started crying and I had to leave the table. I stepped out into the lobby and just sobbed and then I heard Minister Icie’s words, “if you want to be angry with God, then be angry with God.” I never thought I would, but in that moment I found myself very angry with God for not healing my mother and allowing her to die. I was angry and I let God know how angry I was. But I would learn that God can handle my anger. In fact, I would learn how much God can handle my anger and feel God’s love even in the midst of my anger.
I finally made my way back into the worship service. The preacher was finishing up but wanted the women to participate in an exercise. She had us form circles of 8-10 women. Each woman was holding a glass. A deaconess came around and filled our glass with water. The water represented the baggage, unforgiveness, pain, hurt, negative emotions that we were holding on to. We were to hold that glass of water, praying and releasing those things which were hindering us to God. We were instructed that when we were ready we were then to pour our glass of water into a basin that was at the front of the room.
My glass of water was heavy. As I thought about the past 10 days and the anger I was feeling in that moment, I did not want to pray. I wanted to stay mad. I was hurting. And so I stood there. My glass was heavy. One by one women were leaving my group and pouring out their glass of water into the basin at the front of the room. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even pray. After awhile my deaconess came up to me. She asked was I ok and I began to sob heavily. Immediately I was surrounded by other deaconess who laid hands on me and began interceding for me. I remember someone taking my glass and the next thing I knew I was on the floor, crying….crying….crying…..for what seemed like hours. I finally got myself together, retrieved my glass of water (I still had to pour my glass of water into the basin at the front of the room) and began praying. The overwhelming sense of peace that came over me was amazing. I could feel the love of God embracing me and I began to weep even more, but for different reasons. Finally, I poured my glass of water (anger, hurt, pain, grief) into the basin at the front of the room. In that moment, my healing began.