About a year ago…
Wait. Let me start differently…
In 1994. Literally, the day after my mothers funeral. April 2nd was the day of the funeral. Then, April 3, 1994 would be the exact day, that something happened. Something different. Something crazy. Something even more horrible than my mothers murder.
Something so weird and somehow worse than my mothers death:
Everyone was gone.
Now when I say that “everyone” was gone, you might not believe me or you may think that I’m exaggerating. Because, what could I mean when I say that EVERYONE was gone? Especially when I emphasize the EVERYONE.
Well, I mean exactly that.
Now understand something, I am not trying to justify any of my behavior, shortcomings, issues, faults, or mistakes. I am not making excuse or offering reasons to relinquish my responsibility to my own life. I stand on my own two and I accept that all I have is me when it boils down to it. Family, friend, or foe; None of them matter when my time expires. I will have to answer for and take account in who I was and chose to be. And that I acknowledge and accept.
But, for the record, there might be a reason I am the way that I am.
So yea, EVERYONE was gone.
Put this in perspective:
Before my mothers murder, we were part of a community. A very large community.
1. There was the family community. My mother was one of the connection points in our family. She was the person that kept up with everyone and knew the generational lines and the stories. She was the one that could reach out and be reached out to. She was the one that held the function or was invited to the function. She cooked and knew how to cook, and fed the family. She communicated with the family. She instilled in us the virtues and value of having and being family. She was prolific in that.
2. There was the friend community. My mom had a lot of friends. Especially friends that she was very close to. Friends that we treated like family. Friends that we believed were family. Friends that she maintained consistent relationships with. Friends that had children that we communed and congregated with. My mothers friend-girls were essential to her life. They meant the world to her. She was there for them. Our home was opened to them. We were familial with my mothers friends. Most of my mothers friends that had children, children became my cousins. Because my mother treated her friends like they were her sisters. And so they were defacto aunts to us. We held regard, reverence, and respect for them.
3. There was the faith/church community. God, this woman loved church! She loved God. But boy did she love His house. Especially the one that we went to 3-5 days a week. My mother was heavily, intricately, involved in the church. As goes, so were we. My mother was on the Missionary board, Nurses board, Fellowship Committee, and a constant fixture in all things to do with our church. And thus we were in everything that we could join: children’s choir, Sunday school, and whatever program that she could fit us in. And me, well I had to write and speak/perform for all of it. Because my mother felt the gift that God purposed in me was to be used for God and by that church. And she admired the pastor. She expected me to model him and for his mentorship/example to guide me into and through manhood.
4. There was the work community. My mother worked at 2 law firms for most of the last 8+ years of her life. She was a legal secretary. She was beloved and considered at her places of employment. Years before that she’d worked at Montgomery Wards for a time as well. My mother’s coworkers and bosses from those jobs and others were part of our lives. Some of them had become friends and were active participants in our community. We knew some of them. All of them knew about us. Because my mother was proud of her family. She was vocal and bold about her brood.
That was all of our community. This was all we knew. These were the people and the participants that were familiar to us. My mother was a social butterfly. She was outgoing and adventurous and curious to the escapades that living had to offer. My mother liked to live. She expressed and exposed to us that we should live. That we should experience the fullness and possibilities available at our fingertips. She was serious about that. My mother urged us to explore. We were living in Dixmoor, Illinois at the time and my mother made sure to teach me to know that Dixmoor was only where I lived, not where I had to stay forever. My mother loved the city of Chicago. She took us on buses and train rides to experience the city. She taught me the geographical aspects of the city early so that I could understand how to navigate the landscape. She loved the water, the people, the feel.
That was my life, our life. That was our consistency and routine. The community (village) and her hope/love/optimism. That was the formula. That was life as we knew it. The community(ies) was who we knew.
Let me add a little bit more.
I have a different father than my younger siblings. Their father, whom I love and have always seen as “dad” is not my biological father. I’ve grown up all of my life with my “dad’s” family though. So most of the aunts/uncles/cousins/nephews/nieces/grandparents that I have spoken of are actually his family. Because he and my mother had been together since I was a year old. In fact, he knew my mother before she met and married my biological father. So I’ve been in his life and he in mine, for my entire life.
