This has been a day of emotions.
I’m beginning this writing on Tuesday August 25th, and my feels were and are still all over the place.
Early Saturday morning, I received a call from a precious friend who shared with me that one of our matriarchs in advocacy was losing her battle to kidney disease and that she (in her own words) was bowing gracefully, because she was tired.
Regardless of how true and real those words were, they were extremely hard for my friend to hear, long-less accept.
In that moment, however, I didn’t know exactly how to feel. Death can seem like a complicated thing…but it will come to us all. Whether we want to talk about it or not. And I say, whether we want to talk about it or not, because death is something that my mother doesn’t ever like me mentioning; but I bring it up anyway.
If something happens to me
If anything happens to me prematurely (and that’s my prematurely; because when God decides, my time would have expired whether I or my loved ones are prepared or not)…I want my mother to know what my wishes are. I don’t ever want there to be any confusion between my husband, children, parents or siblings. Let’s all talk about it, so that everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises.
Oh yeah! We all get along now. But everyone is alive. Death can bring about emotions in some that we never saw coming. But that’s because grief is complicated. And everyone grieves differently. No one way is the standard. Plus, grief happens in stages or waves. So, just because someone is good today…doesn’t mean they’ll be okay tomorrow.
When my time comes, I want to be cremated (I think). I want my ashes sprinkled in the Mississippi River to connect to my ancestors. I don’t want to be buried anywhere that will hinder my family members, particularly my children, from moving on with their lives. Don’t stay where I am buried. Go and live your lives. My body will dry out, become a shell and decay, and turn back to the dust. My soul, and who I’m known to be, will be gone.
I pray that my children (and possibly husband) and others who love me will hold on to my memories and share with my grandchildren and future generations everything that I taught and shared that was good; so that it can be a part of my legacy…our legacy. And anything that was learned or remembered from me that was not so good, call it out; so that generational curses can be broken against us, so that they won’t hinder future seeds from growing.
I also want to donate my organs, so that I can bless someone else with life. Now don’t just let me die for that cause. Let me live MY WHOLE LIFE. If I can be resuscitated…get the volts ready; but if there is nothing else I can do to offer any substance here on earth, let it be in my death that others might live.
I know this might seem heavy; but in 2020, life…living…death…and legacy…are things we need to talk about.
What is life worth? Can we all say that we’ve been living our lives well and with quality? Or have we been so busy making a living that we have missed out on actually enjoying living?
Back to Saturday
So, back to my phone call Saturday; as I heard my friend express her emotions on the possibility of losing someone who has been such a significant part of her life, I began to wonder,
“Where are my emotions in this moment? Should I be feeling something more than this? Dawn, this is not just information being received. This is life and death.”
What I was feeling in this moment, honestly, was a little bit of guilt. In the last few months and probably closer to a year, I hadn’t really spoken with Momma P. She had tried to reach out to me a few times after my situation and I didn’t answer her calls. Not because I had anything against her, I just wasn’t ready to deal with my ish and invite anyone else into what I myself was still trying to process. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want anyone’s opinion or feelings.
Oh, Momma P is gonna give you her opinion…whether you want it or not. Close to ten years I’ve known Momma P; and from the beginning she’s let me know what I needed to do. Dawn be nicer. Be more understanding, Dawn. Be harder. Lose weight. You need to go to the gym. Dawn go to the doctor. “Ma’am! Did I ask you for your two cents?” Nope. But she gave me a quarter and let me keep the change. LOL.
But during my trial season, I just wanted to retreat and be alone. So…I declined the calls, and didn’t respond to the text messages. I didn’t want to do anything to open the door to these wounds of mine that were still in the process of healing.
But…time does heal all wounds, as they say; and eventually I was over my own issues enough to start engaging with other people.
