It was March of 2012. I took an extended trip to New York from Florida to spend time with my mother, who was battling cervical cancer. She had hid from me how bad it was since I had just gotten married weeks before, and she didn’t want me to worry. After collapsing and being hospitalized, I discovered the full extent of what the disease was doing to her.
We were hanging out at home one afternoon, and she was going through some of her things. She handed me a silver bracelet and said “here, take this. I don’t need it anymore“.
Of course, silly me did not grasp what she was doing. I was there thinking “she figures she’s not going out to any fancy events“.
Denial is a powerful thing.
When she passed away weeks later, it was the bracelet that gave me a modicum of comfort. Some nights I would go to sleep after clutching it and weeping uncontrollably.
As time went on, it became a symbol of her companionship. I’d get ready for a challenging meeting or an interview, and I’d say “ok Ma, don’t let me say anything crazy. Help me get my point across“.
Now, sometimes I’ll just tap it. It’s enough to center me, channeling some of her strength, eloquence and energy.
On this, the 7th Mother’s Day without her, I reflect. I still grieve, but it’s less crippling than in past years.
This week I published a post on the power of the little things (if you missed it, see it here). Something as small as a silver bracelet can mean so much.
Today, cherish the little (and the big) things that your Mom taught you or gave you. A Mom is beyond blood; it’s an emotional connection to a woman who pushes you forward to your future. Ties that bind can be biological, emotional or spiritual.
If you are without your mom today, I hope that the memories, along with the love of those around you, will help you through the day.
I’m struggling with my emotions this morning. Late Sunday night, I discovered that a friend, George Cholakis, suddenly passed away while at a Miami Dolphins football game. I’m completely saddened and stunned. Not more than 2 weeks before, we laid another friend to rest, J.C. Dugue. He passed away from a massive heart attack just before Hurricane Irma hit.
These gentlemen were attorneys that were a few years ahead of me in my legal career. J.C., who was a defense attorney, knew me pretty much my entire career as a prosecutor. His sense of humor always added levity to tense moments as we stood across from each other on opposite sides of the courtroom. Just looking at him sometimes would have me in stitches. He was just that way.
George was helpful to me as a young prosecutor, as I was floundering (as we all did) to stay afloat with the heavy caseload. He’d often have words of encouragement, or the right answer when the judge was grilling me. He was senior to me, having tried intense homicide cases. He was kind, always pleasant, down to earth, and a fun guy. A few years ago, a really tragic incident occurred that pretty much cost him everything. George took responsibility, and started from scratch to rebuild. He began his own legal practice, and brought the same personality that he always had to his new line of work. I had such respect for George in doing so. Sometimes when folks fall down, they never get back up. He did, which showed the strength of his character.
What bewilders me is that they were not old. I know, the definition of “old” tends to shift as one ages upward, but I’m talking maybe 10 years older than me. I get it — when you hit your 70’s and 80’s, you expect to lose friends. Not in your 40’s.
Earlier this year, we lost two more members of our legal community to suicide. We all were devastated, and started work among our voluntary bar organizations to address depression. We lost J.C. and George to natural causes. Now, it’s time for us to talk about self care of not just the mind, but the body as well.
It takes wild horses for me to drag the men in my life to the doctor. I joke that for my husband and my dad, if an arm fell off, they’d pick it up and keep going, still refusing to go to the doctor. We have to be more forceful about getting the ones we love to the doctor, and heeding whatever warnings are given.
And, we ourselves need to take responsibility for our own health. Taking on too much, unmanaged stress, and ignoring what our bodies tell us is the formula for a fatal disaster.
We have to take care of each other. The pain of those left behind is immeasurable.
My mom always had a saying “always know who is in your corner”.
She meant it in the way of not following friends at the expense of those who truly support you. I’m not sure if she intended it as a boxing metaphor, but if she did I wouldn’t be surprised. My mom was a super classy lady who could speak with authority on any sport. It’s still tough accepting she is gone nearly 5 years later, but her gems of wisdom remain.
As I have grown older, I now understand fully the meaning of her statement. Her words came to me full throttle in the last week, which has been a tumultuous one in my life. This week, I laid my auntie (her sister) to rest. I took it quite hard, because they were so close, and she was very present in my life. She endured the loss of her baby sister (my mom) in 2012, and my uncle in 2014. When she told me she was ready to go home to the Lord, I totally got it. It’s tough because unfortunately, you reach a point where you start to measure your mortality based on those who have passed. I’m there. As I prepared for the memorial service, some drama ensued. A dear friend of mine who used to work with me messaged me and said “I’d like to come by the service. Any auntie of yours is an auntie of mine“. I literally burst into tears.
