Grieving While Making a Transition

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October 10, 2020 by Marguerite Ashton

For a while, I’ve been speechless and heartbroken. Several weeks have passed. Here I go…

Love You Momma

My sweet and sassy momma passed away in July.

I can say from this devastating experience that losing a loved one is not something that one can just get over. I’ve heard people tell me that I understand that you’ve been stressed but what about me? I’m your best friend. I’ve got things to discuss with you about what is going on in my life.

I’m responding to your texts and that’s about as good as it’s going to get at the moment.

When Mom was diagnosed with COPD and cancer a few years ago, I remember her telling me, “When I die, stay strong for me.” At first, it wasn’t something that I wanted to discuss. Eventually, with Momma, being the awesome lady she was, she made me confront the reality that would soon hit me like a ton of bricks.

During the days before July 25th, Momma was admitted to the hospital, like she’d been many times before over the years due to her COPD until it took a turn for the worse and found herself battling pneumonia, again. Only this time it had spread. Her lungs could no long longer handle it. Not to mention, she had been told by the doctors that they were afraid she was aspirating. When she mentioned it, I kept my fears to myself while encouraging her to tell doctors all of her symptoms.

My hopes to visit and be there for my momma were nixed due to the safety precautions during this difficult time surrounding COVID. She was only allowed one visitor – her husband.

It was hard, but I’m comforted in knowing that when I was too busy to do anything, that I called and checked on her, no matter the time. It was the best thing for us as mother and daughter. She understood that my life as a wife and mom kept me super busy because she’d been there before. As my mother, she knew that my crazy writing schedule kept me up late at night. Yet, if she was awake or asleep, she would take my calls. No matter the time. I’m going to miss those late-night calls.

As the only daughter, I had formed a bond with my mother that can and will never be replaced. Even during the turbulent times of our misunderstandings, we always found a way back to one another.

There were moments when I believed that I did not have enough time to include Momma in my daily plans with my unpredictable schedule. With God’s help, that would soon change.

During the eighties, Momma broke racial barriers as the only black woman to work at a company where she digitized Arabian horses. This job allowed her to travel and acquire the knowledge needed to register horses, helping her to advance further up the corporate ladder.

Later on, Momma became the manager of one of the top HVAC companies in Colorado. For Momma, this was another accomplishment. With a fondness and determination, she was known as the ‘General’ to her employees. She was nice, but she was still the boss.

Momma never complained. Or made excuses. She did what needed to be done. The victim card didn’t work with her. It’s one of the many things I loved most about her.

When Momma’s health slowly deteriorated, I watched her deal with the heartache of having to go from being an independent woman to accepting help from my husband and I. This was something that was not easy for her. She was used to living a certain way financially, and physically. It was something she’d worked hard for. Now, all that she’d worked for had been stripped from her.

Two weeks before she passed, she mentioned that she was tired of being sick. Tired of being on all of the medication. More than anything she was tired of learning of the latest ailment that limited her potential of living life to the fullest, spending time with her grandchildren, our mother/daughter dates for food or drinks.

Even during the 2017 multiple cancer treatments, if she had a good day, she wanted to spend time with us. To see her grandchildren. In the years prior to 2017, which were filled with more chemo and radiation, she managed to still go to work and do her job.

For me, the two strongest women that I know on my maternal side were my grandmother and Momma.

Momma was very protective over me when I was vulnerable. It was the same with me when it came to making sure she was okay. We’d laugh at the fact that she’d raised me with the same grit and determination that’d had been sprinkled throughout her life, no matter the situation. The problem was, Momma didn’t realize, in some way, she’d raised a “mini-me.” An alpha female who had no problem challenging anyone who dared disrupt our family. If you did, you better have a good reason. However, even when we disagreed, we held onto our mother/daughter bond and kept each other in our prayers. I knew deep in my heart that I had to pray to God to help me be a better daughter for Momma. Again, He answered my prayers and instilled in me, the wisdom to make sure I was there for Momma.

She raised me to respect all of my elders and wouldn’t accept any less from her grandchildren and so on. That included my two step-daughters who willingly respected her. I’m truly grateful for the bond formed between them.

 She raised me to work hard to keep what you have and respect the fact that nothing is free. She raised me to make sure that I put my children first after my previous marriage wasn’t successful. Momma told me, “Your only responsibility is to your kids.” From that moment, with some bumps along the way, I committed myself to making sure my second marriage would be my last. One that Momma approved of.

