It was exactly one year ago today that you left this earth. It was a day I will never forget. Yes, everything happens for a reason... You told me that NOBODY lives on this earth forever, and yes even you, one day, would leave. I grew up knowing that one day, I'd have to face this reality. But regardless of what I knew in my heart, I wasn't ready to let you go. I admit it. I'm selfish. I miss you, and I wish you were here.
Just hours before you died, you and I had a conversation. Remember, I was at the airport, and like ALWAYS, I'd call you (or you'd call my cell phone) to let you know the status. "Hi Mommy, I'm on the ground in THIS country..." And I could always hear the joy in your voice. Although you wished you could travel WITH me, our phone calls were the next best thing. This phone call was no different. I was still at Detroit Metro Airport, waiting to board the plane. I promised (like always) to call as soon as I landed in Germany. When we hung up, I boarded the plane and I was HAPPY. No matter how nervous I was about flying, I KNEW that you loved me and I made you proud. Because of this, I knew I'd be okay.
Damn that cell phone -- it didn't work when I arrived in Germany... I figured I'd take a short nap and call you from the hotel when I woke up. When the people woke me up with an urgent message to call home, I REALLY didn't think too much of it. (Oh, the kids are fighting... Jevon got in trouble at school... something like that...) And when I noticed it was MELVA's number, it still didn't click to me that anything BAD was wrong... She was calm when she said, "Boogie, you need to come home." And then I asked her why... I'll NEVER forget her voice when she said "Mommy just died." Those words hit me so hard! But I was so dumbfounded, all I could manage to say was "WHAT?!" That's when Melva broke down. I knew she was trying to be strong, but she couldn't hold it in any longer. ...And I was helpless.
God bless Marcus, Viola, Georg and Pirahnahead for being there with me. They tried to get me a flight home that same day, but it was impossible. I know it costed nearly $1000 to fix my ticket to come home the NEXT day, but you know I got home as soon as I could.
I came to your house the next morning. Melva was already there, waiting for me. Even then, things didn't seem real. Your room was still the same -- in fact, everything was the same except you weren't there. I don't know WHERE this inner strength came from, but I just remember saying "we're gonna be alright. We can get through this." Moments later, while I was standing in the living room, Angie walked into the house. When she saw me, she let out a heart-wrenching scream that still haunts me today. I found myself being strong for her as well. Do you know how hard that was? I had to be strong for MY older sister!
But like you taught me, I tried to handle this situation with dignity and grace. We made up the obituary. We picked out the casket. We made the funeral arrangements. We tried to get David out of jail, so at least he could pay his last respects. At this point, I still hadn't seen you. I didn't see the ambulance take you out of the house. I didn't see you at the hospital when they officially pronounced you dead. I didn't identify your body at the morgue. All of this happened while I was still in Germany -- but again, I know everything happens for a reason. If I was at HOME and got the call that you died, I would've NEVER made it to your house. They would've had to bury me with you. OR if I was the one who discovered your laying dead in your bed -- I truly believe I would've died as well. The grief would've been too much.
That Wednesday -- the day BEFORE Thanksgiving, I saw you for the first time since you died. You were laying in the casket, dressed in white. You looked like you were sleeping. You didn't look like you were in pain. You didn't look afraid... At first I wasn't sure if I could handle the sight of seeing you laying there lifeless, but I was okay. I sat with you. I held your hand. I kissed your cheek. I said silent prayers... I was truly okay.
Thursday/Thanksgiving was bittersweet... I knew that this would be the last time I saw you before the actual funeral. I noticed that David was able to come to the funeral home and visit you for a while. The police put me through so much bullshit when I tried making arrangements for him. First off, I had to pay some crazy fee -- just because, from what they say, him being able to visit the funeral home was a PRIVELEGE. Then he could ONLY come to the funeral home when nobody else was there -- the place had to be closed, and if anyone (ANYONE AT ALL) was there, he would be escorted away. And although it was at the guard's discretion, David would ONLY be allowed to spend 5 - 15 minutes with you! Is that insane or what? He wouldn't be allowed to attend the actual funeral service -- which just didn't seem fair. But again, thank God he was able to see you at all. I saw his signature in the guest book. I laughed a little when he wrote on the address line, "YOU KNOW..."
FRIDAY was the day of truth. We had the family hour and the funeral at the same time, which is something I'm not used to. This trip "down the aisle" was much different than Daddy's funeral. At Daddy's funeral I stared at the ground, all the way until I reached the casket. When I looked up and saw my father's dead body laying there, I broke down. I couldn't bear to watch him, so I spent the entire time at the funeral in Angie's arms. I wasn't watching when they closed his casket. I couldn't... But THIS TIME, I was determined NOT to let that happen again. I walked up to your casket, saw you lying there, and I was STRONG. I knew this would be the last time I ever saw you (here on earth), and I wanted to make sure I imprinted your "last image" in my mind forever. (I would've taken a picture, but I think that's SO TACKY to take pictures of a dead person's body at their funeral -- who wants to look at that?)
