Tag Archives: grief

Goodbye Joey Feeks

On the day I die a lot will happen.

A lot will change.

The world will be busy.

On the day I die, all the important appointments I made will be left unattended.

The many plans I had yet to complete will remain forever undone.

The calendar that ruled so many of my days will now be irrelevant to me.

All the material things I so chased and guarded and treasured will be left in the hands of others to care for or to discard.

The words of my critics which so burdened me will cease to sting or capture anymore. They will be unable to touch me.

The arguments I believed I’d won here will not serve me or bring me any satisfaction or solace.   

All my noisy incoming notifications and texts and calls will go unanswered. Their great urgency will be quieted.

My many nagging regrets will all be resigned to the past, where they should have always been anyway.

Every superficial worry about my body that I ever labored over; about my waistline or hairline or frown lines, will fade away.

My carefully crafted image, the one I worked so hard to shape for others here, will be left to them to complete anyway.

The sterling reputation I once struggled so greatly to maintain will be of little concern for me anymore.

All the small and large anxieties that stole sleep from me each night will be rendered powerless.

The deep and towering mysteries about life and death that so consumed my mind will finally be clarified in a way that they could never be before while I lived.

These things will certainly all be true on the day that I die.

Yet for as much as will happen on that day, one more thing that will happen.

On the day I die, the few people who really know and truly love me will grieve deeply.

They will feel a void.

They will feel cheated.

They will not feel ready.

They will feel as though a part of them has died as well.

And on that day, more than anything in the world they will want more time with me.

I know this from those I love and grieve over.

And so knowing this, while I am still alive I’ll try to remember that my time with them is finite and fleeting and so very precious—and I’ll do my best not to waste a second of it.

I’ll try not to squander a priceless moment worrying about all the other things that will happen on the day I die, because many of those things are either not my concern or beyond my control.

Friends, those other things have an insidious way of keeping you from living even as you live; vying for your attention, competing for your affections.

They rob you of the joy of this unrepeatable, uncontainable, ever-evaporating Now with those who love you and want only to share it with you.

Don’t miss the chance to dance with them while you can.

It’s easy to waste so much daylight in the days before you die.

Don’t let your life be stolen every day by all that you believe matters, because on the day you die, much of it simply won’t.

Yes, you and I will die one day.

But before that day comes: let us live.

Poem by John Pavlovitz

This past Friday Joey Feeks – of gospel duo Joey & Rory – died in her hometown of Alexandria, Indiana, ending her brave fight with terminal cancer at the age of  40. Joey, beautiful and talented, was a woman of love and faith. She departed this world from the loving arms of her husband, Rory, into her Savior’s loving arms in heaven. Heaven is getting top-heavy. As I heard about her passing on the radio, I couldn’t help but cry. I was sadden because she had everything to want to live for. She had a devoted husband, a two-year-old, along with a couple of older daughters, and of course family members. But God’s ways are higher than our ways. And God had other plans for her. When we don’t understand God’s ways, we shall continue to trust in His will for our lives.

Joey Feeks will be missed by many.

http://theboot.com/joey-feek-tribute-video/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under death, Joey Feeks

My Sister, If Only …

I remember first holding you, so tiny in my arms.
Next thing I knew, you turned two, angelic, and quite a charm.
Your silhouette dancing in my dreams before my eyes –
Remembering your joy with my simple lullabies.

I imagine your eyes, your voice, your laughter,
Spending time together, nothing else mattered.
Thinking about you often before crawling in bed at night,
I loved you so much, never wanting you out of my sight.

I wish you could tell me what’s on your mind today?
What are the things you’re longing to say?
Would you have married a wonderful husband?
Live in a castle and have many children?

Oh, if only, if only, I could see you now,
I would run to you, hold you and twirl you around!

Oh, sister, there will always be a hole in my heart,
But I guess I knew that from the start.
If I still had you now to talk, share secrets, laugh and cry
I would not be here now thinking: Why did you have to die?

