Sometimes, you just gotta stop drinking the kool-aid. Wake up. It’s time to live. Make changes in your life. Get out of the box, trapezoid, octagon – whatever shape you stuck in – get outta there and don’t ever go back. Decide to thrive and no longer just exist. Make authenticity your #currentmood all the time. Choose growth, all the time, every time. Don’t be different; do different.
I’m limited and at times I hate the fact of this matter.
I hate that even when I want to push beyond my human limitations I cannot. Being human will always limit me whether I want to admit it or not.
My limitations came into play recently in sync with an anniversary in my life. Saturday marked two years since my grandmother died. Usually anniversaries are happy dates and wonderful spots in time that we celebrate and remember for the joy and laughter they bring us.
But the anniversaries of deaths are not happy. They hold nothing wonderful and joy doesn’t come out of us, but tears and sadness do instead.
I remember at my grandmother’s memorial service at the moment the casket lid was about to be closed, my Auntie and mama both leaped from their seats and ran to my grandma, tears in their eyes, touching the casket, touching my grandma and speaking their love for her in their sobs.
They knew this would be the last time they would see her this side of heaven. They needed to see her — one more time. Elders in the church understood as they spoke over them with love in those uncovered moments of grief and vulnerability, “It’s alright baby, it’s alright.”
I knew this was a significant moment and though Lena was my grandma, she was their mother. They knew her in ways I did not and their love, memories and grief for her would be unique and different from mine.
Anniversaries are hard when it comes to missing those you love.
Limitations coupled with those anniversaries are even harder. Last Wednesday I left Orlando for Atlanta for a three week work trip. I had great plans in mind and things in motion. Productivity and momentum were on my mind and success in my hands.
But Friday hit me like a ton of bricks by way of unexpected grief and sadness. My body was giving me a very real heads up that Saturday was an important day and I needed to remember why.
Grief comes in waves and it comes unpredictable. Time helps but doesn’t dissolve the loss. I found these words from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization spot on:
The “sweet sadness” that arises when you remember your loved one “is simply the acknowledgment that significant loss has occurred. That the loss, and the person who is gone, matters and affects our lives.”
My grief feels disruptive right now. My sadness at times frustrates me. My plans for this work trip are being shaken up and I didn’t plan for this.
Two years after her death I continue to grieve my grandmother, in different ways. A friend told me once “we grieve deeply because we’ve loved deeply.” I agree with those words. They are true.
In our grief as humans we also experience the limitations of being human. We’re limited by forces beyond our control. We get slowed down by emotions and feelings that were put into us by God to help us cope with and navigate these valleys and meandering turns of life.
I want to embrace my limitations more. I want to see them for what they are and welcome them into my life.
I want to broken and be okay with that. I don’t want to hide my tears or put on my Superwoman bad a$# t-shirt. Today I choose to embrace my weakness, my sadness and my pain.
What a gift it is to feel pain because you have chosen to love someone who also chose to love you. That type of pain is unique and woven into hearts that want to love and are open to be loved.
What an unexpected honor it is to allow grief into your life as the friend you never wanted but absolutely needed. You need grief, with his sister mourning, to help you process your pain and express your feelings over the loss of that person in your world as you knew it to be.
I’m limited. I’m learning how to live in my limitations.
One day at a time.
When I look back on my childhood I remember two things my grandma loved especially the most during the day: drinking her coffee in her little kitchen and watching her soap operas on CBS.
As a 36 year-old woman I still have an unspoken allegiance for The Young and The Restless, The Bold and The Beautiful, As The World Turns and Guiding Light because of my grandma Lena.
She knew every in and out and every crazy storyline taking place in those fictional cities of soap opera land. And I knew that from 12:30 pm until 4 pm, my little brown tail needed to find something fun and quiet to do while she sat back and got down with her soaps.
Being that we were country folk from a little small town called Eatonton in middle Georgia, she made sure we finished up dinner (codeword for lunch) before the soaps came on so she was ready to watch “her stories.” Supper would come later in the evening (codeword for dinner).
Her commentary on the latest and scandalous events happening in the shows would always crack me up. “Oh, that Nikki with her nasty self and her fast tail, she oughta be ashamed of herself sleeping with that man when she know she married to Victor” and “That old rascal Jack, he’s just a crook” and so on and so forth.