During the entire service, I watched you until it was time for the family to give their remarks -- Melva and I had each prepared a little something to say. I went first. The first words out of my mouth were: "Thank you Jesus." And just in case somebody misunderstood me, I continued: "I think I'll say it again... THANK YOU JESUS..." That statement alone got a rise out of the church.
I thanked Jesus for your time on earth. I reminded everyone that you PREPARED me for this moment a long time ago, back when I was little. You taught me to take care of myself, because ONE DAY, I'd have to live without you. I'll never forget the thunderous response when I said to the church: "Polio did not take her... Breast Cancer did not take her... No man or woman killed her... GOD CALLED HER!" And at that moment, I felt lucky. I felt lucky because I didn't feel like I missed out on anything with you. I KNEW IN MY HEART that you loved me. You never let me forget it. I KNEW that YOU KNEW that I loved YOU. I've said it before and I'll say it again. YOU were my loudest cheerleader; my biggest fan. I was PROUD to be the only artist/DJ to perform on stage @ the DEMF, with my MOTHER on stage with me -- wearing your "Aaron-Carl" T-shirt. (I still have that video; I watch it sometimes.)
Anyway, it was time to say goodbye. I was NOT gonna sit there and pray, so the staff could close your casket while my eyes were closed... I stood right up there. I stood in front of you. I gave you one last kiss on the cheek. I held your hand one last time. I paid no attention to Regina as she cried "that's my SISTER in there!" before she fainted. I glanced at Granny who was also screaming, "Pat! Pat! Pat!... It hurts so bad!" I know she was only feeling the pain of a mother who lost her firstborn child, but again, I couldn't focus on HER. I focused on YOU, the woman whose body I was born from. YOU, who had passed the torch of life onto me. My eyes were frozen on your face as the men gently folded the covers over your body (leaving only your face uncovered), and slowly closed the casket. I said," Goodbye Mommy. I'll see you later."
You were buried that Friday, November 25, 2005 -- the day before your BIRTHDAY... I thought it would be poetic to bury you on your actual birthday, but some of the family members thought it was distasteful. I figured it wasn't worth the argument.
Thank you for leaving us some of your retirement money. I remember you saying you'd put aside some money for us, just in case something ever happened to you. I was so selfish then! I remember saying I didn't WANT the money -- not if it meant that you' have to die first. Well I admit, the money DID come in handy. We paid to bury you, of course. We paid for 2 lawyers to help get David out of jail. Of course we had to wait until we got your death certificate before we got any money -- so by the time the death certificate came, trust me, I had to play CATCH-UP! It's funny because I had to use the money you left me to pay my bills (because I'd used my bill money to help pay for the arrangements, etc). So I didn't get to be all "flashy" and buy a new car, etc... It reminded me of growing up in Pine Ridge (a.k.a., the hood). We did what we had to do, and we got by. That's what I'm doing now. I took that money as a symbol of YOU helping your children out, one last time. After that, we were truly on our own.
Today, I'm doing okay. I'm stuggling a bit, but I'm getting by. I'm using a lot of YOUR lessons to make it through the days. I had to give up my beautiful black Pontiac Aztek, for a more modest (damn near ghetto) Geo Prizm -- among other things, but I'm taking it all in stride. I remember YOU struggling to raise us. It was hard as hell -- in fact, at times it seemed impossible, but we made it. Today, I'm alive. I know how to make it during the hard times I face -- because I'm patterning myself after YOU. Thank you Mommy.
All the stuff you had to overcome in this life. I KNOW you're a lot better off now.
Tonight, we're all supposed to meet up at Granny's house for some kind of "family prayer." I'm not feeling it, but I'm going anyway. And even though you were Granny's daughter; Regina, Michelle and Ronald's sister... It still feels different to me. Out of all your children -- Angie, me, Melva and David -- I'M the one who looks EXACTLY like you. I scare myself sometimes because I look in the mirror, and see YOU. Or I hear myself talking sometimes, and it sounds exactly like YOU -- tone, phrasing and all. And while this was great while you were alive, it HURTS me now. And I don't wanna go to Granny's house tonight, just to hear them say "you sound/look just like your momma!" "You sound/look JUST LIKE PAT!" Well, on the bright side, we ARE rather beautiful, aren't we? hehehehe...
I miss you Mommy. I just wanted to write this letter, because I KNOW you can hear me. I KNOW you can feel me. And while I'm sitting here right now, physically alone, I hope to feel your spirit wrapped around me. Especially today...