Death Becomes Her…

….Victory. Death becomes her victory… that’s what happened when my mother passed on this day 2 years ago. Her death was not sorrowful, it was purposed, and I think she knew it.

As I’m sitting now at my Godfathers funeral, I hear everyone talk about how great of a man he was and while I can agree I realize again, that I knew very little about this man….and my mother. How is it that everyone can speak so highly of people that I was supposed to be close to but I wasn’t? Was I that distant???? Realizing the truth makes me cry… Let me give you some background to help you understand.

Mommy got on my nerves. Ever since I could remember we had been butting heads, almost coming to blows one afternoon of 10th grade (I was going to hit her with a hanger) after she threw a cup at me. But I didn’t. Wanted to, but didn’t. Instead I angrily walked away and debated running away…all because she hadn’t taken my JROTC uniform back to the school like I asked. By the time I left for college I knew I wanted to get away… as far as possible… from her. She once told me, “You know we’ll never get along because we have two different spirits”.

Many times, she questioned if I even loved her because as she put it, “I could be so evil and I never called her.” She wondered if I preferred my father more than her. I did. I was a daddy’s girl. Well that’s how I rationalized it. Because I ignored her calls, she would call my sister to see how I was doing. Only problem was, I didn’t talk to my sister either, even though we went to the same college. So moving back was the WORST thing I could imagine after graduation. But I did. Didn’t have a choice really. When you’re broke and in debt, options are limited.

I stayed at home but didn’t stay at home. I was barely there. Traveling, working, PARTYING….sooo much partying. I still ignored my mother. Yet, she still prayed. Every day like clockwork, she prayed. Usually around 4/5am, you could hear her praying. Nights I came in when the sun was rising, she was up praying and singing. I shrugged it off, constantly irritated and annoyed. It wasn’t until a friend spent the night that I found out that she was praying for me…

In 2011, mommy was hospitalized for congestive heart failure. She almost died. Should have died actually. You see, mommy had Muscular Dystrophy. Out of 7 siblings total, 5 siblings had the disorder and she was the only one of them who was still alive. Years previous, my Uncle Michael died from heart failure, while getting into his car to take his grandson a birthday gift. A bus driver found him dead in the street. So, mommy should have died. But she didn’t. She was alive, in pain, but alive. I didn’t want to see her in the hospital. Wouldn’t have gone if my siblings didn’t unknowingly make me. She had to have been hospitalized for at least 3 weeks. I think I only saw her twice. She had a stint placed in and then a pacemaker. Eventually, she was released.

Although she was home, I was busy trying to get a car and move out. Once I had enough funds that’s what I did. Months passed by as I floated between the townhouse I was renting and the house. For some reason, I couldn’t totally commit to the space. Then some issues arose and I wound up having to move back home. I had been home for one month when my mother died. The last day I spoke to her went like this:

Me: Bye, I’m headed out. 

Mommy: Faithe, hold on…

Me: What, Ma? I’m in a rush, I’m already late.

Mommy: (grabs my arm with much vigor and strength) I just want you to know that God loves you. You are still his servant. 

Me: Yeah, uh huh, I know. Is that it? Ok, I got to go I’m late.

Mommy: I love you honey.

Me: I know (as I hurriedly walk out the door)

Walking to the car I wondered why I didn’t say “I love you too”. One part of me wanted to go back inside, hug her and tell her I loved her too, but the other said, “Oh she knows, I don’t have to do all that.” Then I went to Wet Willies for a “meeting” that failed to serve its purpose and I was irritated that I was there.

By the time I got home, Mommy was asleep in her chair. So I went to my room and went to sleep. Only to awaken hours later to my sister charging into my room telling me to get up, “Mommy’s not breathing!!!”.

As I go into the living room, I’m confused, still partly sleeping and wondering if my sister is just overreacting. But she is hysterical. Then I look and see my mother slumped over in her chair, where I just saw her a few hours before. My heart slowed, everything slowed, and for a minute I was frozen. I don’t remember feeling anything emotionally. I didn’t panic but I didn’t know what to do. So I approached her and felt for a pulse, nothing.

We decided to move her to the floor to begin CPR. In my head I’m like, “I don’t really know how to do this, but I’ll try. But what if I don’t do it right? What if I bruise her or break her bones? She’s fragile!”. But nevertheless, I stuck it out. While talking to the 911 operator we worked on Mommy. At first I was hesitant to blow air into her lungs because all I could remember was that Mommy had wet lips, and I don’t like her kissing on me. But I wiped that thought away and covered my mother’s lips with mine and I breathed hard and long as I pumped her chest.

I started thinking, “no, not yet Mommy! I’m not ready. I need more time. God help me.” Then the sinking reality became clearer that this was it. So I prayed. “Lord, I’m not ready for this, but I won’t pray for you to give her back if that’s not your will. If you want her here, then let her come back, if not, then give me peace.” This is all I prayed for.

When I think about it, I knew she was gone before  the ambulance came, before we saw her lips and fingers turn blue. When the paramedics worked on her, I went to the basement stairwell, closed the door and sat on the steps, and I just listened. I could hear everything through the walls and floorboards… “Clear!”….pump, pump, “Clear!”…pump, pump…. I didn’t want to be too far away so I listened, intensely. waiting on the verdict and talking to God, asking for peace. Then I walked upstairs.

The paramedic announced her time of death and I fell down on my knees. Now the finality of her death was really sinking in. As I went outside to cry alone and call my friends to tell them, I knew my life would be so much different from this point on. When I went back inside I laid on mommy’s body and I told her, “I’m so sorry, I love you. Your death won’t be in vain, Mommy. It won’t be in vain.”

I didn’t come back to Christ that night, but I knew I was much closer than I had ever been before. When my friends asked if I needed some weed, a drink, or to go out to get away, I declined. Usually that would have been exactly what I wanted, but not this time. I had peace. I knew Mommy had finished her job so God called her home. He even took her the way she had requested, in her sleep, no sickness, no hospitals.

When I spoke about it of course I cried, maybe more from guilt and shame than sorrow. I LOVED my mother sooo much but I couldn’t express it. I was so hardened to my life and my emotions I couldn’t show my own family my love. My battle never was with her, it was with me and I knew it then but I couldn’t tell her.

She had asked me to sing at her 58th bday party which had just been 2 weeks prior to her death, and I declined. Why? Because I just didn’t want to. I remember being there and fighting the nagging urge to do as my mother requested, I didn’t. So, I sang at her homegoing. I owed her that much. It had been 10 years since I had sung in a church, but I did it for her.

I can’t change the past. Sometimes I hated my mother, but I loved her always. I can’t dwell on the last day we spoke, because while I had the chance to verbally express my love, I didn’t. But what I can do is love everyone else in my life openly and honestly. I’m learning that everyday. I didn’t know the impact my mother had on others and it made me sad to realize that others probably knew her better than me. Or maybe wept more than me, or miss her more than me. But I can’t dwell on that. Overall, I celebrate it. because now I understand just how big my heart can be if I allow it to grow.  I am little Theresa *thank you people at funeral for reminding me*.  I’m finally one with her spirit…and I’m ok with that.

Cee-lo once said, “My mother saved my soul with her life”.  Now I say Jesus did that, but my mother was the catalyst to my salvation. She became my ultimate earthly role model because I realized, “I want to die like Mommy did…ready to go home, no regrets, no unfinished business, just ready”. So death becomes her indeed because not only was it her victory but mine as well.

*I cried writing this entire blog, got my sister crying too watching the video below. We love you and miss you Mommy*

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