Photo Credit: LuLu Taylor via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: LuLu Taylor via Compfight cc

 

© M.A. Pérez 2014, All Rights Reserved

In memory of my sister whose birthday is around the corner. She would have been ten years older than my first born! I had to say goodbye to her when I was nine, a month after she turned two years old. I remember so much pain and suffering back then, looking back, I believe God spared her from something worse. I look forward to the Blessed Hope that one day we will embrace one another again. She will not come to me but I will go to her. And we will NEVER have to be apart.

To read more about my sister from last year’s post, click here . . .

11 Comments

Filed under Loss, Personal, poetry

The Little Green Dress

I held her close and cradled her head.

Soft, velvety cheeks. A round rosy nose. Dark hair like mine, but curly. Eyes, blue, that sparkled like the ocean I’d seen in storybooks. I kissed her sweet-smelling face. Her soft, pudgy hand with tiny fingers, curled inside mine. My new baby sister, Anna, melted my heart. I won’t be alone anymore and she won’t be alone. I caressed her face and whispered, “I’ll stay by your side for always.”

Soon left with the responsibility in caring for her, I became my sister’s substitute momma. I loved her and took care of her as best as a seven-year-old could.

The day we ran out of baby formula and diapers, I didn’t know what to do. I waited until Anna stopped fussing and fell asleep in her carriage (we didn’t have a crib for her). Then I ran to the corner to a hole-in-the-wall where I knew my mama and step-dad Jimmy were.

A blinking neon beer sign over the door clattered when I pushed it open. Dimmed lights hung from the ceiling. The hazy, smoke-filled room from cigarettes made my eyes water and nose run. Loud music played on the jukebox. Boisterous men and women engaged in a game of shuffleboard, others threw darts. Still others sloshing their drinks perched themselves on bar stools, carrying on like screaming peacocks.

“Whataya have?” yelled the bartender. I jumped at his voice, thinking he meant me.

“Hey Charlie, whose girl is this?” a man grinning with a silver tooth asked.

“She’s Ruthie’s little girl,” Charlie answered, pointing in the direction where Mama sat.

The all too familiar rowdy voices of my parents’ cursing at each other reached my ears. I ran toward them. When I told Mama about Anna, she and Jimmy started arguing over money.

I waited, feeling forgotten, wishing Mama would hurry and come home with me. Then someone handed me a nickel to play the jukebox. I remembered my manners, thanked him, put my coin in the slot, and punched in the numbers to Spanish Eyes.

At last, Jimmy gave Mama what she wanted, but he remained roosted on his stool.

When we returned home, we never imagined that someone had called the law. They met us at our front door holding my naked sister, wrapped in a soiled blanket.

“Is this your baby?” an officer demanded of Mama.

“Yes . . . yes . . .” her voice cracked.

“Ma’am, have you been drinking?” The other cop asked in a gruff voice. But before Mama answered, he stepped forward and said, “Turn around and put your hands behind your back. You’re under arrest for child abandonment.”

“Ma—?” I choked back the burn in my throat.

To my horror, the police officer put handcuffs on Mama and started telling her something about “remaining silent.”

Why can’t she talk? “Tell him, Mama,” I insisted and started to cry. I turned to the officer to explain, “We were going to buy milk and diapers for my sister . . .”

He didn’t hear me and shoved Mama in his police car. She looked at me; her face glistened with tears running down as they drove away.

“Where . . . is he taking my mama?” I choked, sobbing. I hovered close to Anna, ready to grab my sister, to run fast and hide before he took us to jail, too. In my confusion, I don’t recall what he said except that they were there to help and to take us to protective custody. I protect my sister, I thought. I begged him not to separate us.

The cop drove us to a children’s hospital for routine examination and to remain there for safekeeping until a suitable family member claimed us.

(TWO YEARS LATER):

A siren blared nearby.

I turned to Mama and asked, “Where’s Anna?”

“That drunken louse came by to bother me again,” she huffed.

“Mama, you said you were finished with him.”

She swatted the air with her hand as if shooing a mosquito. “He insisted on taking his little girl for a short walk.”

