I am one of the lucky ones. Being a woman who was loved and respected by her mother, adored by her father, protected and honored by her brothers.
My early life provided a cocoon that nourishes me to this very day.
By the time I was nine, my life had been shattered. My mother diagnosed with M.S., and my father gone off to the Viet Nam war, I was left alone, to care for my family and navigate my path through life.
Of course I was not totally alone. It only felt that way. There were grandparents, uncles and aunts, SSI and welfare benefits, care givers and hospitals.
But at the end of the day, when the elders had come and gone, I was left 24/7 to hold all the pieces together. I cared for my mom, took the little ones to school, I shopped and cooked and tried to keep house.
All the while, escaping into my dreams. Day dreams in which I pretended to be other beings, who lived other lives. My inner world giving contrast to my life”s struggles.
Outwardly, creative expression provided a space of refuge and gave meaning to my life. I sang in the chorus at grade school and went on to study art.
From the South Bronx to Manhattan, I eventually discovered Harlem, and a youth group called “40 Acres and A Mule.” We published a newspaper supported by the New York Urban League. I met the legendary *Dorothy Height and was inspired to become a writer.
After college my best friend and I journeyed across America, traveling by greyhound bus, we saw the endless corn fields of Iowa, explored the great parks, Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and we enjoyed the beautiful colors and tones of the sunsets and stones in Arizona and New Mexico.
I had left my mom in the care of her mother.
It was my grandmother that put my mom in a care facility. She said it was a good place and she wanted me to have a better chance at life. As it turned out the place was not so good.
For the next 10 or so years I traveled to an fro. From work, to hospital to home. Making sure she was fed, taking care to keep her clean. And most of all, holding her hands, gazing into her eyes, loving her and making sure she would never feel alone or abandoned. We held each other’s hearts as kindred spirits and soul mates.
I was with her when she passed over. The last in a series of medical crisis.
In a real hospital we waited over 30 hours for a room. After some days, a series of events led to the intensive care unit.
I sat at her side, staring into her eyes, while her lips and fingers turned blue.
At a point she began to repeat almost as a chant or mantra… I Love you, I Love You, I Love You, until my shock turned into comprehension.
My stare fell into her eyes, falling into the dark iris, where for a moment I saw her.
In her eyes I merged into spaciousness. It held the appearance of space and stars, and felt illumined by absolute and unconditional love.
But in a moment I was ushered outside, into the hall to wait. I waited and waited. All the while feeling beckoned to leave. Thinking how strange this was, I took a break and travelled across the river, high above it, in a tram.
It was here that she came to me, and I realized she was gone. And was yet, still here.
I felt her energy merge with mine and we coexisted for the next few hours. Though I recognized her, she was more than my mother.
So it was upon her death that I learned of and first experienced the bliss of spiritual being. This beautiful union left me no reason to mourn, as I walked through the formalities of burial.
I knew, she was not there in the ground. She continued to live, as part of the heavens.
*Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010), an American administrator and educator, was a civil rights and women’s rights activist specifically focused on the issues of African-American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.