My heart hopes this finds you doing well.
How have you been? Was your Thanksgiving and Christmas everything you imagined? I sure hope that it was.
Me? I’ve been waking up to night terrors and feeling more and more like I am an alien on a foreign planet. My anxiety level has been through the roof! Regardless of how strong my faith is, the human part of me has been feeling like the world might be coming to an end at any given moment. I’m spinning and swirling out of control.
When I get this way the one thing that soothes me is to share.
Writing and sharing have always been therapeutic for me. I am willing to be vulnerable and share things that probably make some people cringe. I do not write to overshare, be a victim, or make others look bad. I write because my heart and Soul long to speak to other hearts and Souls who are yearning to know they are not alone. While our lives and circumstances are not the same, suffering, pain, and trauma are universal.
Without a doubt, I have had it better than others, and there are some people at this very moment facing circumstances that are life and death situations. My heart is super heavy, knowing that. I keep asking why it is that some of the shittiest people on earth get a pass while some of the kindest people on earth get horrible diagnoses and sometimes a death sentence. I still don’t know or understand that answer, and I probably never will.
We are generally taught that we are not supposed to air our dirty laundry out in public. And yet, I know that one of the most freeing feelings in this world is stepping outside on a warm sunny day, feeling a breeze wisp by that almost makes one wonder if that very breeze might have been the breath of God making an earthly appearance. That wisp can be Soul cleansing!
Even as I type this, I’m seeing my Mama way back in the day before we had a clothes dryer — hanging sheets on a line outside as she belted out in the most beautiful of voices her rendition of The Old Rugged Cross. The sheets blowing in the wind looking like a giant kite getting ready to soar way up into the heavens.
Mama. It is her — pulling me out of my shell and back from the abyss, calling me to use my words and release some of the pain that I feel deep within my very being.
Last Thursday marked four years since we watched Mama draw her last breath. So I want to honor her today by writing and sharing. She always called when I wrote to tell me how much she enjoyed reading my blog posts and other postings on that Spacebook, as she called it.
Well, this one is for you, Mama.
Today I want to shine some light on what I know is one of the darkest moments she ever faced. It wasn’t death. Mama wasn’t afraid to die. She knew she was heading to a place much better than this one.
It was an accusation. A choice. A consequence. A moment in time that Mama paid for dearly. I never once heard her fight back or speak ill of those involved. Not once.
People can be destructive towards others. Myself included. Sometimes I believe it is unintentional, and sometimes I think it isn’t. A lifetime later, I still sometimes cannot discern the difference.
I want to share with you one of my earliest childhood memories. I think it might be my very first. This memory remains seared in my brain long after the toddler who witnessed it has become a grown woman. It is not a pretty memory, and even now, I feel the need to whisper it to you. The whisper wants to come, but a rush comes from my heart, into my throat, and I feel the overwhelming need to weep.
It is a cold winter day in Hickory Tavern, South Carolina. There is a light snow falling. We are living in a very tiny black and white trailer right behind my Granny and Poppy Lollis’ cinder block house.
It’s just Mama and me inside when we abruptly hear a loud banging on the door. Mama jumps to open the door, and immediately a female relative her age jerks the door out of her hands, grabbing Mama by the hair of her head. She screams at Mama while trying to pull her out into the cold. Mama is still in her nightgown, and the frosty air is rushing into our living room. The woman is vicious with her assault as she angrily attempts to jerk Mama into the outdoors. Mama desperately struggles to hold her footing on the slippery steps and pull herself back inside. It is a terrifying struggle! Mama is crying and begging the woman to please stop. Please, please stop. She is calling her name. Bawling and barely able to speak, she keeps saying I didn’t do it…..I didn’t do it. Then the woman draws back and spits right in Mama’s face. I am bawling too — too young to understand why on earth a loved one is attacking my mama.