A neighbor came running and whispered breathlessly with Mama. Right then, a police car pulled up, its radio static coming from within. An officer climbed out of his cruiser and walked toward them. Within seconds, someone let out a cry, her voice sounded familiar. In shock, I witnessed my hysterical Mama sprinting down the street. I stifled a scream. My heart pounded in my chest. I didn’t know what happened, where she was going or why.

I don’t remember who drove us to the hospital. But once we arrived, a nurse pointed down the hall to where they cared for her. Except I couldn’t go to see her because I was too young.

I had to see her.

My legs trembled as I crept to her room and peered through the glass-paned door on my tiptoes. First, I saw a blinking monitor. Then I saw her—my baby sister—with soiled feet still in her favorite, green denim dress, tattered and torn. On her back Anna lay motionless, her curly brown hair matted with blood. Her face bruised and swollen, her baby blues closed tight.

I felt light-headed as I slumped on the floor, pulling my knees to my chest, crying.

That night, we returned to the scene of the accident. I will never forget the puddles of congealed blood that saturated the street. I wanted to scream. To run. To hide. Blood-soaked rags from my sister littered the pavement.

Others offered shallow words of comfort. “Don’t cry,” they said. “Think positive thoughts,” they chimed. “The doctors are doing everything they can for your little sister.” But all I heard was my sister’s blood calling out to me, along with my broken promises: “I’ll protect you,” pounding in my head.

A couple of days after, I awakened to the sound of rain and a car door slamming. I peeped out my window and saw a taxi pulling away from the curb. My grandparents, their faces grim and eyes downcast, walked to our doorstep. A shiver ran down my spine and a horrible dread washed over me. I threw myself on the bed, a knot lodged in my throat. Then I heard my mother’s wails. I curled up in a ball and covered my ears. God, it hurts! I cried. Make the pain go away.

My sister was gone. Forever. A month earlier, we celebrated her birthday. She had just turned two. I was nine, but felt ancient. Empty. And heavy. The weight of the world on my thin shoulders.

Like a fuzzy video tape, fragments of blurred images and sounds played across my mind: Anna’s dancing blue eyes, laughter like the morning sun, vibrant flowers . . . Mama’s primal screams, hushed voices, muffled sobs.

At the funeral, I held my breath and willed my feet toward the small white casket. Grandma squeezed my hand. I took my finger and stroked my sister’s face that reminded me of a doll made of plastic, stiff and cold to the touch. Heavy make-up could not conceal her bruises. Her grotesque head cradled by a bonnet, much too small. She wore a new green dress, cleaned and pressed, with no stains. Or blood.

I glanced up at Grandma. “Your sister’s in a better place now,” she choked. Then I placed a small cross under Anna’s tiny, rigid hands. My tears blinded me.

“. . . If I should die before I wake, I pray thee, Lord, my soul to take.”

Why, God? Why? Why did you have to take her?

Anna, I’ll love you for always.

Mama sat by the farthest wall away from people, away from the coffin. Her eyes were swollen and red. She didn’t seem so tough then. I went to sit by her.

The year 1968 was a year of deaths that shocked and changed history. But the girl in her little green dress was the one who mattered to me. She was my sister. My best friend. She lay in an unmarked grave.

(FOUR DECADES LATER – a flight to Miami):

The area was a lowly, plain grass-field devoid of even a tombstone for my sister. No headrest. No name written. Or flowers anywhere. Just hard soil. Plenty of weeds. I crumbled to my knees and sobbed.

Anna, I’m sorry. Sorry I couldn’t do better. Sorry I failed you. I promised, “for always,” yet fell so short. If I could hold you now, I would.

Closer.

Tighter.

Never let you go.

If only I’d done more, fought more, loved more. I see myself holding you. Holding you so tight, that time stands still. Darkness cannot swallow us. Pain cannot touch us. Death cannot rip you from my arms. Sorrow cannot engulf us.

God, it still hurts . . . bring healing.

Before I left the cemetery, my brother and I purchased a tombstone and had it engraved.

Por fin,” I imagined my grandma saying.

