We made it to 7 years without you. Seven is supposed to be the number of completion, but for some reason, my life doesn’t feel as complete as I would have hoped by now. If anything, this year has unraveled me and reshaped me in a such way that I’m not too sure who I am anymore. And I’ve been on a journey since 2012 to discover who I am becoming without you.
You were my first best friend. I remember growing up in our house – the house you owned through your own savings (#boss) on Elder Avenue, and how I would run to be underneath you. When people would come over, I was right behind you to see who rang the bell. Even more so, I think I ran to make sure that whoever it was did not threaten or harm you, as if my little 4 or 5 year old self could stand guard against anything that could take you away from me. Little did I know at 4 or at 19 that I couldn’t guard you from anything – especially not cancer. But your little 5’2 frame, your southern accent, and your discerning gaze served a greater protection of me than anything in this world. I’m grateful for that. You taught me that protection and feeling safe will never be housed in what the world considers protection – guns, money, goods. Protection comes through an internal self-awareness that my presence matters and that same knowledge made you so flat-footed, Mama. Nothing scared you. Not even death. I always admired that – my little timid self. I need more of that.
Being an only child, you served as my companion. You never excluded me from conversations about money/finances, the future, boys/sex, and just life in general. We would ki ki about everything – you were my first gossip buddy. The tea we would spill…chileeeeee!!! HA! I remember during the first night you left, I found out some HOT TEA and I wanted to run and tell you but…you weren’t here. You were my first confidant. You taught me trust and the power of a good hug. You taught me the power of safe boundary and being there for people. You taught me the beauty of joy – of laughing, and joking, and giving, and reading people. You were my teacher.
I remember going to college and how you were so proud. Remember when I got into NYU? You were my first call. I got in with a full scholarship!! You were so happy! Mama, we made it! You moved me in when I dormed during that summer and you were always willing to send me back to school with homecooked meals each weekend. You tried to teach me how to cook (but then you didn’t want me in the kitchen because I would just be in the way which was annoying) and you knew my favorites. I remember one of the last times you cooked for me that summer. I went out with friends and missed dinner and you felt bad because you had spent time making steak and potatoes and I just didn’t know that you were cooking. You stopped chemo by then. The food was a surprise. And I reassured you that we would eat together another time and I’m sorry about that. You cried. And I didn’t get why. But now I know. I’m sorry that I missed that moment with you. You taught me the value of time. Of quality time. Of story. It’s probably why I love spending time with those I love. Of being simple and comfortable. Not going many places but just being with someone else. Of just laying there in your room watching Judge Judy at 10 pm and then the nightly news. The necessity of routine and timeliness and being ahead of the curve. Of rising early and going to bed early.
Mama, I wouldn’t know God if it wasn’t for you. You were my first Sunday School teacher. You didn’t read many books, but I could always find you in the Word. I have your Bible by the way. The one that you used all the time that belonged to your Father. With all of your notes. It’s now mine and one my most precious possessions. When we lost everything after you left, that’s the only thing that remained. God is faithful. You taught me integrity. You taught me the value of being a person of my word. Of loving deeply but speaking intelligently. You always prompted me to speak for you when you needed to handle business or call somewhere because “I knew how to speak”. When I had to do speeches or speak anywhere, you were my first studio, my first microphone. You would listen to me and give criticism as to posture, tone, eye contact. You may not have had much education but you knew people. You were such a smart woman.
And in many ways, now that I think about it, you knew I was called before I did. My Eli, my Elijah, my Mary. My mentor. You taught me about calling out to God because He sees me – you were my Hagar. In despondency, in the wilderness, in travels unknown and faith that is sometimes hard to grasp, you taught me that God hears everyone – if we have the humility to cry out. You taught me humility. You were the one to reach out to people to say hello even though you didn’t let so many people into your intimate space. You knew how to interact with people while preserving the best parts of you. I sometimes felt like you gave too much of yourself and it pained me to see you hurt afterward but somehow, you always gave to me. You were always willing to be that listening ear to me and to give counsel.
Oh my gosh …remember when I would come home from college and I would sleep in your bed?! We would have girl chat about classes and friends and boys and just laughhhh. We even joked about Aaron back then – about going to prom with him and how I did not like him. Ha! You always knew there was something to that. You were there for my first heartbreak. Remember when I told you about that jerk and you and I just sat at the dinner table and cried. You never disregarded my feelings or emotions but you were quick to tell me the truth with no filter. And I loved you for it. You felt bad that I had to go through my heartbreak alone and I felt bad because I thought you were disappointed in me. Gosh, I love you. You taught me empathy. The power of presence. And you always told me that whatever God has for me will work out. I wouldn’t have to force it.
So imagine my surprise when you passed and like 20 minutes later, Aaron called me to check in because he heard that you passed and he knew how much you meant to me. He just listened to me cry on the phone outside your hospital room as I digested that my best friend was gone. He just listened. And that moment of losing you but gaining him was a full circle one. And now, seven years later we’re getting married. Dang, I wish you were here for this. To walk me down the aisle. To help me pick a venue. To cook Aaron and I dinner and chat with us and just counsel and pray with us. To see me in my wedding dress. To see your great-grandchildren and find joy in new life and share all of your wisdom. To encourage me while he’s away at school and I pursue whatever life has for me. I wish you were at my proposal. I wish Aaron had to ask you if he could marry me. I wish I could show you my ring and we could marvel at the diamond and watch my proposal video a million times as if we weren’t both there. I wish I could share this with you, Mama. Ok, so this really hurts.
Mama, you taught me how to be the woman I am today. Hurt, bruised, in pain does not take away our womanhood but cultivate the very nurturing spirit God placed in us. You taught me that. Even in all of my uncertainty, you taught me how to trust God. Growing up, I didn’t really understand why you loved Psalm 121 but now – almost 7 years later and approaching 30 in a few years – I recognize how beautiful that Psalm is. You encouraged me to find definition, knowledge, security in God alone. To lift my eyes – to know that I have an internal power to change my vision and focus on someone greater than myself. To love deeply, passionately but pray even deeper. Mama, I miss you. I’d be lying if I said I was fine today, but I’m not. I just wish you were here to laugh and hug so I could share my pitfalls in ministry, my calling, my lack of knowledge of where to go next and so you could pray with me and talk about the Word together. I’m just so grateful to God for you and so in love with everything you represent in my life. I pray that I can make you proud and I pray that your legacy shines through me and generations to come.
With all my love, Punkin