I woke up from the dream weeping, "I want my Mama!" I am 58 years old and she has been dead nearly 12 years. Will the need to reconnect with the one who gave me life never end? Is the cry of grief endless?
I first experienced it on the day that she died. It is uncontrollable, inconsolable. Involuntarily, it came from my mouth. A piercing scream to match the piercing pain in my heart. But in my mind's eye, I flash back forty years. I heard that same scream coming out of my mother's mouth at the news of her mother's death. It is nearly a primitive sound.
I was assaulted with thoughts of things I felt I could have done or should have done. In previous months, Mama had stayed with us for a few weeks to recover from several surgeries. We were in close contact but the week before she passed away, my children had been sick and we didn’t get to see each other.
Our last conversation haunted me. We had always been close and I usually called to check on her every morning. It was about 8:10 AM. I was in the midst of Monday morning rush. “Hi Mom, I’m on my way to take the kids to school and thought I’d see how you are feeling and what you are up to.”
“I can’t talk now, the nurse is here,” Mama said. It was her routine house visit to check her post-surgery wound. How I wished I had said, "Call me when she leaves." Because of such a quick call I spoke no meaningful words and felt a lack of closure.
At her moment of death I thought I would be at her side. Although I reached the hospital before the ambulance got there with Mama she had already passed away at home in her own bed.
“Please let me go in,” I begged the nurse.
“A doctor has to check her first,” I was told. Assuming she was still alive, I waited; but Mama had died at home in her own bed the way she had wanted to go.
It was hard to accept not being with her at the end. I had always tried to be the "perfect daughter." As the oldest child wasn't that part of my job description? Yet I couldn't control the uncontrollable; there is a time to be born and a time to die.
Many times when I have a dream about her I wake up and try to think of all the happy times we had. Mama was raised in the Deep South and there was always an “old saying” coming out of her mouth. Mama used to say, "Men will go after anything in a skirt!" but I'm sure we don't want to go there. As a teenage mother, divorced two times, she was probably trying to keep me from repeating her mistakes.
It wasn't easy for Mama to raise four children under the age of nine alone when my stepfather was put in prison. Her own mother and father had already passed away, and she was left on her own when she bypassed advice to put us in a children's home until she could get her life together. Although, she was a high-school dropout she was smart enough to know it could take a long time, and she wasn't going to be without her children if she could help it. I will forever be grateful that we were kept together as a family. Just sixteen when I was born she was quite a survivor! She loved to dance and I remember thinking what a pretty Mom I had as she danced to "Be Bop A Lula;" she adored Elvis, Dick Clark and the American Bandstand, and Chubby Checker, "Everybody do the twist." And everybody did.
Even though we moved often, she always worked and made sure there was food on the table. She had a lot of common sense and was so generous you would think she was a rich woman. Her employers loved her because not only could she work circles around everyone else, she made them laugh while she did it.
She used to say "It's a great life if you don't weaken," "You have to laugh to keep from crying,” and "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
And Mama always said, "What goes around comes around." That is what I would like imitate. That is why I want to sow seeds of goodness, kindness and love because those are the types of things I want to come back to my family. Bless your children and they will bless you. Love your husband and see what a return you get. It is the principal of "sowing and reaping."
Mama also said, "Only the good die young." This must certainly be true. She died unexpectedly at age 62. Sometimes I try to imagine life with her still here. Many times I have gone over in my mind the things I wanted to do for her when she was alive. Whenever we have a family celebration or are eating at a restaurant, I am often wishing she were still alive and here enjoying herself. She loved to eat and used to say, "I'd rather die than not be able to eat what I want."
Diabetes helped that statement come true.
Mama, if I had you back for even one day, I would treat you like a queen. I would take you anywhere you wanted to go. I would make you whatever you liked for me to cook, carrot cake or the little fancy sandwiches for a picnic. We would find a “Po Folks” restaurant even if I had to drive you from Florida to Tennessee to do it. I would take you to a movie and to the flea market. I would rub your back with alcohol and then lotion and I would wash your tired feet with warm, scented water and my tears. I would pray a blessing upon you and show you how much I love you.
These are thoughts I have when I meditate on my mother. Our relationship had its ups and downs, but it is still the strongest bond on the earth, that mother-daughter connection. I will always remember the things my Mama said and it’s funny, but I seem to be saying a lot of them to my own daughters, now.