Yes, Grandma, finally,” I whispered. “At last and long overdue.”

sister's tombstone

In memory of my sister, Anna R. Molloy, who was struck down by a hit-and-run driver.

InMyArmsPicture

© M.A. Perez 2013, All Rights Reserved

37 Comments

September 21, 2013 · 5:50 PM

She Hurts No More

At 5’2”, Grandma was a pleasantly plump woman with a round face and full lips. She had a light olive complexion, wore reading glasses that sat on a nose “too fat” she often complained. Her soft, wrinkled skin smelled like Jean Naté.

My grandma’s name was Ana, born in 1898, the second of six siblings. She worked as a secretary for a steamship company, typing and transcribing in Gregg’s Shorthand. She was soft-spoken, a temperate woman. I witnessed her faith in action. Seeing her on her knees by the bedside in prayer was the norm. She expressed love and devotion by being a “doer of the Word and not a hearer only,” forever willing to help others. Even during the times when I’d see her wincing from the pain in her knees and feet, she’d still stand over the stove, making treats to hand out, or write cards and letters to encourage others.

Grandma suffered from arthritis and blamed the tight pointy shoes she wore in her earlier years for causing her painful feet. All her current shoes in black were odd looking and clunky like the ones worn a long, long time ago. I enjoyed playing in them as a youngster.

Clip-clop. Clip-clop. Grandma’s shoes echoed as I walked in them across the tile floor.

“Mary,” Grandma called to me, sitting at her sewing machine, rubbing her eyes. “You have good eyes, dear. Por favor, thread this needle for me.”

With one eye shut, I squinted, concentrating on the task of getting the string into that tiny hole.

Grandma wanted me to learn how to sew, but I preferred sitting on the floor, playing with her sewing stuff instead. I either sifted through the mason jars she kept filled with buttons of all sizes, or rummaged through her large round tin can packed with spools of colorful threads. Inside also were porcelain thimbles, a pincushion, and even a wood darning egg for sewing Grandpa’s socks.

The click-clacking of her sewing machine in the afternoons were soothing to my ears. Listening to her humming to His Eyes Are on the Sparrow, whether she sewed, crocheted, worked in her flowerbed or bathed me always ushered in a warm sense of belonging and well-being for me.

On wash days, Grandma ironed all bed sheets, linens, pillowcases, cloth napkins, and even Grandpa’s white hankies. I helped her to fold but knew I didn’t like ironing one bit.

“Mary, it’s good that you give me a hand,” Grandma said as she sprinkled water over a napkin before ironing it. “You must learn to do these things yourself one day,” she added.

Gonna get me a maid for that, I thought.  

Overall, I liked helping Grandma with chores. She saved S & H Green Stamps that I enjoyed pasting in a book. She did many things differently than what I saw Mama do with her time. Even when she was busy, Grandma always talked to me. I liked studying her. I thought it funny the way her mouth moved, with her lips still closed, whenever she read. I marveled how her fingers typed fast and hard on the keys to her black manual typewriter, wishing I could type like her.

In retrospect, Grandma liked my curious mind and eagerness to learn. When she gave me a small white leather Bible for my own, I felt special.

Mija, have you been studyin’ your Bible verses?”

“Yes, ma’am. I learned it all.”

Bueno, let’s hear it.”

“The Lord is my Shepherd . . .” I began. As promised, when I finished, she gave me a crisp, two-dollar bill.

Sometimes I watched Grandma in the kitchen cooking and helped by peeling carrots or potatoes using her peeler.

“It’s good that you pay attention, dear,” Grandma said, wiping the chicken grease from her hands on her apron.

“Why?” I asked, rubbing my eyes burning from the onions.

Señoritas must know how to cook. And you dun want to become vaga,” she replied in her broken English, throwing everything into a pot, adding milk.

“What’s vaga?” I asked.

“It means lazy. You dun want to be that; you’ll have a family to care for one day.”

My husband gonna have to help cook if he wants to eat, I mused.

At my grandparents’ house, I’d run about or played hide-and-seek as much as I wanted. Except maybe when I tried playing an April Fool’s joke.

