The last two years of my life has been particularly difficult. I lost my mother to diabetes complications and although I have tried to pretend that everything is okay, it’s not. I will never get over the fact that I will never see my mother again. Her death was my greatest childhood nightmare and it came true on December 6, 2006 at 4:45pm. I was on my way to the hospital from work to visit her when I received a call on my cell phone, informing me that my mother had expired. Such a cold, clinical way to tell someone that their mother was dead as if she was merely a specimen to be studied.
I remember silently crying on the bus and people staring at me as if I was some crazed individual. I wanted to scream, “My mama is dead, dead, dead!” but of course I didn’t. As usual I kept my pain and my thoughts to myself. I got off the bus and slowly walked across the street on route to the hospital. It was cold, dreary evening and snow was everywhere and my mother was dead. I remember calling the father of my children, telling him that my mama was dead. I remember calling my eldest daughter and telling her that her granny was dead, the lady who helped raised her, who taught her how to read, love, and so much more.
I remember walking into the lobby of Michael Reese Hospital and the nice security guard telling me to sign in. I remember getting into the elevator on route to the tenth floor and getting off. I remember the blank looks on the faces of the nurses on her floor, wondering did they know my mama was dead. I remember walking into her room and seeing her lying on the bed with her eyes closed and her mouth open, just like she was asleep, just like she always slept. But she wasn’t sleep; she was dead, dead, dead. I remember touching her and noticing that she was still warm and knowing that soon she would be cold and stiff. I remember leaving the room and speaking with the physician and passively listening to her explanation for my mother’s death and asking for a place to still down and think. I remember calling my boss to inform her that my mother was dead and did not know when I would be returning. I remember calling various family members and friends to talk and cry and putting the phone down.
Memories of my childhood flooded my brain. Of going to work with her during the summer when I was off from school. Shopping with her on State Street for school clothes, Easter clothes, books, and toys. Meeting her at the bus stop when she got off work on hot, summer days. Of going to the Clock with her, a neighborhood juke joint on some Saturday afternoons and drinking orange juice while she had a cold Millers.
Memories of her when I was in the hospital having my eldest child and my mother screaming at doctors, telling them that I was in pain and that they should hurry up and do something. Of being curled up besides her listening to stories of ghosts and haunts that her mother had told her when she was a little girl living in Itta Bena, Mississippi. Remembering how hard she worked as a single, poor mother making sure that I never missed a school trip or was hungry. Of the time when she was in the hospital with the same disease that ultimately took her away two weeks before Christmas back in 1978 and how she made Christmas happen for a little girl who so afraid her mother would die and never see her again and marvel at her strength. Hoping that I become one-tenth the woman she was. Rest in peace Ms. Gertrude Allen Henry. Although I will never get over you, I will always have my memories.