Know who is in your corner.
I had an intense murder trial last week that ultimately resulted in a not guilty verdict. It’s tough, because as any prosecutor will tell you, you believe in your case. Sometimes you go in thinking “these facts are awful, but I know he’s guilty”. Other times you think your case is strong. For me, it was the latter. But what was equally as painful for me as the verdict is that someone who I thought was a friend showed me they were not. Sometimes the illusion of friendship is stronger than the reality. The key is to see this clearly and govern your life accordingly.
Know who is in your corner.
But, as challenging as this week was, I received some wonderful news that will result in a major life change in 2017. (More on that in a later post, stay tuned!). My husband is practically doing backflips; I am more cautiously optimistic. I think he and I take turns on being the dreamer or the pragmatic in the marriage. But looking at him reminds me of how blessed I am to truly have someone that is truly hard core in my corner. My “Ride or die” if you will.
Who is in your corner? As this year ends, take stock. For those who have supported you, make sure to tell them how much they mean to you. Those folks are rare, and our time here on Earth is limited. Those who don’t support you in word and in deeds, cut them loose. You can fly higher as well as faster with less weight.
To conclude on a cheerier note…I thought this song was so cheesy when it came out, but heaven knows it’s applicable.
I can’t even get my mind around the fact that she’s gone.
It doesn’t make sense; one minute she’s here and we’re joking around, the next minute her heart gave out, and in a few days she was gone.
Cecy was my assistant at work for close to five years. She was my right hand, and my confidante. She was the cool auntie you had drinks with — a few years ahead of me in age, filled with life experience and great advice. Not only did she keep my cases together, she kept my head together during some very challenging years of my life.
What I adored about her was her good heart. The love story she had with her husband Tony, and the journey to love the second time around inspired me, giving me hope when I was in a dark place before meeting my husband. I was working through the aftermath of a destructive relationship — she was an amazing support. She had the ability to have me in stitches, while simultaneously telling me to get myself together. She was an amazing mom, and so thrilled to become a new grandma. I will never forget the unabashed joy on her face at my wedding — that mental picture will stay with me forever.
Although I was frightened, I went to see her at the hospital. Through the tubes and machines, I saw my friend. I kissed her, told her I loved her, and cracked a few jokes about the fun things we were going to do after this scare was over. I tried desperately to keep a brave face in front of her husband and family. I got into the elevator with my husband, and an uncontrollable wail came from the depths of my soul.
Because although my mind said that she can get past this and be fine, my heart already knew the truth.
This past Saturday, former Miami-Dade Police Department Director Robert “Bobby” Parker was laid to rest. He retired in 2009 after rising through the ranks to become the firstAfrican American in the department’s top job. Director Parker was named Miami-Dade Police Director in 2004 by then Miami Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez. Director Parker joined the force in 1976 and quickly worked his way up the ranks. He spent 33 years in the eighth largest police department in the US, doing what he did best — protecting, serving and mentoring.
My memory of him was sitting next to him in 2009, as we were giving commencement speeches to the police academy class. We had met casually before, but this was the first extended contact I had with him. When he gave his speech, he reminded the young officers that the police uniform will bring new attention, so do not forget who you started out with.
I thought to myself “wow, things are that hectic that the Director has to tell folks not to cheat on their partners?”
But, he was right, and it was sage advice.
Throughout my career I had seen (and continue to see) officers get caught up in power and following the crowd — in the process, destroying their families. Bobby’s words of staying grounded rang so true; I often wondered how many of those new officers heeded his advice.
Since that day, we ran into each other frequently at community events. He always had an easy smile, and a great demeanor. I saw the many causes we shared in common, and that he had a genuine concern for the next generation, especially young African American men.
I had been out of town the last few weeks at the National Black Prosecutors Conference, and attending family matters, returning to discover he had passed away…and at his own hand.
It was right after his 62nd birthday
My heart broke into a million pieces.
I don’t know what happened. All I can say is this. Never be afraid to ask for help, no matter where you are in life. There is no shame in going to therapy; there is no weakness in speaking to someone about your problems. Who cares what is “macho” or not!