One of those conversations I had last year was with another dear friend in our circle of advocacy who knows the matriarch, Momma P, quite well. After we got through our salutations and got each other caught up to speed on life, she asked me… “Have you talked to Momma P?” I told her I hadn’t and why not. She encouraged me to reach out to her. Telling me that Momma P was genuinely concerned about me; but also that she needed to talk to me about something pretty personal that should only come from her. So, I agreed that if I heard back from her, I would respond.
New Year 2020
So…the date was January 15th. I texted Momma P to tell her Happy Founder’s Day. Members of the Divine Nine know exactly what that means. Though she and I are in different sororities, we always show love and support towards each other; especially too because both of us are female veterans, having both served in the United States Army. She thanked me and asked how I was doing. I responded, “I’m well ❤.” The ice had been broken.
The next time we spoke it was March 26th. Well we know how March went down. But at the moment she called I couldn’t answer. I was acting as an uncertified 4th grade teacher at the time, and it was all I could do to maintain a sober lifestyle. Homeschooling WAS NOT what I had signed up for, so I told her I would call her back. Later that night I texted and asked if she was still up, but I didn’t hear back. And she is a night owl, so I knew it shouldn’t be too late. But I never did get a response.
A little while late, I received information that she wasn’t doing so well; so I reached out. I didn’t hear anything for a while. Finally, April 13th, she texted to let me know she had a stint in the hospital after some treatment, because her blood pressure dropped too low. But she wanted me to know she was feeling much better, and that she was fighting daily to try to maintain her quality of life. I was glad to hear that, though parts of me didn’t know if there was actually anything she could do to help at this point. Nevertheless, I assured her that I would be praying for her. Because my faith has always proven to me that it doesn’t matter what it looks like, there can always be a shift outside of what human man can perceive.
As our conversation continued, she added, “I’ve been checking you and Leon out on FaceBook. I’m proud of y’all and your ministry. I would really like to come visit once I’m feeling better and things go back to normal.” I shared with Momma P that she could visit us anytime; especially since now everything was virtual. She could join us whenever we were on. I emailed her the link and sent a few of the videos and Newsletter articles, so I could try to keep her connected.
She never joined us virtually. I’m assuming it might have been because her treatments left her very tired on most days. So, I never took it personal; but I did continue to think about her often. But every now and again she would text something subtle to let me know she was still paying attention. Like when my son graduated from college this May. She always kept up with his accomplishments, from the time he was in middle school. She always asked about him, and actually followed him on social media, well before he allowed me to start following him. LOL!
Prior to today, our last text message was on Mother’s Day. She sent her love and I sent mine back.
Now going back to Saturday morning…three months after our last call or text message. Three months. A season.
What I learned through the distorted words that were being drowned out by intense crying and unsettled emotions was,
“They are sending her home on hospice. It won’t be long.”
All I could do in the immediate moment was offer support and reassurance to my friend. She and Momma P shared a special bond over the years, and Momma P may as well have considered her the daughter she never had. They trusted each other. Shared special moments with each other, and Momma P would do whatever was needed to support her; not just in her career…but in her life. Oh, Momma P was there for it all!
So now, after three months…should I call her? Or, should I just leave everything unsaid? She’s facing the most intense days of her life and I don’t know if I should invite myself to it or stay away.
Then…I get a text. It’s the other friend-daughter Momma P has adopted as her own. She and her family have really stepped in and been part of the support Momma P has needed during this time. She asked me, “Have you talked to Momma P?” To which I respond, “No.” In my head I’m thinking…I really don’t know what to say or if I should say anything.
My truth…I feel guilty. Here this woman is in the fight of her life and I’ve been in my own feelings. Feeling justified to stay isolated for my own safety, not attached to the fact that someone else had their own struggle that was a lot worse than mine. Yeah, my situation wasn’t ideal, and it hurt me pretty bad. But as bad as it felt…I recovered. Some struggles that people face, there’s no recovery from. It’s not a matter of good or bad…happy or sad…plenty or broke…No…it’s a matter of life or death. When that reality comes into perspective, it’s time to get over yourself and step in and take your place.