Two months ago, Momma opened up to me. She cried. After our talk, now, as I write this, I realize the time had come for me to learn how deep her motherly concern ran for us. She didn’t want her grandchildren to see her during her rough moments. She said she didn’t want to be a burden to my husband and I because we had our own family to take care of.

Momma’s sassy and stubborn ways only proved to me that she was truly her mother’s daughter. My grandmother did everything she could to take care of her family, with grace and determination, it all came back to preserving the family.  Momma, did the same, following in her mother’s footsteps.

She put her family first. Family bond was something that Momma had instilled in me. With God’s love raining down on me, He sent me the man who’d later become my second husband. A person I could trust, who’s sweet, family oriented and has managed to soften me, allowing me to believe in love once again.

Besides the memories, there’s one fear that stuck with Momma during the last five years of her illnesses. She was worried about being alone, again, while being unable to take care of herself. Unfortunately, Momma felt unloved and unwanted in her own household.

Well Momma, you were always loved by the family you grew up with, your brothers. You were always cherished by friends and former co-workers, along with many others.

Then there was us.

Thank, God for our big family.  That’s where we stepped in as her children and grandchildren. If I wasn’t available, there were several other family members who were. Momma would say, “Between you and your husband, and all of your kids, you’re like a sports team.”

Even though we’re a blended and mixed family, besides the Lord, Momma was our strongest supporter. She loved everyone, including my stepdaughters. Never did she say step-granddaughters. They were her grandbabies. She made sure that all of her grandchildren knew that she loved them equally. I’m so grateful for the bond the siblings have. 😘
A dream for Mark and I.

So thank you, Momma! All seven kids have a family bond that takes them to a whole new level of loving and accepting people for who they are. Thanks for instilling the love and guided support for your family. We miss you so much.

You are no longer suffering. ❤️

I want to thank our children, for being who you are, loving your grandmother and being there for her. Making her laugh and sharing thoughts about your life and keeping her involved.

I want to thank my in-laws, for your encouraging words and inviting Momma to the family dinners. It meant a lot to her.

I want to thank my cousin for the words you shared with me on the way home. You’ve been there for me through thick and thin. Unfortunately, we both have something in common. Losing our mothers so early on in their lives. I will take your kind words to heart while finding a way back from the emotional riptide of losing Momma. Keeping steady on our own paths as we continue to raise our own families.

I want to thank my husband, Mark. He’s all about family. Mom loved that about you. As God intended, Mark’s my better half. His tender heart helped keep me on track. You’ve been my rock.

This final one brings me to tears. It’s during these difficult times, when the world is in chaos that makes me appreciate my church. While we balance the ups and downs of COVID, they’ve gone the extra mile to include the children who miss going to Sunday School by providing them with activities to do online. (When I shared this with Momma, she smiled. “Community. It’s the way things should be.”)

Mom believed in God, but lost faith in the church. When I dared to ask Momma if she’d attend church with me, she said, “I don’t believe in giving my hard earned money to someone who claims to be dedicated to preaching to his congregation, yet does the opposite.”

For years, Momma refused to attend church after seeing the pastor who had praised her for wanting to become a member, only to later see him at the restaurant where Momma worked. Let’s just say, he wasn’t with his wife. That was thirty-three years ago.

However, last year she became interested in going to church again. Of course, Momma being the sassy lady she was had to make a joke. She said, “If I start to burn up because I haven’t attended services, make sure someone has a bucket of water to put me out.”

My final message:

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned during my journey with Momma, is that life is too short. This wasn’t the first, second, or third time she’d been hospitalized with pneumonia. Or being near death. In fact, I tried to prepare myself last year and the year before when we’d almost lost her on two separate occasions. Just when the doctors had been prepared for the worst, Momma would bounce back and prove them wrong, only to be released from the hospital.

Again, only Momma. Just like my grandmother.

I think back to the story shared by Momma and grandmother. I was named after my grandmother because there was a concern grandmother would pass away on the operating table before I was born. So, just before my birth, Momma changed my name from the original one she was going to give me to my grandmother’s!

But yet, my grandmother lived to see another day! For me, being a member of the family, has shown that we treasure namesakes and family values that we’d like to pass down to the following generations. My husband and I has made that our priority.

After everything, I’ve confided to all of you here today, I must admit that my only regret was that I assumed Momma would come out of the hospital like she’d done so many times before. This time wasn’t the case.

I was shocked, hurt and knew that only God could heal my pain, while I tried to accept that Momma was in a better place. Yet, it was hard for me to accept that after everything she’d been through, there was no way to erase the pain she endured before she passed.

RIP Momma.

*This is my personal story.*

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