When children do not grieve properly after the sudden death of a loved one, they sometimes grow up and become stuck in bereavement. Life events are painful reminders of the hurt they did not deal with during that time…
Excerpt from Chapter II: Broken Glass
After two days had gone by, I hadn’t spoken to my mother. I heard Aunt Dell tell Ma-ma that she had been transferred from Roanoke Chowan Hospital to Norfolk General in Virginia. She had been there before and had her heart surgeries performed. Each time, Ma-ma would speak to her on the phone, but would never allow me to talk to her.
On June 13th, the third day mom had been hospitalized, we were back at home. I stood in the kitchen, frying bacon at about 8:30 pm. My friend Sharon, who lived down the lane, knocked on the back door and stuck her head inside. “Hey! My momma sent me to ask if y’all need anything.”
“Naw, we’re fine. My momma’s gonna be coming home soon I hope. Me, I’m just cooking.”
“I see,” she laughed. “Aren’t you a little young to be cooking?”
“Nope,” I boasted. “I cook breakfast for my momma all the time. I can cook bacon, eggs, grits, make coffee – you name it!”
Sharon was twelve years old, and our birthdays were April 11th and 12th, respectively. Mom had recently been upset with her for telling me some classified female information.
On my tenth birthday, we walked along the path and I told Sharon I how old I was.
“For real?” She said.
“It’s about time for you to start your period.”
Totally oblivious, I said, “My period? What’s that?”
“It’s when women have blood come out down there,” she pointed and explained.
“Ewww! That’s nasty! My momma didn’t tell me that! My momma don’t have no period!” I was disgusted and perplexed.
Sharon laughed and said, “Yes she do! Ask her.”
“Ok, so what do you do with the blood then?” I pressed.
“You have to wear a pad, girl.” She said like it was remedial knowledge.
I thought about that flowered box Mom always kept in the bathroom closet. I wondered if that was her box of pads that she’d make me fetch for her from time to time…
The phone rang, and it was Don calling to speak to Ma-ma.
“Joan, cut that stove off and get ready. Don is coming after us,” Ma-ma yelled into the kitchen. I was happy about that. Sharon then yelled into the house, “Hey Ms. Sharpe!” Ma-ma responded likewise. She explained the reasons for her visit and my grandmother instructed her to “Tell Kathy I said thank you.”
Don arrived a little after nine PM, and we loaded up. I sat in the back seat of the Buick and rambled on and asked if anyone knew when mom would get out of the hospital. Don wasn’t very talkative though. He said little or nothing the entire ride. “No,” he’d say every now and then.
We got to the house in Ahoskie and went inside. My aunt, Amy and her boyfriend had arrived from Maryland. Jasmine was scheduled to graduate from High School the next day. So the family had started to filter into town. Uncle Johnny, Mom’s only brother and his wife Eva were there as well. Whenever my mother’s siblings came home I was ecstatic! We hugged and kissed everybody.
“Have you talked to my mommy,” I asked Aunt Iris. “Yes,” she replied. “She said she loves you very much, and she misses you.”
“I want to talk to her. When can I talk to her?” I was serious. I missed her. Not to mention, things were stressful being alone with Ma-ma those three days.
“Hey, come on ya’ll, let’s go for a walk outside,” said Jasmine to us. We walked around the neighborhood and talked about school, and college. I kept reverting the conversation right back to my mother.
“Man I’ll be glad when she comes home! I can’t stand it too much longer without her.”
I thought it was interesting, yet fun for us to take a night-time walk around the neighborhood. The two were asking me general questions about school, my kittens, and my friends in Murfreesboro.
By now we were approaching the neighborhood park. We went inside the gates and sat on the seesaw. The night sky had not a cloud in it. It seemed as though every star in the galaxy was shining down on us. For some reason, I was fixated on the sky. The cool night air was soothing and such a stark contrast from the heat of the day.
“Joan,” Denise called to me. “I’ve got something to tell you. “What?” I asked out of impatient curiosity. “Joan, come here,” she motioned to her side of the seesaw. I sat down beside her and nestled into her outstretched arms. She wrapped them around me and held me tightly, and took a deep breath. Jasmine was standing up beside us. She placed her hand on my shoulder and nodded to Denise to go on with her words. She hesitated, and in one sentence, shattered my world.
“Joan, your mommy passed away tonight around 8:30.” Her voice quaked. I pulled away from her.
“Denise, stop playing,” I said with a half grin-half smirk on my face. I looked back at Jasmine whose face was soaked in tears. “Jasmine, why is she playing with me like that?” I begged. “Denise, that’s not funny. You shouldn’t play like that. She looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “I love you. I would never play about something like that.”
I looked back up into the night sky searching for an answer in the stars I had admired just seconds ago. The sky that I thought was so beautiful was now ghastly and grey.
I leaped to my feet and cried out to the world, “No! Mommy, No!” I was in shock and began to hyperventilate. Denise was shorter than me, and she struggled to keep me standing. They both pulled me back down onto the seesaw and rocked me and hushed me. I had never cried so loudly before. I had never experienced that kind of pain before, and haven’t since. My mommy had gone on without me. She left me.
Some of the neighbors had come onto their porches and turned on the lights to see who was screaming. We exited the park gates and walked back toward the house. I was still shouting. The two of them decided to put me in the back seat of John’s car which was parked on the street and closed the door.
“Denise, why? What happened?” I was desperate for answers.
“She was so sick, that she went into a coma. Her heart couldn’t take it, and it just stopped beating.” Denise rocked me and held me tightly.
I finally began to calm down some and I managed; “Now I don’t have no parents. I don’t have no daddy, or no momma.”
I find solace in writing about this. I find peace and healing in communicating this pain. I won’t always be stuck in bereavement. If you’d like to share your story, please share below.