When I found out death slept near me each night, I knew it was time to make peace with death. All of my life, I had been afraid of dying. After going to the funeral of both my brothers, I decided not to attend another ceremony. The sadness simply unnerved me. A year later during a very hard winter I began to feel guilty. Guilty because both Army soldiers sacrificed their lives for my children, and me. I hadn’t told them thank you. Because of James, my son decided to quit smoking weed. He wanted to go to Afghanistan and fight. He wanted to see young women go to school freely without being threatened by a gun or bomb or rape. I should have been present at his funeral to show my appreciation and love. Then Clem died, I still wasn’t ready to step out of the house and go to a funeral.
I turned away from both brothers at their very last moment on earth. Just like my mother always said, “you’re a selfish nothing.” During that winter of the Blizzard ’68 I could hear her words screamed at me in the supermarket while I weighed turnip greens, in the car as I listened to a favorite song, Let It Be Me, and in the bedroom as I took a supposedly relaxing bubble bath. Her voice echoed hate words. One day I walked out of the office and rode a hundred miles to the beach. I thought only the beach could quiet her loud, soprano, squeaky voice which wouldn’t leave my head. The voice which betrayed me all my life.
When I left for Alcoha Beach, South Carolina, I intended to spend the weekend there. Then, come back in time to hit the computer on Monday while I listened to the groans of people who couldn’t pay their heat bills. “Please, give me an extension. Don’t you people have a heart?” However, I didn’t return. I would never return. I ended up borrowing money from my dad. It helped me to set up a store selling candles and pearl jewelry. While choosing the property, picking the stock and making friends with John, a new best friend, I began to stop hearing Mother’s voice. Gradually it faded away like a man’s fade away Afro. Then, one day her voice left my head completely.
When mother died, I was able to attend her funeral. Shocked at my action, I reached down and touched her hand in the coffin. I no longer felt hate for her betrayals. I just felt heart eased and graced that God gave me the chance to forgive her. I hadn’t told her face to face that I forgave her. That didn’t matter. I was freed.
While walking the beach, I told John about my guilt for not seeing my brothers at their funerals. He hugged me. He kissed me. His lips tasted as sweet as a salt water taffy. He said, “It’s over. They still love you. They loved you no matter your decision in life. Brothers understand our sisters no matter what path they choose.”
Now when I go to church and light a candle I feel a wind of peace pass over me. I touch my pearls during Mass and think , “I’m precious. I’m precious to God, my family and friends. Best of all I love me.” Then, I look down at John’s white gold wedding band on my finger. I touch it and turn it. I hear the angels singing a sweet song about love that lasts for always. Just like the words we said during our wedding ceremony. I look over at John in church. He’s intently looking at his prayer-book. I whisper. “I love you, John always.”