But my mother never prevented me from knowing my biological father. Or having a relationship with him. Because I wanted one. My entire life I sought out a relationship with my biological father. I have his name. Actually he and his fathers name. I look like him. I wanted to have a bond with him. My mother always said this though, “… That is your father and I will not ever deny you access to him. But I won’t allow him to hurt and disappoint you without recourse. He’s your father, not mine.” She said that because my father had some issues that he was never able to overcome. He was never able to be the father to me that I wanted and that I believe he wanted to be. I tried for years to have and maintain a relationship with him. Especially after my mothers death. But it wouldn’t happen. In my quest for life answers, I prodded my father with questions that he was unable to come to term or truth with. My desire for clarity and comprehension of who he really was was a challenge to him and he shut down. We were never able to have hard conversations. But I loved him and I forgave him. When he died, I was there. I and my sisters were at his bedside when he took his last breath. I hold no anger or animosity with him. He is part of the reason that I am here and I am grateful for that.
There is a family on that side too. My mother never prevented access to me from that side. She didn’t facilitate it, but she didn’t stop it either. I wanted to know them. I wanted to have a relationship with blood cousins and aunts and whomever was a Flowers’.
Family has always been of the highest level of importance to me. Especially when I was younger. I wanted to be related to people so bad.
That was my other community. The biological family that I have. The biological family that I knew about at that time, because, well that’s another story.
For another time.
Other than that, this is how I needed to start this.
Let’s fast forward to last year. June 17, 2022.
Now, let me be clear: I’m ready to LIVE. Really live. In the moment at the moment. Present and aware. Not in the past, not thinking about the future. I am ready to live in the now. So I am doing what I believe (and feel) is best for me to be able to do that.
What that looks like is this, me telling my story. Me facing the facts of my truth. Me allowing myself to acknowledge and accept “what is” so that I may move on. Instead of holding all of it in. As I have.
And I might help someone other than me. Because this is helping.
Back to June 17, 2022. Actually the day before. Which is Tupac’s birthday. A holiday in my eyes. A very important day for quite a few reasons. Never mind. Back to the subject…
On June 16th I reached out to someone to see if I could get someone that could find my Aunt. My mothers sister that I’ve not seen in a really long time. My sister and brother have not seen her since my mothers funeral.
Getting ahead of the story. Ignore that last sentence for just a couple of paragraphs.
I sent my info through someone to get it to someone that I believed might be able to get it to my aunt. I didn’t know how long that might take, but I was ready to have a conversation. I didn’t know if I had questions or answers. I just knew it was time to talk.
I wanted to reach out and talk to her. Because I want my family. I want to connect my dots. I want healing and I know that my healing requires that I connect certain dots. Because I know what I’ve dealt with and gone through. This crazy-ass story of mine that I’ve been telling for all these years! I need to get to the good chapter and I believe the good chapter comes when I complete a few steps in these chapters. I’m ready to do that work. I’ve been doing that work and it led me to that day reaching out to see if I could get hold of my aunt.
Well, the next day I received a text. The text was from an unknown sender and I had no idea who it was. The text was congratulating me on marriage and whomever sent it called me “Corn”. I had no idea who it was. Even though I’d sent out that request the day before. I guess because I didn’t expect a response, especially one so quickly.
Who is this…
And my aunt responds that it was her. I called immediately.
Now, my aunt may read this. Other family and friends and “community” will.
Understand that I get it. As messed up as this story is, as stupid and terrible as some of my experiences are, I get it. I am able to forgive because of that. Because I understand. Because I give myself the grace to be human, I can offer grace to humans. No matter what. No matter how fucked up the shit that I am about to say is.