Her commitment to these t.v. soaps and watching people who always never got a happy ending (because if soaps had a happy ending where would the drama be and who wants to watch that) made me feel connected to her in a special way. In my best way, my young 10 year-old self was ride or die with her as a neophyte soap opera fan, agreeing about Nikki’s adulterous ways, shaking my head at Jack’s witty and sly behavior and committed to these storylines because my grandma Lena was committed to these story lines.
I don’t know when she started watching soaps. But they made a connection to her life and whether she found escape through them or just some comfortable relaxation, Lena loved her soaps and I loved her for loving me and letting me watch them with her.
Later on in my teens I realized how crazy these soaps were as I tried to create allegiance to some ABC and NBC shows but nobody ended up staying happy! And I wanted people to be happy! I wanted people to have their happily ever afters but many of the characters just seemed to be waking up with their morning afters from plenty of bedroom romps, devious business schemes and other “what the what” storylines. I eventually had to hang up my soap opera watching jacket. It was just all too much for me.
But I often think of my grandma when I think of soaps.
I think about how much she loved watching hers. I think about the daily commitment she had during the week to see her stories. I think about how she’d talk to me about the characters and ask me what I thought. I think about the memories I have of her and I am grateful.
This Saturday marks two years since she breathed her last breath this side of heaven and went to be with the Lord in heaven. My grief and my mourning over her death these last two years have taken me through a journey that I would have never fashioned for myself but I also wouldn’t trade for anything because I am completely a different woman, writer and human being as a result. I’m a better Melody even though I became a broken Melody. I’m a stronger Melody even though I was a wounded Melody. That pain of grief clarified and changed my life in a positive way. It was hellish but it purified me like gold being placed through fire.
My family has a shared love for Lena Mae Brown and also a shared suffering in our grief and mourning in losing her. I remember being in Eatonton right after she died and going over to my great aunt Essie Mae’s home because I needed some air as my family was going through things at my grandma’s and I was starting to feel very anxious and overwhelmed.
My heart was beating and I just wanted to run away. I asked Essie Mae if I could come over and she gladly welcomed me. She’s a beautiful soul, has likely never met a stranger in her life and has loved me as long as I can remember. She’s two years younger than my grandma and they were two peas in a pod, both calling each other “Mae” when they’d talk to one another.
I spent lots of time at her home when I was little, having sleepovers with her granddaughters, my cousins April and Hope, and playing as little girls do. Going to her home I found my way to her bedroom and just laid down. Nostalgia, memories and sadness flooded my heart all at the same time. I found some rest but I couldn’t get away from the reality that someone I loved had died, this was true and my life would never be the same.
I wanted to just drive down the old Georgia country red clay roads in the city I’d spent so many summers of my life in and just find some kind of freedom and escape from the grief and mourning that was fervently pursuing me. I wanted the sun to wash over my face and I wanted the blueness of the clouds to wrap me up in love and take me to a place where my heart didn’t feel so broken anymore.
Grandmothers are some kind of special. Mothers are the first friends many of us have in life. Grandmothers are those magical she-roes that our mothers come from and in my eyes my grandma Lena was an automatic legend to me. She was just some kind of beautiful wonderful to me. She was a second mama and she was also my friend. Her death hurt me deeply.
My cousin Brian and my mom came some time later and picked me up from my great aunt’s place. I remember sitting in the back of Brian’s car as my mom and him talked about funeral arrangements and life insurance and funeral costs. I laid down and started crying softly.
They both quieted their talking as my mom reached back and touched me with her hand. My tears were my language that I just didn’t want it all to be the way it was.
But it was that way.
Death was real.
My pain was a clear indicator of that.
What I’ve found to be true: Sometimes life can bite your butt. It hurts, it sucks, it definitely is not fair but it happens and will continue to happen this side of heaven. Some wrestle with why God allows tragedy and struggle to come into our lives. Others feel God sits on a throne with a shiny thunderbolt just ready and aiming to impart destruction and pain into our lives. Some think he’s dead or powerless and not able to do anything to help anyway so why even bother to bring him into the conversation.
