Lessons From The Grave

The sudden death of my mother in 2005 is without a doubt the most painful experience of my life thus far.  More than eight years have passed since I lost her, yet I find that the episode still has an impact on how I react to situations.

I have a relatively laid-back demeanor, but I have a temper so hot that it is best for it to not be inflamed. Like that of the Yoruba deity Oshun, my anger is a force which can cause lingering devastation if fully unleashed.  One of my major challenges in life has been learning how to check that anger.

In a true example of unexpected outcomes the grief and shock of losing my Mama played a critical role in overcoming my temper. For when the embers within grow into flames, when my passion and zeal begin to feel uncontrollable and my wrath burns white hot a memory materializes. I see myself on my twenty-fifth birthday, hearing the head doctor on my Mom’s palliative care team tell me that I needed to immediately call all my relatives, as my  Mom had twelve hours left to live. I see my husband as we sat in the hospital room the day after, calmly telling me that she had stopped breathing, his soft voice destroying the fantasy of survival and recovery that I had constructed in my head during the last twenty four hours. I recall the cerulean blue eyes of the RN on duty as she looked into my nut brown ones and gently said:”I’m sorry sweety, she’s gone.” But most of all I remember the desolation of the moment, the feeling of having my entire being torn asunder and the chill of knowing that my closest connection in this world was severed. It is a pain so vivid, so searing that I can feel it now. So when I am extremely angry and frustrated I picture all of this, and a small voice inside challenges me and says:’is it that bad’? Does the anger and pain I’m feeling  at the time-no matter how justified I may think it is-come close to that kind of devastation?

The answer, of course, is always no. So I exhale. Unclench my teeth. Uncoil my fingers. I pause and think about what I was contemplating. And I check myself. The ordeal of losing my Mom has become the baseline for what I can handle. I would give anything to have her back, but my Mom’s life and death both continue to illuminate my path and impart powerful lessons in how to live.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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