Finishing, Grief

Personal Grief While the World is Mourning… Pt. 2 – FINISHING when I don’t feel like GOING ON.

I stood in the Walmart produce section, tears welling up in my eyes.

“Don’t you dare cry over this Candace! Pull it together.”
Why the waterworks you ask?

I didn’t know if what I was looking at was a sweet potato or a yam. The sign was mysteriously missing. How could I not know this? How could I have somehow missed this important lesson from my mother? DAMMIT!

The truth is, I didn’t have to learn. By the time I got home to Baltimore for Christmas, the Sweet Potato Pudding/Pie mixture was already made. I never had to learn because she always took care of it.

And now I have to. Without her. Another way I feel her loss. I felt the tears again. I sniffed them back.

A saw two older black ladies picking from the same bin. Embarrassed, I bit the inside of my cheek and through my mask I asked, “Excuse me… Do you know if these are sweet potatoes or yams?”

“Sweetheart, I don’t know. I think sweet potatoes. But to be honest, you can use either. It probably won’t make much difference.”

I felt myself get hot. Won’t make much difference?! If anyone has ever tasted Linda Frazier’s pie or her sweet potato pudding, you’d know that EVERY.SINGLE.INGREDIENT.MATTERS. From the butter used, to the secret ingredient! It ALL MATTERS!

I did the only thing I could do. I called one of her best friends since high school, my auntie for my whole life. She talked me through it. I called her twice more that Thanksgiving week, trying to make sure I was doing it right. And I did it in spectacular fashion. It tasted just like hers. And I cried making it the whole time.

Here I am… a few days before Christmas (our favorite time of year) and my emotions are all over the place. I want her here so bad, my heart actually aches.

I gave birth to our son on September 30th & when I ordered his Christmas ornament, I thought grief would swallow me whole. You see, my mom gifted me a Christmas ornament EVERY Christmas we spent together. It was the only gift I could open on Christmas Eve. In storage, there are 38 ornaments; most personalized, hallmarking some important part of our year. This year, I’m sure it would have been ALL about her grandbaby, Malachi. We probably would have argued about WHO was getting him his first ornament. SMH

Every day leading up to Christmas, I wake up not knowing how I’m going to feel. I still love gifting, I still love the food but the whole season feels off. Not just because of the pandemic & lack of family togetherness. But also because such an important piece of my Christmas traditions is missing. I feel ill-equipped to ‘take over’. I don’t want to make the sweet potato pies. I don’t want to be the one folks call to figure out the recipes. I don’t want to be the holder of the recipes. I don’t even want to be the one that Malachi relies on to make Christmas special. She should be here to introduce him to all of our traditions. We’d do it together. I wanted to share it with her, not carry it alone (at least not yet).

Some days, I just want to lay in the bed & not move until Christmas & The New Year is over. Maybe the rest of you are looking forward to 2021. We have a vaccine, we’ll have a new President & for most people, a new year can represent a fresh start. Me? I could care less.

Is my mom alive in the new year? Does Malachi get to be held by her in 2021? Do I?

Then screw 2021.

I feel stuck. I am frozen at April 9, 2020. And let’s be clear, I’ve felt stuck before. I wrote a whole book about how to essentially get unstuck. I’ve created a career about how to help people defrost & FINISH what they start. But this is different. How can the finisher finish when she doesn’t want to go on?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself. My publisher reached out to me about some opportunities that may be taking place in the new year. A friend & fellow entrepreneur wants to help me with my social media. Another close friend wants to hold me accountable to setting goals & reaching them in 2021.

I don’t wanna.

There’s something final about moving forward with my life. Even though time is still moving, I’m still aging, my baby is still growing (SLOW DOWN CHI!), somehow, moving forward in my career, getting back into the flow of #FINISHING brings me pause.

Letters to the Finishers (the book) and everything that came with it brought me so much joy. That book was a culmination of so many years of toil, prayer, misdirections, u-turns, pauses, restarts, etc. When that baby was finally birthed, I was so proud of myself. I could hardly believe that I FINISHED.

But no one was more proud of me than Linda Frazier. Lawd.

My mother was the mom who told EVERYONE about ANYTHING that I have EVER DONE.

When I wrote, directed & starred in my first play in college, she was front row. (While going through her condo, I found like 10 programs & pictures from that night sealed in a ziplock bag).

When I wrote another play in college & didn’t tell her because I didn’t think it was that big a deal, she LAID ME OUT. “Don’t you EVER do that again! Now, did somebody tape it?”

