Tag Archives: Death

Coming Home

On Saturday, I went to a funeral for one of my mom’s older brothers who I don’t remember. As I sat through the service listening to cousins I barely remember sharing their stories and favorite memories, I tried to reconcile faces and names with my childhood memories. I listened to a cousin say how she was tired of coming home for sad occasions, and was sad that her kids don’t know her aunts and uncles. I’m “home” and my kids don’t know their aunts and uncles. Afterwards, I made my rounds giving hugs and watched as some of my cousins passed me by. One of my cousins demanded I stick around this time, so we obliged and went to the repast. A toddler I’d never seen clung to me and two girls I didn’t know kept talking to me and wanted to be around me. When it came time to eat, I sat with my mom, brother and sister. I spoke only when spoken to and had an awkward exchange with one of my older cousins who thought I didn’t remember her. The cousin that asked me to stay never even said another word to me.

On the car ride home, T-Daddy mentioned he felt out of place. Yup, that’s why I don’t come around. The next morning as we were getting ready for church, I told T-Daddy that we should make more of an effort to be around our families so that the girls can know their family (and not grow up and marry a cousin!). At the rate we’re going, they will only know our parents and siblings and their kids, but that’s it. And seeing that half my parents and siblings live 14 hours away, even that’s questionable.

At church, the pastor preached about how Conflict was handled in the early church. He talked about the misconception that church folk always get along, but in reality the church is full of sin-sick people who disagree and argue all the time. The difference is supposed to be that the church is a family, so even though we argue and get offended, we love each other, work it out, forgive and move on. We’re not supposed to run from conflict or sweep it under the rug just because we don’t want to deal with it.

A lightbulb went off.

Growing up, I was constantly teased for a myriad of reasons. I never really fit in with my family or at school. I’d get along great with my cousins one-on-one but I always seemed to be the odd girl out whenever we all came together. I also found myself on the wrong side of family drama and politics. It became too much to handle and I felt like my time was best spent around people that didn’t make me feel unwanted or uncomfortable. So I started distancing myself from my family about 13-17 years ago. It was a gradual process – some of it deliberate and some not-so-much. But every step of the way, I noticed every time someone didn’t reach out or failed to respond to my attempts to reach out. For me, it was just confirmation that I never really fit in and blood wasn’t thicker than water (no matter how much my mama said it).

After church, I reflected back on the sermon and my uncle’s homegoing services. I’ve never really considered myself as someone that runs from conflict. T-Daddy would even argue that I can be confrontational when someone offends me. Like most people, I don’t like conflict. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. So when someone continuously offends or hurts me, I don’t see the point in continuing to subject myself to that. I just cut that person from my life. That’s been the case with most of my family and ex-friends. But that’s not exactly dealing with conflict. It’s running from it. My cousins may have teased me, but I made no efforts to move on from that. Instead, I just moved away from it.

I realized that in my running, I’m just as much to blame for the awkwardness that transpired on Saturday as my family is. And in running from my conflict, I’ve made it so that, even on sad occasions, I don’t have a home to come back to. I’ve also left a trail of aunts, uncles and cousins that TD1 and TD2 don’t know.

Grannies, Memories and Video Calls to Heaven

TD1 has been asking to see pictures and videos of her great-grandmas. One died two months before she was born. One died seven years before she was born.

TD1: Mommy, why don’t you have a grandma?
T-Mommy: I used to have one. She’s in Heaven now.
TD1: With God? Does Daddy have a grandma?
T-Mommy: He did. She’s in Heaven, too.
TD1: But not me and [TD2’s]?
T-Mommy: No, all of your grandmas are still alive.
TD1: Why do we have grandmas, but not you and Daddy?
T-Mommy: Because God decided He was ready for our grandmas in Heaven.
TD1: Do you miss them?
T-Mommy: All the time, Sweetie.
TD1: Why why don’t you just call them like we do Granny or video them like GMa?
T-Mommy: Because you can’t video call Heaven?
TD1: Well, do you have a video of them? What did they look like?

When T-Daddy and I first started dating, his grandmother was sick. I remember taking him to visit her in the hospital and at her home (which coincidentally, was down the street from the house my family stayed in when ours caught fire). I remember talking to her during my pregnancy about the TD1. I remember thinking how awesome it would be for her to see her great-grandchild. Sadly, I also remember how sad I felt that this was something I could (from a distance – I won’t pretend like I had this sudden deep relationship with T-Daddy’s grandma because I didn’t. We were still getting to know each other) share T-Daddy’s grandma, but not my own. She passed away in July and TD1 was born in September. They never got to meet, although MIL would tell me all the time that she believed their souls met briefly in Heaven. (Ironically, my mom would say the same about both TDs and my own granny.)