If someone comes to you wanting to talk, don’t blow it off or turn them away. We need to take care of each other, and find coping mechanisms to deal with the stress of life before it overwhelms us. If you sense a friend is in trouble, just ask the question. Put aside whatever “bro-code”. I know we have to respect the privacy of others, but also follow your gut if you sense something.
And yes I will say it. My fellow African Americans, we have to stop this stigma of “therapy and depression is a White people thing”. Because it’s not — it’s real. Depression doesn’t stop to check what race you are before it invades your mind and destroys your spirit. Depression is killing us in different ways; therapy, medications, and other healthy coping mechanisms can help sort things out.
And guess what?
There are African American therapists, so cultural sensitivity is not a problem.
My mother always had a saying “Once there is life, there is hope”.
There is no problem without a solution, you just may need help finding it.
So please. Help yourself. Help each other.
Bobby, rest in peace. You left us way too soon.
My deepest condolences to the Parker family, and to my brothers and sisters in blue who are grieving right now.
It’s been 3 years, but 4 Mother’s Days without you, and I still miss you. Sending up big hugs and kisses.
Much love to all the mothers out there…but a special shout out to all who are missing their mothers today. Jenna Rose wrote a beautiful letter addressing being without your mom on Mother’s Day for USA Today…couldn’t have said it better myself. Check it out here.
If you’ve got your mom, hug her and kiss her for me.
It was April 21, 2012. My mother had been battling cancer for three years. I was running errands, and got a call from the hospice nurse. With her sweet Creole accent, she tells me ” Ms. Melba, your mom decided to leave us this morning”
And with those words, life as I knew it ceased to exist.
Sounds dramatic. But it’s so true. Yes, the sun continued to rise and set, life continued, another Bond movie was released, no one else missed a beat.
But I did. My father did. Our close relatives and friends did as well.
There is something uniquely intense when it’s your mom. Soul groups, hip hop artists like Tupac, and country singers have all sung about their love for their mothers. She’s the only person that literally pushed you into this world. And if you were as blessed as I was to have a close relationship with your mom, it’s a hole that never quite gets filled.
Life has a weird way of working. Eight months before, my husband lost his mother. I remember emailing my mom a lot during that time, trying to figure out how to help him. Loss and death is truly something you have NO concept of until it happens to you. She gave me a lot of great advice, sharing with me the pain and sometimes resentment she felt towards others for still having their mothers while she had lost hers, along with the simultaneous guilt she felt for having those emotions.
In a way…she was teaching me how to grieve for her.
It’s been two years now. I remember the kindness that people I wasn’t that close to showed me. I remember being disappointed in those who were close to me for not being as supportive. One thing is for sure: people deal with loss differently, and you need to forgive those who have no clue how to deal with you.
Losing your mom makes you part of this weird kind of club. When you’ve been through it, you get it. When you find out that someone has that loss, you immediately act, and try to comfort them, even if they are practically a stranger.
I still hear her voice, telling me her Mama Pearson-isms. Such as “There’s more behind you than in front of you“, “Can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear“, and the most relevant one to my life at present, “When it’s for you, it is for you, and nothing will stop it from happening.” I love her classic when it comes to advancement in the workforce, “If you can’t jump up, don’t jump around“.
This past Easter Sunday, I kept hearing her voice say “Happy Easter!”, with that sweet upbeat tempo. My mom loved every holiday; somehow I’m a grinch, but appreciated how cute she was. Last month, on the morning of the two year anniversary of her passing, I had a dream. She was running late for work, and said she was going to leave. I asked her to stay a little longer. She said to me “I will stay for as long as I can”.
And I believe it was true. She did stay for as long as she could.
When she was undergoing the awful treatment for cancer, she reached a point where she realized that nothing was going to work. The tumors were not shrinking. Her nurse later revealed to me that they had an understanding– continue the treatment so that she could attend my wedding, and once she came back, she would let nature take its course. To me, that is a true testament of my mother’s love for me.
In some ways, I’ve become my mom. She was classy, responsible, very blunt and had an amazing sense of self that only comes from overcoming adversity. For sure I’m responsible…and have become very blunt!
I’ve also realized that losing your mom makes you that much stronger, because once you’ve been through that pain…there’s not a whole lot (other than the loss of a spouse/partner) that can ever hurt you that deeply again.
RIP Mama Pearson. Love you and miss you. And please continue to speak to me, as well as through me.