When I got licensed as a minister at my church & preached my initial sermon, she was right there, beaming. She led a CARAVAN of folks up 95 to watch me.

When I met Hakiem & felt he was a keeper, I brought him right to her for her inspection & approval. We spent our first Christmas together months later in her house.

When I got engaged, she was right there, the first person to hug me after Hakiem, tears streaming.

When I got married, she was all up & through the process. She gave & gave & gave to make sure I had what I wanted. She walked me down the aisle, holding my hand the way she used to when I was a kid.

When I wrote my first book & it got published, she was the first one to arrive at the book launch to hear my reading.

When I got nominated for an NAACP Image Award in early 2020 she joined me SCREAMING through the phone. Not only did she tell EVERYBODY, she hosted a watch party JUST IN CASE they could see me on screen.

And when I found out I was pregnant, we drove to Baltimore to tell her ourselves. We recorded her reaction. The tears, the screaming, the hugs. The last hug I’d ever get from her.

The day before she died, I talked to her because she wanted a phone call after every single doctor’s appointment.

I suppose I don’t want to move on with FINISHING because the truth is, I’ve never finished anything important without her. Even becoming a mom felt odd. I kept waiting for some validation that it did indeed happen, some feeling to wash over me. What I finally figured out was that I was waiting on her. I was waiting to tell her, to have her in the house when I brought him home, to ask for pictures to send out to everyone she knows. To look at him adoringly. To be the over the top grandmother I fully expected, was low-key averse to but high-key couldn’t wait for her to be.

Now, even finishing feels incomplete. Going on with finishing hurts my heart because I know that the next wave of accomplishments will take place without her.

I didn’t account for that. I never accounted for having to keep running in the race without my BIGGEST cheerleader.

So how do I finish when I don’t want to go on? How do I muster up the gumption when my heart is so heavy? When my whole psyche is frozen in time?

I’m not sure I have the complete answer. The only thing I have is this moment.

I’ve been intentionally working on staying present. Right now, the past is often too painful, the future too cumbersome & unknown. Frankly, the future is scary as hell because now all I see are ways I can be hurt (another blog coming about that later). The present is all I have.

Presently, I am opening my laptop to finish this blog.
Presently, I am hanging clothes in my closet to get them off the bed.
Presently, I am looking at how to maximize my social media to continue to sell my book.
Presently, I’m trying to be the best mom I can be.

The best way I know to move forward is to tackle the present. I don’t have a 2021 outlook. I didn’t pick a word for 2021. I don’t have 10 tasks to complete for years-end. I have no resolutions. I can’t even say I’m doing heavy forward thinking. I’m just trying to win the day. What’s on the agenda today that I need to finish?

This blog. Clearing the bed. Showering. Making sure Malachi has tummy time. Amazon Returns. Pick a graphic for this blog. Clear my side table. Make the bed. Malachi/Mommy convo time. Eat. Think about my mom & smile.

Instead of worrying about if I’ll make the sweet potato pudding taste just right, I’m going to work on what’s in front of me presently – figuring out if that bin is full of sweet potatoes or yams. LOL

I don’t have the answers on how to move forward. I’m grieving. I’m a new mother. I still have a fairly new book that I need to promote. I’m still a wife. I still have a desire to finish & help others do the same. My house still needs to be cleaned fairly regularly. OH…AND those Christmas decorations aren’t going to take themselves down.

I still have life to live.

That’s the hardest part to contend with; giving myself permission to spiritually/emotionally live on even though my mom isn’t. There’s a part of me that wishes she would have taken me with her; just so I wouldn’t be in so much pain without her. Just so I wouldn’t feel guilty about moving forward. Just so I wouldn’t have to figure out (AGAIN) how to finish.

So here’s to tackling 2021; moment by moment. May I unearth my consistent joy & the courage to hope again. Here’s to going on.

P.S. If I’m honest, my relationship with God has struggled during this time (we haven’t been on consistent speaking terms). But, the other day I was scrolling through IG & I saw this scripture. The words hit me deeply. It was what I needed at the exact time I needed it. If there’s anything that’s guiding my new year, it’s this. My reality & my promise.

Here’s my book, “Letters to the Finishers (who struggle to finish).” (A 2020 NAACP Image Award Nominee). I am currently re-reading it myself for the New Year. I truly do get high on my own supply. If you need a book that will help YOU tackle YOU, I highly recommend it. Head on over to & use promo code GOINGON for 20% off your purchase.

Personal Grief while the World is Mourning… Pt. 1

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 eat.

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.

Her response?

“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.