So I call my aunt. The sound of her voice filled in gaps of time like rain water to dried river trails. Instantly. Years of no contact seemed moot and minuscule as I felt connected and belonged. My voice, that of a 43 year old man, at times reverted and reverberated between the ages that I remember her and I best. Times that included my mother. My voice sounded like puberty and joy and exuberance and despair. I don’t know what it sounded like to her but I heard all of these things. I smiled from the time she answered my call up until about…
Getting ahead of the story again.
So, we talked. We discussed my now things: My Son, my Siblings, my Wife, my Bonus Boys, my job(s), my search for family and such. I told her about taking an AncestryDNA test and finding out who my mothers father was. I told her that I found that I had 8 aunts and uncles and more than 68 first cousins that I’d found out about in 2021. She let me know that she’d known who my grandfather was.
And here’s where the conversation, or my smile, went…
I asked her why she hadn’t told me who my grandfather was. Because I’d asked everyone. Especially my mother, for my ENTIRE life. I’d always wanted to know. My mother never said anything. After she was dead, my grandmother and great uncle Bubba wouldn’t tell me. My uncle Mike would never tell me and my aunt wouldn’t say it either. No one would answer any of the questions that I always asked!
To this my aunt said, “… Corn, that wasn’t my story to tell you. That was Michelle’s. She had her reasons for not telling you at that time. I’m sure she would have eventually, but she hadn’t gotten there yet.”
My mother and aunt didn’t have the same father.
But my aunt knew all this time that the family I’ve now come to know as mine is exactly that.
That conversation led to a deeper conversation into all of these years that have passed. Years that we’ve not seen or heard from them. I’d actually seen my aunt and uncle back in the late 90’s and in periods of the early 2000’s because I’d moved to Atlanta where they lived. I’d even stayed with my aunt while my grandmother was living. But our relationship was never solid. I always felt like she didn’t like me or that her and others felt some kind of way about me.
I used to attribute some of that to the fact that my aunt, like my grandmother, my moms side of the family, are Jehovahs Witnesses. I’d been exposed to some of the ways of the witnesses. Especially as it pertains to them disfellowshipping those that were not in alignment with their views. I’d seen that happen before. I thought that maybe I’d not been accepted because I wasn’t a witness. Or because of my mothers life or lifestyle choices. It’d come out that my mother had been in a relationship with a woman. Her suspected killer is that woman. I thought that maybe my aunt and other family, especially the witness side, had considered us fruit of the poisoned tree.
I couldn’t conceive any other reason for the mass exodus from our lives.
And I didn’t understand it. But I communicated it. I told all kinds of people how my family and our village had literally disappeared after my mom’s funeral. Since 1994 I have expressed my confusion and frustration with how, to this day, May 9, 2023, not more than 3 people have ever come and checked on my mothers children. Total. There has not been 3 people all together that ever came and checked on my mothers children!
My dad has been in the same house all of our lives and still lives there. We moved there after my moms death and have remained there since. And not 3 people, of the hundreds that my mother entrusted us to, have ever even come by, called, or cared enough to do anything else. They literally disappeared.
And I mentioned this to my aunt. I told her how that had created a complex in me that prevented me from forming solid bonds or relationships. It destroyed my faith in humans and eviscerated my ability to trust people. Because EVERYONE disappeared.
I chased after some folks, I went looking for people from our past and I attempted to forge relationships but to no avail. There was so much silence and ambiguity and underlying angst. But no explanation. No reasoning. No communication.
Just absence. Void. Questions.
That’s trauma. On top of the traumatic experience that was my mothers murder, us sleeping in the house with her dead body not knowing she was unalive, to me discovering her body. On top of all of that, was the severe and devastating separation of us from everything that we had known.
Now complicating this all for me was the fact that I knew more than a lot of people did about the things going on in our home, before her murder. Because she’d kept me around and explained certain things to me. I’d been there when…
Let me get back to this conversation with my aunt.
I’m telling her just how much it hurt and how frustrating it has been. To which my aunt says this:
“… With my today eyes, I know that the wrong decision was made. But when all of this happened there was a different choice, a different feeling. And no one ever called and checked on me. My sister was gone and no one ever called to see how I was doing. And you had made a choice. You chose to go and live with the family of the person that murdered my sister.”