My granny died when I was 17. At the time, that seemed like a lot of years to spend with someone that meant so much to me. As I approach 30 this year, I realize that in four years, I will have spent just as many years without my granny as I have with her. When you factor in that I was a baby and have no finite recollection of the early years and that the last four years of her life she was in and out of a cancer treatment center, the scales get tipped in the direction of more without her than with her.

TD1 wants me to share with her things that I never did with my granny and she doesn’t understand why I never did them. It’s hard trying to explain terminal illness and the cycle of life to a five-year-old. It’s even harder to dig up memories and deal with grief that you mistakenly thought was dealt with. It also makes me wonder, “If she could see me now…”

I miss my granny dearly, maybe even more so as the years go by. I always looked at the 17 years I had with her as a blessing. Growing up, I knew so many people whose grandparents had already passed. I was always thankful to have mine around. But as I branch out and meet more people, there seems to be even more people who still have their grandparents around. Some celebrating 80- and 90-something birthdays. I’m happy for them. Grandparents are an awesome gift from God. But, I just can’t seem to feel a little twinge of jealousy. Mine never got to see 60. And that makes me sad.

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A friend posted this on FB around Thanksgiving last year. I’m thinking of creating something similar for the TDs two great-grannies, but maybe just not for Christmas.

I wish she could have lived longer to see TD1 and TD2. I think she would have thoroughly enjoyed their personalities. I wish she could see me. I want to know how she thinks about how I turned out. And I don’t really care for speculation from other family members. I ***need*** to hear it from her, ya know. I wish I had more memories and traditions and passed on rituals to “keep her memory alive.”

I wish I had paid more attention, gotten more wisdom and insight from her. But at 13, I wasn’t really concerned with knowing recipes and interior decorating. I thought I had time. And even as I spent the next four years watching her fight for her life, it never really dawned on me that she wouldn’t be around. I mean I knew she could die. I knew that someday she would. Death was something I always thought I was a pro at. People die, you cry. You bury them. Then you move on, reminiscing and joking about the good times. My senior year of high school, my family had something like 10+ deaths, slightly less than the year I graduated 8th grade. But up until September 2004, I’d never lost someone I lived with, someone that played a big part in raising me. So I never factored that into my death equation.

It never dawned on me that this would be a little harder to move on from. Or that I would see her smile whenever I look at my little sister. Or that I would one day have a child that is so curious about two women she’s never met.

And perhaps, that’s the hardest part. Trying to relive a moment in time that has long since passed for someone that never got to experience it.

Bye Bye Fishie

When TD2 turned two, my loving aunt decided to get the girls a fish for TD2’s birthday. It was a Betta fish and she was kind enough to provide the tank and food. Still, I protested. “If the girls didn’t scream my name, I’d forget to feed them. There’s no way imma be able to take care of this fish.”

Fast forward 16 months and we were doing good. Until we went to Nebraska last month. We were only gone 2 days, but as soon as we got back, one of the first things I did was feed Fishie (TD2 named it).

“Baaaaaaabe!!!! Come here. Fishie doesn’t look too good.” 

For the first time since having Fishie thrust in our lives, I felt something. I immediately began googling to see what was wrong with him. At 11:53 p.m. on a Friday, I raced to a new Walmart (because our regular one didn’t have what I needed) to get some medicine and a different kind of food to help a fish I had never been emotionally invested in start to feel better. The tears were beginning to well up in my chest. Oh God! The girls are gonna be so sad. God please let this work.

Over the next three days, he began to look better. I woke up Tuesday and raced to the fish tank. It had become a part of my morning routine and I was eager to see how much Fishie had improved. He hadn’t. He had regressed to the point of no coming back. I told T-Daddy and then I just kind of kept staring at the tank, hoping I could will him back to life.

When the girls woke up, T-Daddy and I decided to tell them together and give him a proper flushing before T-Daddy left for work.
T-Mommy: Girls, Mommy and Daddy have something very important to tell you.

T-Daddy: It’s also very sad.
TD1: What is it?
T-Mommy: When Mommy woke up this morning, Fishie…
TD1: Died? I wanna see.
TD2: Me too!!

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NOT Fishie. May he R.I.P.

The TDs seemed entirely a little too enthusiastic about seeing a dead fish. TD1 asked if we could bury it in the backyard instead of flush it. When I told her that we didn’t have a backyard to do so, she wanted to bury it in the park. We attempted to go to the park later that day and the next, but we never made it. I flushed Fishie on our way out the next morning and we had a short moment of silence.

Every so often, TD1 will tell me, “Mommy, I sad our fish died. Can we get another one?” “Yes, sweetie we will. Mommy’s sad too!”