My memory ends there for that moment in time. I don’t recall if the woman ever got Mama outside, when she left or what happened after the spit flew. What I do remember makes me feel overwhelming terror and nausea so intense I feel as if I might throw up. With those feelings comes a deep sadness for my mother.
How terrifying a moment for Mama that must have been, and what a terrifying moment for me.
I’m going to guess the year was around 1968, although I do not know for sure. If so, I would only have been two years old.
I am fifty-one years old. It’s December 29, 2017. We know Mama is going to pass on, and she knows it too. A couple of days before that last moment comes, she says she knows she is loved but ready to go. She says that she knows that she will never feel alone again when she gets to the other side. Hearing her say the first part warms my heart. The second part still feels like someone put a fist in my gut and twisted it into a knot, haunting me to this very day. I wondered then and now how often in her life she felt so alone that when death came, that would be the one thing Mama was looking for.
It was a Friday evening when Mama left this world. She looked asleep as she lay there in the Hospice bed. There had been a light snow falling. I knew as I stared at her lifeless body for the very last time that as much as I would miss her and as broken-hearted as I was, she was finally at peace. Yet, deep in my Soul, I also knew that the coming journey for me would take me down a completely different road than any of my losses before. This death was different. With the flood of emotions that followed, I knew that the reflections to come were going to be Soul shaking and that it would take everything I had and then some to find my way through. Some days I still struggle with all of it.
Like my little brother Griffen’s death back in 2007, Mama’s parting was complicated too. There was drama and more trauma from others as she lay dying, but that story I must save for another day.
In the weeks and years that have followed, I have analyzed it all to death.
The memory I shared was just the tip of the iceberg. During the bulk of my formative years and the years that followed, I was told that Mama was dishonest and couldn’t be trusted. She had ruined our family.
What was her crime? She supposedly had been unfaithful. Initially, I was too young even to understand what that word meant, but as I grew and kept hearing all about it, I started to grasp it as best I could. Mama had chosen another man over her own family. She had cheated. She was the reason we couldn’t be a happy family.
The truth is the word supposedly was never used. When it was told to me, there was no ambiguity. It was spoken of as fact.
Mama would never speak of it. When I was old enough to know what being unfaithful was and asked, she would only say I don’t want to talk about it, but I did not do what they said I did. As I said earlier, my mother never once bad-mouthed anyone in all of those years. She took the massive punishment heaped upon her and kept her mouth shut while doing everything she could to hold onto her family. She made sure we had a clean house, clean clothes, and fresh food on our table.
Regretfully, my relationship with her was tainted for all of my childhood and even into my teenage years. She wouldn’t say what happened, and other adults continued to share and share again that Mama chose someone else even over her own child.
My baby sister would come along in 1969.
Mama and Daddy bickered constantly, and on so many occasions, I again saw her cry and beg for forgiveness which seemed to always end with her saying I did not do what they said I did.
Daddy was clear to her and to us that he was only staying married to her because of my sister and me. Mama never criticized him or showed him anything except love and adoration. She kept his house clean, his clothes washed, and put fresh food on his table. I am sure the rejection she faced had to be sickening, but she never let on.
It wasn’t often that we argued, but I am ashamed to say that there were a couple of occasions where we did, and when I was a teenager, I blurted out the poison that had been fed to me …..she chose another man over her own family. Immediately I would feel the shame and begin to cry myself. Mama would tell me not to cry that everything was okay, and then she would say to me she had not done what they said she did.
I would plead for her to please tell me what happened, but she could not open that painful door and speak up and share her side. Even with the rejection, she still loved my dad and could not bring herself to speak of what happened. In my heart of hearts, I believe that it would have required her to say things about him that were not positive. But, rather than do that, she continued to shoulder all of the blame.
Knowing now how trauma accumulates, I would go out on a limb and say her childhood trauma also played a role in that. Her father left right after she and her twin sister were born, which instilled in her a lifetime of fear and feelings of abandonment.