So, I texted Momma P on Sunday. I didn’t hear anything. Was she upset or hurt that I hadn’t reached out sooner?? My thoughts were starting to get the best of me until…my cellphone rang this morning with the name MOMMA P across my screen. I quickly answered.
She was in good spirits and happy to hear my voice. She explained that she was still in the hospital and apologized that she didn’t respond sooner; but that sometimes the reception in the hospital is not the best. She informed me that she would be going home today; which was a good thing, right?!? Any place is better than being in the hospital.
Momma P expressed that she was excited to be going home, but further explained that she would be going home on hospice. How do you respond to that? As I was trying to gather my words to say something appropriate and encouraging, Momma P interjected,
MP: “Dawn, I’m ok with that.”
Me: You are?!
MP: “Dawn, I’ve done all I can do and now I’m tired and I’m ready.”
Me: You are?!
MP: “I am, Dawn. It’s gonna be ok. My things are in order. I’ve made peace with it. Just trying to make sure that any loose ends have been tied.”
ME: Spiritually…how are you feeling, Momma P!? Have you had a conversation with the Lord about where you are and how you feel?!
MP: “Oh, Yes! We’re good! I’m ok, Dawn.
In that moment, those emotions that I wondered where they were on Saturday…had found themselves in my throat. The tears had all collected themselves on the edges of my bottom eyelids. I didn’t want her to hear the distress in my voice, so I had to take a moment.
MP: “How’s Rudy?!
Me: He’s good, Momma P.
MP: “And Baby Girl?!”
Me: She’s good too. She had a really good school year last year, and we’re trying to bring some normalcy to the demands of this year.
MP: “And where is the Pastor, working?!” (and she began to laugh)
Me: Yes, ma’am! He’s working. LOL!
MP: “Well that’s good! Dawn. I am so glad that things worked out and that you are in a better place.”
My inner thoughts began to say…ME?!?! Really?!?! I’m in a better place?!? You’re telling me that you’re going home to hospice today and you’re telling me that you’re glad I’m in a better place?!?! (The lump in my throat got bigger.)
MP: “But I knew that it would be. You’ve got it in you to always rise to the occasion. That’s what I know about you, Dawn.”
Me: And what I know about you, Momma P, is that you have always handled your business and kept your business in order. You’ve always enjoyed life, despite of. And you have always cared about people.
Thank you for always loving me and my family, and for always supporting me through the changes I faced. And please forgive me during the time I distanced myself to deal with my feelings. I just wasn’t ready to talk. But know that had nothing to do with you and everything to do with where I was. I’m sorry that I have not done more to support you during your time of battling through all this.
MP: “Dawn, you don’t owe me an apology. You don’t have to explain a thing. I understand; because I isolated myself too when I started dealing with this. I wasn’t ready to talk or accept this. I wasn’t ready to slow down. But I had to deal with it. So, I get it. I just wanted to call and tell you what was going on and to let you know that I’m alright. Ok?!? Check on my two girls…and make sure they are okay. They’re not taking it well.”
Me: Yes ma’am. I will….I love you.
MP: “Love you too, Dawn. Take care.”
I don’t even think I said good-bye because the tears by then had found their way over my eyelids and were rolling down my face. I was heart-broken and overwhelmed. Not just at the conversation…but to feel like I had missed so much in between.
I came in my office and began to write. That helps me process my feelings and emotions. After I finished writing about our conversation, I stopped. I didn’t want to think any further or process what COULD happen. By not writing about it, could I somehow slow down time?!
I just needed to gather my thoughts. I didn’t know if I would continue this…just because talking about THIS…LIFE…the waking, breathing life and what we do with it and its experiences everyday…is no simple task. We plan…but some plans change. Other plans fail. We try to do the best we can, but sometimes we just want to give up. Or maybe not completely give up, but walk in a different direction from where we are. Which way to choose is not always clear. But for those who believe, we must trust that God has a greater plan and that our purpose has already been established regardless of where we may be in the moment. Galatians 6:9 says,
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
We all go through our own battles. We all have to work through our own stuff; but we have to remember…while we’re going through and it seems like life is just happening to us…everyone else is going through their own experiences. So, their presence or absence in our lives for a season is not necessarily indicative of how they feel about us. Actually, we may still, somehow, be able to offer each other the support that is needed, whether in person, by text, or maybe just in prayer. BUT you’ll never know or resolve those kinds of concerns if you don’t either 1) communicate with whomever it is, or 2) process within yourself to understand how you feel about the role you and that other person play in each other’s lives.
