It felt like deja vu….but it was different. This time it wasn’t my mother, it was my brother. Saturday, January 4, 2014, I received a phone call that halted everything I had planned.
I was at praise team rehearsal and we were preparing to sing for that Sunday’s service. Typically, I would have just muted the phone and continued on with practice, but on the third ring, I felt as if I should answer it. After all, it WAS daddy calling. So I picked up, expecting to hear something in regards to my father either A: scolding me about something (yes I still get scolded), B: reminding me about something I forgot, or C: calling to see where I was. But there was something else that came out of his mouth: “Maurice is not waking up“.
Those words got my full attention and I asked the only thing I could muster, “WHAT YOU MEAN MAURICE NOT WAKING UP?!?!?“ He went on to explain what was happening and I felt myself begin to panic. “No, not again, not yet” was all I could think as I half listened, almost lethargic in my movements. My body was moving but in my head it was hard to catch up. I told my dad I was on my way home and asked him if he had contacted my sisters, he said no and asked me to do so. “WHAT?!?!?”– that’s the panic I felt inside. What was I supposed to tell them? I didn’t know what was going on!
As I was grabbing all of my things, I fumbled with my phone trying to call my sister Dide. For the life of me I could barely remember her name and definitely had trouble dialing her number. So I took a breath and asked God to help me get it together. As I called, I anticipated her not answering, but when she picked up the phone I knew I had to tell her. I rushed out of the rehearsal telling her I was heading home, trying to hold myself together as she questioned me. I could feel the anxiety rising in her voice. I just wanted to wake up.
But I pressed on, calling my other sister Tee to inform her as well, again almost hoping she didn’t answer so I could just leave a message. Hearing the despair is not something I wanted to be responsible for. But she answered, so I told her what was going on and asked her if she was able to get to the house and soon. I drove off, and almost got into an accident when someone veered into my lane. That did nothing but piss me off even further and I wanted to retaliate! I even drove up beside them and stared the man down. I was so angry! But I drove off realizing that wasn’t my concern. My problem was, why was this happening? Again?
So I prayed and I sang. And I prayed and I sang. I prayed for peace. Hoping that this was just a scare, but also saying “Lord prepare me for the worst”. I sang It Is Well With My Soul and I began to feel more at ease about everything. I calmed down, even stopped speeding so that I wouldn’t get into an accident. I just drove. I didn’t know what was in store for me but I felt like I was ready for it.
I was wrong. When I drove up and saw the ambulance, and my father getting in the passenger side, I honestly was surprised. “So he’s not dead?” was the thought in my head. I called my father to get an update as they were pulling off. First he said that he was breathing on his own, and I relaxed more. Then I heard the man correct him, and he told me “No I’m sorry, he’s still not breathing on his own”. That wrecked me, but I had hope, “at least he made it into the ambulance” was my thought. That was more that what occurred with my mother. As my brother Andre’ came outside, I tried to maintain my composure but the tears just kept coming.
I wasn’t ready. We didn’t immediately follow the ambulance because I thought my oldest sister was headed to the house. So we sat for about 20 mins and waited. I made phone calls to family and friends, updating them and asking them to pray. My father even called Andre’ and asked us to bring Maurice’s medicine. So, I was getting more hope. “This time will be different. He’ll be ok, they’re going to help him”. As we got into the car, I felt as if I was more concerned about my brother and his stability that I offered to drive. I’m glad he said he was ok, because frankly I wasn’t.
I continued to pray, and again I prayed for peace. But this time I still had hope things would work out for me. I mean, with mommy I wasn’t saved and I knew better than to pray for something I wanted, “Why would God give me what I desired if I didn’t even want to obey Him?” I wasn’t stupid enough to promise God something that I knew I would break “If you bring my mommy back, I’ll follow you” Bah humbug! Nope, during that time, I prayed that whatever happened that God would comfort me and give me peace, because honestly, I knew she was dead before they announced it. But as I said that same prayer, I couldn’t find peace in the thought of Maurice dying. I knew that I really didn’t want that to happen and if it did I was going to have a hard time understanding why.