You can read that again if you need to. It took me a minute or so to digest. It’s actually taken a year for me to write about. I’ve talked about it. I immediately called my wife and told her that it was said. I called my best friend and told her. I called my little brother and told him. I went to see my dad and said it to him as well. And I’ve told quite a few others. Because that shit blew me the fuck away.
Not much was said, substantive, after she said that. We got off the phone soon after. Every second after the phone call was filled with clarity and confusion. Anger and dysphoria. Freedom and redemption. Validation.
I knew it!
All of these years I’ve said that I felt blackballed from my family, from my community. I’ve railed consistently about how “everyone” disappeared, and those that I sought out treated me a particular way. And there was this silence. This loud deafening silence that sat in the midst of my interaction with quite a few people.
I thought all kinds of shit.
I just never thought that.
So, story time…
My mothers murder was… expected.
That seems really harsh to say, huh?
I know. You just don’t know what I know. What I saw. What I heard. What happened before.
The person that murdered my mother said she would do it. She told my mother that she’d do something to her. My mother put her out in August of 1993. She did not go quietly. She actually pulled a gun on us the night that my mother put her out. My uncle was there, because my mom had asked him to come over just in case things went awry. Things did. She pulled out a gun and my uncle pushed her down. The gun flew in between the bags that were in the living room. Earlier that evening my mom had us pack up their belongings and put all of it in the living room. My mother had finally had enough. Enough of the lies and having to deal with the issues she’d dealt with over the years.
My uncle was on standby and alert just in case something crazy were to happen and surely it did.
She had re-entered the house after the landlord called my mom and said that she was with her and asked if it would be okay for her to come and retrieve a few items out of the bags so that her children would have school clothes the next morning. My mother acquiesced and told my uncle and I that she would be returning, to let her in, let her get the things, make sure she leaves, and lock the door behind her.
It was only the three of us there. My mother had called my dad and told him to come and get my younger siblings for the evening. She told him that she was putting this woman out and didn’t want my little sister and brother home if something happened. She’d done that before, anticipated or expected an issue with this woman and made arrangements that only I would be home with her. Not for protection, I was a child, but for documentation and witness. Because I was able to relay messages, remember details, and process information.
The woman that murdered my mother knows that I know things that no one else alive knows, regarding what went on in our home. Because I was there. I remember the fights, the arguments, the suicide attempt, the threats, the neighbors that joined her and tried to intimidate my mom after she’d put her out. I’ve never forgotten any of it. And the money. The stocking with the crown royal bag with the money in it. The money that she may have believed only she and my mother knew about. My mother told me where it was, and what it was for. She also told me who all knew that it was there. Only the three of us.
The morning I found my mother there was only one thing missing/disrupted in her room. That drawer was open, the stocking was hanging over it, the bag was on the floor. The money was gone. Nothing else was missing. Nothing else out of order.
Other than my mother lying on her bed, face on her folded arms, a bullet hole in her head, dried blood across her face.
Yes. I remember. All of it.
Why am I saying all this right now? What does this have to do with my aunt and her saying what she said last year?
Let me explain:
The woman that murdered my mother. The woman that is responsible for my mothers death. The woman that I’ve been talking about all of these years- is related to my dad.
I grew up in a house and assumed that we were all family. Because she and her children are blood-related to my dad. And thus they are related to my siblings.
I grew up under the impression that they were all my cousins. My mother raised us in that house as a family. The woman- that I always had some sort of apprehension towards- and I never got along. I didn’t like her. I don’t know why I didn’t like her. I just didn’t.
I have things that I’ve always appreciated about her, but I didn’t like her.
I really didn’t like that I felt that her and her children took away my siblings and I from having my mother to ourselves. My mom was really big on family. And in her home, we were to be family. My mother literally beat me (whooped my ass) to trust that woman. Because I made my distrust and dislike for her well known. My mother did not like that and she made me well aware that it was not going to be tolerated.
