My mom is dead.
I had no warning. No preparation. No signs of acute sickness.
She just died.
As if it was her right to do so.
As if it was within God’s right to take her from me so suddenly.
As if they both thought I could live without her.
While I’m pregnant. With the grandbaby, she’ll never get to meet. The grandbaby she was waiting on. The grandbaby she had dreamt about. The grandbaby we’d just driven to Baltimore to tell her we were having. The grandbaby she had already purchased yarn for; for a baby blanket we’ll never see.
Imagine walking into the bedroom of your transitioned mother & seeing her glasses sat atop a baby blanket pattern magazine, bookmarked & a yarn purchase made days before she died.
I talked to her on a Monday. And by Thursday, my whole world turned inside out.
I’m so sad that I can hardly stand it some days. The pain feels unbearable.
And I’m PISSED.
Because 2020 wasn’t supposed to be like this.
2 weeks before my mom died, my husband & I laid in the bed together at 4 AM. Each woken up by my mid-REM-sleep bathroom calls that have now since been normalized. We talked about the many blessings we were enjoying. Even while COVID-19 concerns were starting to loom, we laid amongst tousled bed sheets, pregnancy pillows & my ever-expanding tummy, thanking God for the many blessings that had been bestowed upon us.
My first book dropping the year before, accompanied by an NAACP Image Award nomination in January (didn’t win but it was such an honor to be nominated).
That we had a new life forming inside of me at that very moment.
That’d we been happily married for 5 years.
That it hadn’t been a struggle to get pregnant (because we know that is a very real issue for so many families).
The fact that I’d be able to stay home when the baby came, not having to rush back to a job immediately.
That we were in a pretty good financial position to handle this new responsibility.
That Hubby could also work from home because of the COVID crisis (And Praise God he still had a job!)
That so far we’d been safe.
That we enjoyed each other’s company & were having a good time being ‘stuck’ in the house together.
That my mom was still here to see it all.
I am so damn angry.
How dare she die?! Why her? Surely there are others that could have gone before her (and in a particularly rough part of grief I called them by name).
And then, the world didn’t stop.
It had the nerve, the audacity, the unmitigated GALL to keep moving.
COVID-19 started taking people out. Up & down my timeline, people were lamenting the loss of family members & friends.
Wypipo kept right on bothering (and sometimes killing) black people for no good reason.
White cops are STILL killing unarmed black men & WOMEN like it was their full-time job & occupation to do so. (I wonder).
COVID is still out there, doing what Global Pandemics do.
Group chats kept on chatting. IG kept on posting. Facebook kept on booking. Emails kept coming in. Decisions kept needing to be made. The holidays kept coming. Mother’s Day rolled right on in per usual like everything was…normal.
And this baby…keeps growing inside of me. Kicking me. Shifting me.
If I’m real honest…keeping me.
An ever-present reminder that life is moving me on whether I want it to or not. Reminding I am never alone; even when I am. Reminding me that I can’t tuck tail & hide from life. Reminding me that hard liquor to numb pain is not even an option.
It’s a weird sensation to be personally grieving while the whole earth seems to be moaning/mourning. On one hand, I feel deeply what’s happening in this country along racial lines as a black woman. As a human being, I lament the loss of 120,000 lives in America & 474,000 worldwide (and counting) to this coronavirus crisis. I feel for those I personally know who have lost loved ones in this first half of the year. I even feel for those who had the great privilege of knowing/loving my mother & the loss they must feel. And on the other hand…
My mama died y’all.
And most days I can’t care about much more than that.
I don’t have a parent in this world. This baby will grow up not knowing any of her/his grandparents. A travesty of unspeakable proportions.
I’ve spent a lot of my life working to make sure that everyone else is okay. Even when I first started to grieve, my husband & close friends cautioned me that the only person I needed to worry about taking care of was myself.
I didn’t know how difficult that charge would be.
I come from stock that often puts other’s needs ahead of their own.
Worrying about how other people feel before I worry about how I feel.
Trying not to be a burden.
I am my mother’s child.
But my well is tapped out y’all. I don’t have a cell IN my body left to devote to anyone currently living OUTSIDE of this body.
Not your grief.
Not your needs.
Not your guilt.
Not your need to be needed.
Not your questions.
I have enough of my own of all of the above.
Some days it’s all I can do to get out of the bed.
To answer those ever-present emails.
To not let tears slide out my eyes at every moment of every day.
To take care of my mom’s estate.
To laugh without guilt.
To remember to have joy.
To remember that my mom would want me to have joy.
To know that she lost my dad when I was just a baby & she went on…
To know she was a survivor.
And so am I.
Some days I lay down for bed, shocked that I made it through another day without completely falling apart.
And then I feel this baby kick. And I remember that my mom wanted me to call her when that part of my pregnancy started.
I remember telling her that it’d be some time before that would happen.
“You don’t know! You ain’t never had no baby before! You call me when that baby starts kicking!”
*sigh* “Okay mom.”
And I can’t.
I can’t call her. I can’t hear her voice or the tone in it that reminds me that I don’t know everything about everything.
It sucks that right now my every happiness is wrapped in the sadness of loss.
I had no idea that so much of my personality, what I love, how I respond, what I crave, my very essence is intrinsically & irrevocably tangled with who my mother was.
I can’t even have a craving for Mcdonald’s french fries without conjuring up images of our Thursday night dates when she’d pick me up from daycare & we’d go get a happy meal if I’d had a good week (I usually did).
Going through her kitchen, my love of gadgets comes from her.
Saving jars apparently is a hereditary trait.
Her library (and love of books) is a reminder of how that love was passed down & permeates every facet of my life.
My penchant for sentimentality is all her as I’ve found handkerchiefs from when her mom passed, my every baby EVERYTHING (teeth, shoes, silver spoon & fork, pictures etc), every card that anybody ever gave her & we haven’t even touched the Christmas boxes yet.
Hell, even my sweet tooth is hers as there were boxes/bags/jars of candy all over her room.
You see me. You see her.
This is why it’s so painful to keep getting up every morning because there’s nowhere I can go to escape her memory.
She’s all around me.
She’s in my kitchen cabinets (Her recipes, the cast irons that were my grandmother’s, her big yellow mixing bowls that every cake/pie/pudding/cookie batch has been made in since the 80s & even the way I peer at people when they’re eating food I’ve cooked begging them to affirm that I did indeed ‘put my foot in it’).
She’s in my living room (Her pictures – that smile – MY smile – looking back at me, the way I can’t have guests over unless it’s spotless & I’m still apologizing for my house ‘being a mess’).
She’s in my bedroom (I eat in bed, just like her, keeping snacks & candy close just in case and how I don’t GO to sleep, I FALL asleep with the lights on & the TV blaring).
She’s at my desk where I save paper the way she does, I organize the way she does & the origin of my love of sticky notes was confirmed as we found them all over her house.
She’s in my closet most of all (Every shoe I own reminds of me of where that love came from, how she built my closet from the ground up every Christmas/Birthday, “Boo, you buy CLASSIC & GOOD QUALITY pieces and you’ll have them forever!”, how she foretold that my heel height would lower as my age rose).
She’s in every choice I’ve made in my 38 years. From the man I married, the holidays I love, the traditions I stick to, the ways I show affection, the friendships I’ve forged, the way I dance, the music I love, the woman I’ve grown into…
…And now the mother I am & will be.
Her imprint is all over me. And some days that brings comfort. And some days it shatters me into a million little pieces.
Today, I’m shattered. And I pray that tomorrow will bring comfort.