When I was very young, maybe six or seven years old, I could see the main road to my house from my bedroom window. Whenever my mom was driving home from work, I could see her car from several streets over. I remember waiting by that window and watching around the same time each day to see if I could spot her car. One day, I saw a very bad car accident happen. So bad that I ran out the house, all the way across the street and watched in terrified awe as the ambulance and police cars came. I saw a person being taken out the car and laid on a stretcher.
After that day came the morbid thoughts. No longer would I sit in excitement watching for my mom. I would sit in fear. Whenever she was running late, I would get worried. What if something happened? I remember even crying sometimes by that window in fear of my mom getting into a car crash and never making it home.
Eventually, we moved and this practice along with the frequent thoughts of my mothers untimely passing stopped but the fear still lived in the back of my mind.
My mother was the type of woman anyone would be lucky to come across. She, along with my father, worked in the mental health/social work field and simply wanted to help people. She was an extremely loving and caring person, at times maybe to her own detriment. She welcomed friends and family experiencing hardship into our home. If she saw someone struggling to pay at the grocery store, she would pay for them, even when we were far from well-off.
She was a beautiful woman but never talked about her looks or even acknowledged them. She treated everyone the same, as if she saw a piece of God in each person she met. Much to my annoyance as a kid, she struck up conversations with strangers everywhere we went and no matter how their day might have been going beforehand, after encountering Deloris Cunningham, they left with a smile on their face.
Looking back on our relationship, I find myself getting mad at myself for not making her feel more special. As an adult, I’ve reflected often on how my mom was able to work full-time, be a homemaker and phenomenal wife to my dad and also have the energy to come home and cook every night and deal with my siblings and I after long grueling days at work. I remember calling her and saying, Mom, I don’t know how you did it. I can barely take care of myself and my one bedroom apartment. She would just laugh it off and say when the time came, I would be ready. Even with me giving her physical and proverbial flowers, I still wish I had done more.
When she would offer suggestions for my poetry or writing, I would get annoyed. Ok mom, I got it. I would say, instead of truly listening or making her feel valued in her opinions. I don’t like that I did that and unfortunately it’s nothing I can do now to take that back.
I’ve noticed with grieving I find myself thinking about the things I didn’t do, or could have done, or should have, and though I allow myself to feel those things, I also remind myself of all of the wonderful things I did to make my mom feel valued.
Like the time her and my dad were going to dinner and I called the restaurant beforehand and paid for their meal. When the time came for the server to come, my parents were happily surprised that I had already handled it. Or the times I randomly sent her flowers or dedicated poems to her on her birthday. She never asked for gifts, though I always made sure to still get her something plus the occasional poem.
My mom knew she was going to die. When I tell people that they automatically assume she was battling with some serious illness, she wasn’t. It sounded crazy to me. I was mad at her for even thinking that. Though my mom has always had a close relationship with God, when her and my father moved from the south suburbs of Chicago to her dream lake-view house in Tennessee, it got even stronger.
She would send me tons of YouTube videos talking about God, that I would ignore, but in hindsight, I’m happy that now I can watch all of them as if I am listening to messages also from my mom.
One night my mom had a vivid dream. In the dream, everything suddenly stopped and God told her he was calling her home soon. My mom relayed this dream to my older sister who also has an extremely close relationship with God. I was mad at both of them. I thought they were going crazy. I called my mom and asked if she was sick and she reassured me she wasn’t.
I told her she was going crazy, that God wouldn’t tell her that. I was mad at her because I was afraid that she was right and I couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine my life without my mom. A few months after my moms dream, I too had a vivid dream.
In the dream, I was at my mom’s funeral. I remember wearing white and breaking down crying. I heard my mom’s voice in the dream say, why are you crying? I told you God was calling me home. I figured that this dream only occurred because of what my mom and sister told me so I ignored it.
A year and a half later, I spent Christmas with my family. We usually play card games, that my mom typically just watches us play for a bit before she continues cooking or retires to her room, but this time I brought a different game. We played, We’re not really strangers, and it was just so cool for me to get to have adult conversations with my parents and really learn more about them. I stayed for about a week or so in Tennessee then headed back home.