In our home, we were one family. I guess I was a bit naive, and in a lot of denial too. Because over the years I’ve grown to acknowledge how much of what happened in that house was their domestic partnership. They were in a relationship. My mother was gay.
I pretended that we were one big related family. But her and my mother are not related. Although she and my dad were, she and my siblings were, but she and my mother were not.
They were lovers.
Using some of my aunts language, “in my today eyes” I can see that.
But a lot of other people saw it then.
People knew what was going on in our home. And in 1994, well, 1994 wasn’t 2023.
My mother forbade me to divulge information about the things that went on in our house. She expressed it under the guise of privacy. But it was secrecy. She didn’t want me telling people how things went in there. And I was none the wiser. I was a kid. I didn’t know what it was, to have defined it like it was.
When I look back now, yea, but then, nope.
My mother and that woman slept in the same room. With a door that was closed and locked 110% of the time. My mother was the feminine/lady of the relationship, that woman was the masculine/stud. She was like the man of the house. She did most of the roles that society says men should do. She even dressed like a dude. She had a dude-like presence. She didn’t have a job most of those years though. She worked temp jobs and had part time employment, because my mother had always worked 2 full time jobs.
That’s part of how I framed the reason for that lady and her children being there. Because my mother worked and she was like our live-in babysitter. Especially when they first moved in. My mother was pregnant with my baby brother. She went back to work soon after she had the baby and that woman was who took care of the house while my mother got back on the job. She was who watched us, kept my mother’s guidance and instructions obeyed. She was who saw us off and home from school, and fed us.
She couldn’t cook in the beginning. Lord no. Except for these biscuits. She had this homemade biscuit recipe that was amazing. See, I appreciated some things about her. Albeit biscuits.
And I got jumped once, on our front porch. She took me in the house and told me to put my hands up. She gave me a fighting lesson that day. I’ve only lost one fight since then. And that fight I was blindsided. Other than that… well, I appreciated the lesson.
But they were in a relationship. I don’t know when it started. I don’t know how it started. But it was a relationship. And I do know this: she loved my mother. Because my mother was very hard not to love. And I witnessed my mom give that woman and her children a love that only someone who loves you can give you. I watched my mother take her and her children in, and give them an unconditional love. And she demanded unconditional love in our home. She demanded respect and loyalty to one another. We were to be a unit. My mother hated to ever hear one of us children say, “My momma said” or “Your momma said”. Especially when we were saying it in disobedience or deceptively to express our rebellion to one of the moms in our home. There were not supposed to be two sets of rules in that house. Only the one set. They were to be the authority. We would follow, obey, trust, and respect accordingly.
Or, like my mother would always say, “… punishment will reign swift and severe”.
I can only imagine what it looked like from the outside of our home. How people saw it; the opinions, the gossip, the feelings about it. I was not privy to those conversations. So I don’t know what even our community felt about my mothers lifestyle. Who knew or thought they knew, who said something or wanted to say something. Who objected or who supported it.
I didn’t even know that my mother was gay until a few years after her death. That’s how naive I was.
I found out when I was told by someone that they’d been told by the woman’s daughter that I was accusing her mother of murder because I was mad after finding out that my mom was gay.
Shit, that was the day I found out. Them relaying that message. That was the year 2000. My mother had been dead since 1994.
Soon after I’d went and spoke with the pastor of the church that we’d grown up in. He explained the ineptitude and absence of the church this way: “… Corn, it was 1994. We didn’t know how to handle homosexuality. We didn’t know how to navigate your family’s situation. We’ve made changes since then. No family will ever suffer the way that yours did. We dropped the ball with you guys. We won’t ever do that again.”
I guess no one knew what to do. Or what to say. So they said nothing.
My dad didn’t kill my mother. Someone in his family did. He loved my mother. He and my mother rekindled their relationship not too long after she’d put his relative out.
I hope you’re following me.