I waited, crouched down low behind a chair and listened for her. I thought myself witty and barely could keep from snickering. As her footsteps came closer, timing it just right, I sprang up with arms raised and yelled, “BOO!”

But it so happened to be my grandpa instead.

He popped my enthusiasm letting me know it was too early in the morning for such nonsense. He might have popped me on my bottom too, if he hadn’t missed when I shot past him like a dart and hopped back into bed.

Years later, after Grandpa’s passing away, Grandma hadn’t a soul to depend on. Yet she never stopped doing good deeds for others.

Grandma often spoke with my mama regarding her own illness, insisting she wanted to be at home when it became her time to die and not in a hospital.

I prayed that when God took Grandma home, that He would help me to relinquish her. I didn’t want her to suffer anymore but still found it difficult in letting go. I knew I had to, I knew I needed to, but I didn’t know how or if I could.

* * *

A horrific day for our country. In shock, I watched the Space Shuttle Challenger break apart and burn, seconds into its flight. Five men and two women lost their lives tragically for the good of all humanity. They lived their dream by serving others. I may not have known them personally, but they died as heroes.

Three months later, on April 3, 1986, sickness reduced an unsung hero to skin and bones as she lost her bout with cancer. She wasn’t affluent. Refined. Or famous. She was an eighty-eight-year-old Puerto Rican woman. My beloved grandma. And my heroine.

When Mama called me and told me about Grandma’s final moments, sobs stuck in my throat. She expressed how she had sat by my grandma’s bedside terrified, while listening to her breathing as it came in short, laborious rasps.

“Your grandma’s parting words were, ‘God is calling me now,’ and then she gazed up at the ceiling.” Mama spoke dolefully. “So, I asked her, ‘How do you know?’ but she didn’t speak anymore. She closed her eyes and I held her close.”

My mother’s trembling voice jumbled in between her sobs. “I . . . told her that I loved her. And I said to her, ‘you carried me . . . for nine months.’”

I pictured that heart-rending moment, imagining Grandma’s gentle countenance and Mama struggling to convey her love. And I thought, Oh Mama, she carried you longer than nine months. My insides ached, knowing that in her heart and prayers, Grandma carried us all.

My grief came in waves. Looking back, I know God spared me from becoming hopelessly morbid and consumed with anguish. Grandma wouldn’t have wanted that. Knowing she no longer suffered, I believed her final heartbeat didn’t mean the end but the beginning.

I wanted to celebrate her life when I journeyed back to help with her memorial.

Once a plump woman, Grandma had lost so much weight in her final days. She had always loved a white Easter dress of mine and requested that we bury her in it. My dress fitted her perfectly then. I also asked that everyone wear white instead of the customary black garments at her funeral.

White carnations—Grandma’s favorite—covered her opened casket. I stood, my eyes caressing her still face, now so thin. Vivid images of her life jumped in my thoughts. I saw her on her knees pleading to God to be merciful to her loved ones. I recalled the many prayers of her being grateful for another day. I pictured her lips moving wordlessly when she read her Bible, with her index finger pointing to the sentences across the worn out pages. I could still hear the sound of her soft voice calling my name. I remembered the merriment of her laughter after listening to one of my silly jokes. I couldn’t blink away the hot tears that blinded me.

In my mind’s eye, Grandma came to me.

I could hear her.

Feel her.Grandma

Touch her.

Her love, her hugs, her kisses embraced me.

We honored her memory and her passing from this life into the next.

A gentle breeze blew the heat of day; the sun hid behind the clouds. The scent of rain.

As it started to drizzle, my heart comforted. Grandma always considered it a good omen if it rained on the day someone laid to rest.

Before long, her coffin lay in a crypt next to her cherished husband, my grandpa.

At last, Grandma’s labors had ended. Thank God, she hurt no more.

(An excerpt from Running in Heels – A Memoir of Grit and Grace. A small tribute to my dear grandma who passed away 27 years ago, whose birthday would have been this month.)

© M.A. Perez, 2013, All Rights Reserved

13 Comments

Filed under Crossing Over, death, the Challenger