I think the butt bites in life are a reflection of a world that’s in a pretty awful tailspin because of the evil, death and human brokenness that permeates everything around us. They bring with them effects that have consequences greater than we can imagine. God enters this tailspin to give us hope, freedom and eyes to see that the bites won’t always be with us. If we are willing to look closely, we’ll see him actively rescuing, redeeming, healing and restoring.
What I’ve also found to be true: We need to keep moving forward. In the midst of all the struggle, even if you have to crawl your way through it, keep moving. At least you are moving a few steps away from the butt bites that feel like they’ve taken the very breath out of you. Sometimes you may not feel like you have anything in your tank to make one foot or knee move ahead of the other. When you lack the energy, God will carry you. I know this to be true because he’s carried me more times than I can count.
Keep moving forward.
The bite marks will wear off eventually.
When I’m wanting her to listen to me or give me something I want or have her stop telling me something I told her I already know, “mama” is what I call her. Mamas just have a flavor about them. When I’m laughing with her, laughing at her or giving her my perspectives on the world and just shooting the breeze, “momma” is how I see her. She’s the same lady that called me one day and asked, “Is your phone — that 229 number — still working?”
Me (curiously): “Um, yes.”
Momma: “We’ll, I’m just checking ‘cause it just rings and rings AND rings…”
Me: “That’s ‘cause I didn’t HEAR it so I could pick it up!”
Momma: “Oh, okay, well I’m just checking.”
She is a verified hot mess. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. My mom is one of my best friends. She gets me and I get her. I learned from her early on how to carry myself with grace, poise, intention and also enjoy life with plenty of humor and tons of wit. She is one of the wittiest people I know! She is the Queen of Wit. Man, she is sharp and brilliant and loving and so wonderfully amazing. She’s been a great mom to me.
Not everyone can raise a daughter as a single parent with God’s guidance the way she has with me. Every accomplishment, success, endeavor and privilege I’ve been afforded took place from the lift she gave me to climb upon steps she laid in advance for me. She sacrificed her needs to make sure I had mine met.
My mom was one of the first two African American civilian employees to integrate the City of Atlanta’s Vehicles for Hire division in the 1970s. She’s an Advanced Toastmaster and can lay it down with her oratory and sharp communication skills.
She’s served as the president of her homeowner’s association for several years and leads with style as an usher at her church. Oh, and the woman can bust a baaaad Michael Jackson moonwalk-ish routine when Thriller comes on. I have the video evidence to prove it. Incriminating? Maybe. Hilarious and will I plan to keep it to show my kids one day? Absolutely.
As I get older I’m thinking not just about the family I desire to build in my life but also the ways I plan to care for her and bless her as she gets older. When one of my books come out and it’s best selling and good things begin to happen, I can’t wait to give back to her plus so much more all that she’s blessed me with through her love and sacrifices. I am the woman I am today and in all the days that will come because of my mama.
We have a regular time to connect each week and chat about life, usually Sunday evenings. I missed last week and was trying to find a time this week to talk. She was picking Friday and Saturday night and I was like, “Mama, I am young and single. My evenings are busy…I’m am not sitting around with nothing to do.”
Her reply: “Well alright then Mel (in a slightly little huffy voice)! When do you want to talk???”
Me: “In the morning!”
We both are a mess.
I don’t know when I knew to call her auntie but I was young enough to know that’s who she was and who I needed her to be. My mama’s younger sister. The woman whose birthday is just two weeks ahead of mine. The breast cancer survivor. The one who shares a similar gentleness and heart on her sleeve as I do for the world around us. The lady who wants people to know about Jesus and uses opportunities to keep telling the world about him.
The lady who has the same eyes and smile as my mom. The one whose kitchen cabinets I would crawl in when I was very little and play in after I’d go around, ask for and get the fuzzy fuzz lint balls in my Uncle Randy’s pockets. The woman I respect as my aunt but love as my “Auntie.” Aunties just have a swag about them.
She’s the same lady that told me once, “All these men who are downloading…this is just horrible Melody, downloading and all this stuff.”
I believe she meant to describe men who were on the “down low” hiding their bi-sexuality from the women they were sleeping with. But I knew what she meant and I was not going to say anything different.
Mamas & Aunties. They are some kind of amazing.
Originally written August 30, 2013.