A few days before my mom passed, I started having an eerie feeling. I felt like someone around me was going to be dying soon. I was having dreams of being at people’s funerals and I reached out to friends who I knew suffered with health issues, messages urging them and their families to start eating healthy and taking better care of themselves in the new year.
On Thursday, January 26th, 2023, I woke up excited for the day. I had just completed my first group poem and excitedly shared it with a few friends. I was planning studio time to complete my poetry album and finalizing photos. On my way to work, I got a phone call from my sister. I heard in her voice before she even got anything out that someone had died. She asked me to pull over and wouldn’t tell me what was going on until I did. When I was finally able to get off the expressway, I called her back because she hung up on me during my frantic begging of her to tell me what was going on.
She relayed that my mom had died in her sleep that morning and I lost it. When we got off the phone I sat on a random side street in front of someone’s house and screamed until I physically couldn’t anymore. I cried until I vomited and then continued crying. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see straight. Why would she do this? How could she do this to me, was all I remember thinking. Didn’t she know how much I needed her? I couldn’t function.
After making a few phone calls to relay the message, I sat in my car for about an hour before I finally was able to safely drive home. The day was a blur of visits, more crying, more vomiting, and eventually a tear-filled overnight flight to my parent’s home.
I wrote two poems within a few days for my mom and was asked to perform them at the funeral. The whole time I kept thinking I wouldn’t make it through them, but just like my mom I have this hosting spirit inside of me. Whenever I am in the role of a host, I become this light that just wants to make sure everyone is having a good time and ok.
At her service, I thanked everyone for coming, smiled at strangers and nodded reassuringly that I was ok to family. My job, in my mind, that night was to make sure everyone else was ok and let them know I was going to be ok. I held on to that feeling and was able to recite my poetry honoring my mother without dramatically fainting on stage.
Since the service, I find myself going through a myriad of emotions, sometimes within the the same day. I owe me and my siblings odd dark humor that I’m sure we inherited at least somewhat from my dad, for allowing me to find some beacon of light and laughter in this darkness.
Like the time my sister, dad and I were sitting at the table going through paperwork and my dad saw a text message from my moms dentist office about a missed appointment that read, Hey Deloris, we get it, life happens….
We couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony of that.
Then of course there are the days when the smallest thing can trigger a memory about my mom and I am in tears within moments.
There are moments where I want to call her and say, Hey girlfriend and proceed to ask how she was doing and tell her about my day.
And there are the times where I think of my sister saying she was mad our mom left us here on ghetto earth and I chuckle and second that notion.
I know that grieving is a process. One that I am only three weeks into, so no, I am by no means an expert when it comes to losing ones mother, but I also know one of the gifts God has granted me is my words and as long as I am able, I will use them to not only honor God but help others by sharing my stories, which I believe is also honoring him.
I write. I write out my thoughts. I write poems. I eventually will have the strength to listen to my mom’s voice messages. Even on the days I don’t want to move, I force myself to go to the gym. I pray. I speak to my dad every day. I talk to my sister frequently throughout the day. I plan on building a stronger community with my siblings, relatives and my mother’s closest friends who I know are also deeply hurting. I read notes around my mothers home that she had written to feel closer to her. I look at her pictures and I am trying to live in a way that I know she would be proud of.
While I am still at the start of this process, I am hoping to circle back with detailed steps in handling grief. But I must first honor you, my reader, and myself by truly allowing myself to feel and go through the proper steps to process.
To anyone going through grief, I pray you find peace in knowing that your loved one is at peace, and as my sister would say, no longer on ghetto earth.
Thank you for reading and thank you for allowing me to share.
love & light.
2 Comments Add yours
Ash, Im sure I never wrote anything on Your thing here, lol..that’s because I NEVER scrolled all the way down, I just always would respond by texting you.
I’m so happy U found ways 2 grieve,and get an understanding 4 U😇🥰. It’s never easy, take your time, I’m ALWAYS here 4 U, no matter when or what..I miss My Cuz
Aww thank you for scrolling down lol love you! 💕