But I prayed anyway. I was hoping that the wave of calmness would come over me. So when Andre answered his phone and got quiet, I braced myself. But even I didn’t expect my response. I was in the middle of a text, but when Andre told me that he passed, I threw my phone at the ground of the car and went into a fit of rage. I stomped my feet and rocked the seat, screaming “NO!!!”, wishing something would give. I took off my seat belt and unlocked my door. We were next to a gas station and I remember fighting the urge to get out and run just so I could scream properly. I was broken.
By the time we pulled into the hospital I couldn’t stay in the car any longer. I asked Andre to let me out. I didn’t want to park the car. I didn’t even really want to go inside. I just wanted to wake up. This was not my life. This could not have been happening again. It was too soon and way too familiar to how mommy died. I entered the building on the wrong side and I didn’t care. I was alone and the tears kept flowing. I sat down and tried to gather myself. I text my friends two simple words, “He passed”. After about 10 mins, I figured it was time to face reality. So I called and asked Andre where he was. He met me outside and we began to walk to the ER.
I was glad he was there because my legs went numb. He supported me as I almost fell to the ground in emotional agony. I didn’t want to go in. I didn’t want to see my family and be confronted with the truth. I thought I was ready, but I lied. I still wasn’t ready. I still wanted to wake up. I wanted for my Saturday to go back as I had planned. When I saw my sisters, I saw all the pain I was feeling. It felt as if we were all saying, “Not again”.
I told my father that I felt like it just wasn’t fair. Why did he have to go now? Like this? In my heart I wanted to say, “I’m saved now. Shouldn’t my prayers have worked?” I didn’t know if I was mad at God, but I know I was confused. I just didn’t grasp the ‘why’ behind my brother’s death. Granted, Muscular Dystrophy is the incurable condition that he suffered from, but where were the signs that would prepare us for his last days?
The week prior, Maurice was diagnosed with either pneumonia or bronchitis. Which one? We’ll never know for sure. All we know was that from where he had been, Maurice was getting better. You could tell because he came out of his room more. He moved more. Yes he was still weak, but with his condition any sickness is amplified in him more than the average person. But again, he was getting better. I had seen it with my own eyes. He shuffled more when he moved, racing to get to the next thing to help him stay balanced, but that was an improvement. Had he passed when he was at his lowest point, I might have been more prepared. But Friday, he was getting better.
We were all on watch for Maurice, just to make sure someone was there if he needed us. Daddy had asked me to watch him Sunday. That Saturday, I was begging for a chance to do that. It didn’t happen. When they took us to see his body, I grabbed him and told him how sorry I was, never had I been as remorseful as I was with Maurice…not even with Mommy. I loved him, I guess I didn’t realize how much until then. I wasn’t ready.
Going into his memorial was a tough experience for me. I had to confront my feelings. I questioned God. But I also recognized that’s what the enemy wanted me to do. He wanted me discontent, angry and mad at everyone. I felt myself drawing away from my family because I couldn’t write the obituary (that daddy told me I was going to write because I did so well with mommy’s) and no one seemed like they wanted to help, even though I had asked. So I took my frustration to God, even though I really wanted to find a bottle, a man and some weed.
I still didn’t find my peace, but I did find some solace. I read scripture, and listened to the book of Job almost every chance I got. But mostly I sung the song that I had been trying to sing since 2013, It Is Well With My Soul. Daddy asked if I would sing again, like I did for Mom’s memorial. I only said yes because I knew what I needed to sing. What I didn’t know was if I was supposed to act like everything was ok. So when I went up there, I told my truth. I spoke what was on my heart. I compared it to mommy’s and I admitted that even though it was similar, I felt like this one was different. I said I didn’t have peace, not like with mom’s passing, I could see the purpose and glory in her death. But I acknowledged the difference was that now, I have God.
So even now, as I’m crying remembering not only this death but mommy’s, I see the triumph: I have a Savior now! I’m not alone in this, He knows how I feel and what I’m going through. I can’t give up, even if I’m not ready or I don’t understand. I have to press on. I have to trust. I have to love. And it all starts with HIM.
We will all tell you, Maurice was getting better, so none of us felt prepared. We’ll never know if the pneumonia, bronchitis or Muscular Dystrophy took his life. They wouldn’t autopsy due to his condition…just like mommy. So it is all just a little bit of history repeating…
That which has been is that which will be,
And that which has been done is that which will be done.
So there is nothing new under the sun.- Ecclesiastes 1:9