When I was eighteen years old, my parents finally divorced. Still indoctrinated from old conditioning, I took my dad’s side, but a shift began between Mama and me. She still would not speak about the events from the 1960s that had created what I am sure became a lifetime of torture and shame for her.
She never let on the trauma she had suffered from all of that. But, what she did do was continue to show love and not one ounce of bitterness. Mama was filled with kindness. She had gone from married with children to a single working woman still intent on loving her two girls. She still loved my dad and made it clear that she always would. If you were perceptive enough, you could see that she still longed for what might have been, but she didn’t wallow in her sorrow.
Mama expressed to me on many occasions how she felt excruciating regret that as a child, my sister and I had heard and seen things that a child should never see or hear. I’m pretty sure she knew firsthand the fracturing of one’s psyche. Maybe not from the same circumstances as me, but without a doubt, she grew up as I had….feeling responsible for adults who were unable to be accountable for themselves.
I eventually moved into a trailer with Mama, and we began a completely different chapter in our lives. We had supper every evening and, on weekends, spent time doing things together. We became what I wish we had been able to have been all along — a mother and daughter with nothing but love and absolutely no acrimony. Each of us felt we needed to make up for all the years we had lost, and we set about doing just that.
In a blink, the years flew by, and before I knew it, her time was coming to an end. Mama was ready, but I certainly was not. Even though I’ve had four years to digest her passing, I still long to have just one more day to show her how much I loved her and make up for all our lost days.
The truth is that I still tell her I love her every single day. I know she hears me. And that she knows and sees the woman I continue to become as she cheers me on from her box seat on the other side. I feel that to my core, and I am so grateful for our continued connection.
I’m not sure why this anniversary triggered such a strong reaction and memory flash for me. I remembered long before now that frozen moment in time on that snowy day back in the sixties. But, I never realized until this writing that it was my earliest memory of life here on this planet. Could it be that is because I’ve never sat with myself and tried to remember the tiniest of details? Or that I am working through old engrained patterns? Maybe it is because the holidays pull our heartstrings towards old memories. Whatever the reason, my Soul knows I needed to let it out and let it go.
Mama was never the reason our family couldn’t be happy. She was just the scapegoat for a marriage that was doomed from the start. No sixteen-year-old girl is ready for marriage. And especially a sixteen-year-old girl with trauma who has never been able to feel safe and secure.
I was twenty-five when I married, and while Lee and I have had a good marriage, there have been moments that I am not sure I was ready at twenty-five.
After Mama passed on, my dad told me that he wasn’t even sure if Mama had cheated, to begin with. He said it was a tumultuous time in life, they were both just kids, and maybe it had all been a big misunderstanding. Daddy said he had much regret about how he handled it all, and he wished he had worked harder to make our family whole. Me too!
What a revelation that was to hear. All those years of suffering for our entire family, and it could have all been just a misunderstanding.
Everything I have just shared with you brings me to this.
You never know what another person is going through beyond what they reveal to you.
Like Mama, they may smile, laugh, and love but inside be broken-hearted, dejected, and painfully suffering. Some folks spend a lifetime putting on a great mask instead of passing their pain and dysfunction onto others.
So, before you rush to judge someone, and especially when there is disagreement or missing information, please, I beg you, take some time to step back and look at their perspective as well as your own. Sit with yourself and ask if whatever has happened is worth destroying a relationship or even someone else’s emotional health.
A new year has begun. I plan to do my best to make this one the best one yet, and I hope you will too. My goal this year is not to lose weight or be better at organizing, even though those two have been on my list for the last few years.
This year, I want to dive deeper than ever before and confront the painful places within myself that want to be washed away and hung out in the breeze to dry. I want to live unafraid and without regrets. I want to be kinder. I want to let all the pain go.
As I have for a very long time now, I will continue to do my best to take those horrid moments and use them to catapult me to be stronger, better, and a more loving human being.
As Martin Luther King so eloquently said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
This new year will give us all choices. Let’s choose love and bring the light as it has never been brought before.
With Much Love and Light,