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My sister- in- law’s eyes gave away the secret before she began to step back behind my brother’s broad shoulders. “Renee, mama’s gone…..” , he uttered as he watched my body involuntarily heave over. It was not entirely unexpected. Mama had been hospitalized once again for heart failure and all I could do was think about the smile that she had on her face when I last visited her. I could see her outstretched hands reaching towards me with a sense of peace that she somehow knew that her days on this earth were coming to an end.
Almost as soon as I arrived, it was time to leave. I didn’t get a chance to hold her, to hug her and let her know that I did love her; that our past disagreements meant nothing to me. I begin in earnest to make a bargain with God; that I would strive to be everything that my mother wanted me to be. I would go back to church and get saved. Whatever the price was, I was willing to pay.
We were just beginning to find common ground with my daughter being the glue that held our previously frayed relationship together. But it wasn’t meant to be. Her fate was decided by someone greater than I so I was left to sort out my feelings of loss, sadness and regret alone even though there were nine other siblings. Each of us had our own burden to carry, having to listen to mine would only make theirs heavier. This was not the time for that; so we all grieved as we silently pondered our own perceived culpability in the loss of our mother.
I had never feared death until it was visited upon someone close to me. Up until that time, I had never been to a funeral. For twenty five years, I had been spared the awfulness, the finality of a journey that we all must take and there are no words to describe the abject horror of seeing a loved one laying lifelessly in a box; no matter how ornate or beautifully handcarved, but a box nonetheless. As I stood in front of her and reminding myself that this was just a shell of the person who was my mother and that her spirit now resided in my heart, I struggled to find the words to express how much I would miss her.
I still miss her twenty nine years later. I marvel at her genius in raising ten children and managing to retain her sanity. I wish that I had the opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me and that as a parent, I realize that no one is perfect. I want her to know that I am healing from the wounds of my past and I’ve learned from them. I want her to know that I am still striving to become whole. I believe in the power of forgiveness and the reality that we can all have new beginnings; that whatever fractured relationship that we are now experiencing it can be healed.
The grave is not the place to ask for forgiveness or to negotiate better relationships. If you have someone in your life that you need to talk to: Do it today. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Don’t wait. Tomorrow may be too late…..tomorrow may not include the person who is waiting for your call….. today.