Some people in our lives are gonna always be up close and personal; while others will be at a strange distance. But let’s process it and stop making up scenarios and reasons in our heads.
Dr. Brene’ Brown explains it very well that there is a story that we make up in our head, or that we tell ourselves, when we are feeling insecure or vulnerable. Rather than address the issue head-on, we complete the story on our own with information that may OR may not be true. The brain actually automatically does it for us, because there is somehow neurologically a need for stories to be completed. Who knew?! Well it’s a real thing. It’s dangerous, but it is so true.
So, why tell the story? Because this morning, Wednesday, August 26th…I learned that Momma P passed away. And I am so grateful that I had the chance to talk to her and correct the story I was telling myself. And I am even more grateful that she considered me enough to have a FINAL conversation with me. (BIG SIGH)
Life. Whew! It comes…and it goes. And whether we called ourselves being prepared because someone was sick; OR, if someone dies tragically, unexpectedly, or prematurely…grief is grief…and it is no respect of person. The thing is…we never know how we are going to feel when we lose someone. Whether it’s someone we know or someone we heard about.
I learned some years ago that there is a thing called the Circle of Grief. What I understood about this circle is that those who mourn are not always in immediate relationship to the person who passed. There could be those in the very outer circle who find themselves stricken with the same level of grief as those who were in direct relationship with the person(s) lost. We can see these examples in how as a nation we mourned for the children and teacher killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Of course, those families were devastatingly impacted, but so was everyone who had or knew a 6-year-old first grader or someone who taught first grade.
Think about it in the recent death of George Floyd. The entire African-American community grieved, along with others. Every mother hugged her child(ren) a little tighter when we heard him call for his momma; especially those of us who have black boys. Not only from that perspective, but also, those in the law enforcement community went through their range of emotions. We didn’t all experience it directly…but we were all definitely impacted.
Grief…and its stages. The circle takes shape any time there is a connection with the direct person, their direct circle, and our own life experiences.
So today…there are some outer circles being affected.
Momma P’s Impact
The family and children’s services community mourns for a Faithful Advocate. Momma P volunteered and gave herself for over 10 years; advocating diligently for abused and neglected children in foster care. Because, these children were a part of her circle of experience. She had been a foster child; so, her fight for children, parents, and good foster parents was different. It was personal. But not only did she impact those needing to be fought for, but she also made a huge impact on the judges, case managers, fellow-advocates, and other providers. She was an everyday hero.
The military and veteran community mourn for their Fallen Soldier. Momma P spent over 20 years in the United States Army; retiring as a First Sergeant (E-8). Oh, the places she went and the stories she told!
The ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha mourn for their beloved Soror. Momma P loved her sorority. She wore her pink and green proudly.
The golf community mourns for a Fierce Competitor. Momma P was an avid and longtime golfer and won several amateur women’s competitions. She could do anything for you…AFTER she finished the course. LOL!
Well today, Momma P finished her course and made her final tee time. Only God knew what her PAR would be. But for those of us who knew her, she was definitely an ACE in the hole. Rest well, Momma Pearl Anita Brown. You’ll be missed. ~Dawn~
Kenya Allen and Dr. Brittany Bush were two of Momma Ps special daughters. Follow Kenya on her lifestyle blog and learn why Momma Peal loved her so. Also, read Dr. Brittany’s book entitled, A Fighting Chance, to learn what the children in foster care face that made Momma Pearl fight so hard for them.
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See you on the horizon in the DAWNing awaiting to happen in your life.