Part of the reason that my mother was killed was because she’d started back a relationship with my dad. She cut off the woman and got back with her baby daddy. I’m at the age now of the adults in the room then. I get it. I really do. I’ve pretty much always understood that part anyway. Because I was in that house and had been exposed to all the mess that was going on. Myself, my mom, that woman, and the police. Yes, that’s something else not a lot of people knew. There were many police reports. Because there were quite a few incidents between my mother and that woman.
When my mother was murdered they picked her up immediately. They knew her by name. They knew her mothers address, where she was staying. They arrested her. They held her for 72 hours. They had lots of evidence. It was just all circumstantial. The states attorney sat me down and told me:
“We know she did it. We just don’t have the proof right now. I cannot take this case to trial and risk losing, allowing this murderer to go free. We will get her.”
That was in April of 1994.
Joe Falica, the Dixmoor chief of police at that time, spent years trying to get her arrested and charged for my mothers murder. He died a couple of years ago. He’d reached out over the years to let me know about things that were going on in her life that were suspicious. Like, she received an insurance payout from my mothers death. They tried to stop it but because she wasn’t formally charged, they had to pay her out. A few years later there was a house fire where a relative of hers died. She was the beneficiary of a policy there too. Chief Falica tried to get them to not pay that one either. They did though. He wanted us to take our case to the press, to “America’s Most Wanted”. He hated that the state wouldn’t prosecute her for my mom’s case.
The Dixmoor Police Department was mired in controversy and drama. They’ve never been cooperative. I can’t speak for anyone over there now. But back then, yea, nothing.
I’d reached out to them for years. No response. They stopped investigating our case a very long time ago. A few years back some detective told me that files had been lost/destroyed.
Does this all seem like a little too much to be dealing with?
Imagine having to deal with it as a 15 year old!
The thing about what my aunt said, “…You chose to go and live with the family of the person that murdered my sister…” that really bothers me…
Because, again, “… with today’s eyes” I get how everyone could make such an assertion. I guess that is what it looked like. That actually is what it was. I did go and live with the family of the person that murdered my mother.
But I was 15. I wasn’t going to leave my 11 year old sister and 8 year old brother. I wasn’t going to allow us to be separated. My dads house was our comfort zone. That’s where we were when my mom was murdered. That’s where we were most weekends, holidays, and every summer.
No one thought about that part? Everyone just asserted that I chose to go and live with “that” family and chose to abandon us? And hold me responsible for making that decision? And make me pay for it?
Let me add some more context…
My mother was a saved-baptized-Christian at the time of her death. She grew up a Jehovahs Witness.
I watched and witnessed the judgement, alienation, and hypocrisy of my Jehovahs Witness family, firsthand.
How you are able to put religion in front of compassion, empathy, understanding, love, and other humans is absolutely beyond me. I do not get it. I have never gotten it. I will not ever get it. Ain’t no God in that.
But what strikes me so terribly about what my aunt said is the fact that no one ever even checked on us! To this day. My sister and brother have not seen any of the people that were our community, since. Like I say, I have, because I spent years trying to get answers, closure, and connection. But it’s been weird. It’s been tragic.
A little more than a year ago, March 24, 2022, I had a conversation with my dad. The first time we’d ever talked about my mom.
Can you believe that? Crazy, I know.
But we had a talk. I told him some things I’d wanted to say since my mother was murdered. He said some things I’d never heard him say, and he acknowledged and apologized for mistakes that he is aware that were made. It was a conversation long overdue and very much needed.
I want to talk about one specific thing he said though…
“… They treated y’all like y’all were poison. All of them. Everyone around. That church, her friends, y’all’s family, and my family. All of em treated y’all like you were poison.
We made it though. We made it.”
Poison. That’s exactly how it felt. Like we were poison and no one wanted to touch us.
And here is my aunt on the phone, telling me, confirming what I’d felt all these years. Acknowledging exactly that, that we were poison, even if she didn’t use those exact words. That’s exactly how it felt for all these years.
