I can remember being a teenager saying that I wanted to die before my mother, because I believed that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. The only time in my life that I remember a death that affected me emotionally was a cousin that passed, and that was over twenty years ago. Nothing, and I do mean NOTHING could prepare me for this journey.
My mother would be described as a woman that resembled the class of Jackie O (Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis). Her presence was absolutely indelible, etiquette was infectious, and her spirituality was unmatched. I know you’re probably thinking how could she be all of these things? Well, if you knew my mother there was no room to disagree.
I felt my mother slipping away before she passed. She was diagnosed with Dementia, and I think one of the hardest moments was when she no longer knew who I was. My mother was the most significant person in my life, and watching her health decline was a gut-wrenching experience.
Every Friday I would go to this restaurant and order my favorite soup; New England Clam Chowder. I was seated at the table, and received a phone call from my sister stating that I needed to come to the house because she knew mom was about to leave us. I rose from the table and made a mad dash for the front door of the establishment. I left the soup behind that day.
She held on until I got there. It was almost as if she waited for everyone to be present. Watched her take her last breath, and without hesitation I gave her a kiss. I rushed out of the home shortly after to have a moment to myself. The bottled emotions needed to be released, and I sobbed outside of my parent’s home that day.
After my mother’s passing, certain things and problems didn’t matter. I simply didn’t care. I had suffered the loss of my biggest supporter, but it turned me into this SUPER STRONG person.
The stigma of not seeking help in our community; being conscience of mental health, and culturally, as a people do we deal with grief on our own? Even middle class blacks, those that have the means do they seek help? What I went through I wondered if other people (especially being a black man) knew what I was feeling? I had so many unanswered questions.
I was watching television one night, and there was an interview with American football great and actor, Fred Williamson. I watched him break down on national tv about losing his mom. I thought to myself, a man of his stature and celebrity, to show that type of sensitivity on tv…Wow. It meant a lot to me. That day I witnessed a black man that grieves.
During this journey I’ve learned that we need to be careful of how we judge people, and how they choose to grieve. I do believe that it’s to my advantage, and the advantage of others to hear the story of other people that are on the quest of becoming whole again during the journey of grief.
I have my moments that are still unbearable. Every time I look at one of her pictures or even flowers (among one of the many things that she loved) I call them “tings” in my heart.
A black man grieving can be perceived as a duck out of water. Well, I’m a black man, educated, and I yearn to see my mother’s face again. I grieve too.