“… you chose to go and live with the family of the person that killed my sister…”
My dad loved my mom. She was the love of his life. Her murder tore him up. I’m making no excuses for him and how he’s mismanaged the grieving process. I do not condone 90% of the way that my dad handled being the kind of parent that we were used to versus the parent that he was. I’ve told him, specifically in the conversation that he and I had in March of 2022, how much harm the way he treated me particularly has had an ill-effect and caused significant harm. He’s not off the hook for any of that.
But I understand the dilemma. I recognize what had to be an enormous conflict for him. Considering that he was confronted with, and had to face, an entirely different set of truths than we. Especially as an alpha male, especially the man that he was to and for my mother. I can only imagine the level of betrayal and hurt he endured. And he shut down. His adrenaline raised us. Everything else was hurt. He’s never recovered. He has managed. But he’s never recovered.
Hurt people really do hurt people.
He should have had the support of the community. Our community should have been there for all of us.
Even if they felt like I was making a bad decision, why not check on us? Why not come by, or call, to at least see if we were okay?
Instead of doing absolutely nothing.
I haven’t spoken with my aunt since that day. A week later, she sent me a text. The text was religious. It wasn’t human. It wasn’t family. It wasn’t love. It didn’t deserve a response. I never responded.
Even though I absolutely forgive her. Because I understand. It’s taken me awhile, but I understand people. Now. I just know that my mother would have never done that to her. My mother would have never done that to her nieces and nephew. My mother would have been there for them.
My mother would not have treated any of her community the way her community treated us.
Not for nothing, before I go on, let me address something else: Because it may seem that I have a certain feeling towards Jehovahs Witnesses.
Let me tell another story…
A few days after her murder we had to begin planning the funeral. Funerals, from my experience, are always chaotic and messy, especially in the black community. From my experience anyway.
I was only 15, but I’d heard about and seen some of the drama that came when death arrived. Drama stemming from money, belongings, property, and other stuff had always been issues I heard people talking about. And mess between folks that had issue with one another, exes and feuding family members, secret kids, as well.
I knew, or thought I knew, the problems that were going to come with my mother’s service. I expected there to be some “family” there that was going to present some agitation and anger- or elicit those emotions- from others, being it well known who was responsible for my mothers death. Not that you can prepare for what might happen, you can consider it though. And be braced for impact. I’d braced myself for that impact.
We started planning the funeral and things seemed to be going well. My dad is and has always been the most financially responsible person that I’ve known. He is always prepared, always has an emergency fund, always had his ducks in a row. Even in an emergency.
My mother’s death was no different. There was no argument about it being paid for, he was resolved to make a way. The only problem that we encountered, he and I, is that I kept picking the most expensive everything to memorialize her. I wanted a white, mother of pearl/opal casket with gold trim. I wanted a horse-drawn carriage, every fresh and live white lily/rose/carnation flower they could procure, and I wanted a marble stand-up head stone.
My dad told me that I couldn’t have all of that. Because I was being ridiculous. He told me that my mothers funeral could be done “right” without me picking out the most expensive everything that I did. So I settled on a much cheaper casket, a lot less flowers, and a flat-in-ground, rose colored limestone headstone. The headstone couldn’t be one that stood out of the ground anyway, the cemetery that we were burying her in no longer allowed the protruding ones.
For as much as they could be going well, the funeral plans were going well.
Now, understand this: I was 15. My mother had raised me to be a certain level of responsible, a specific level of disciplined, and a certain level of in charge. As much as it hurt, I was to be composed for her during that moment. And I was. As it relates to the planning of my mothers funeral, my dad left it up to me to be able to see my mother off properly. There were to be no bones about that. I was going to get what I wanted, my mom was going to be interned in as special of a way as the budget, and our strength would allow. It wasn’t a lot of mess, or drama. Things were going okay. Until I got summoned to my grandmas house. She called and said that she needed to talk to me about the arrangements that I was making.
I was not braced for this.
My grandmother informed me that there was an issue with the ceremony that I was planning. It was being held in my mothers church home. My grandmother let me know that if I held it there, she and my Jehovah’s Witness family would be unable to attend. Because they do not step foot in churches.
And I love my grandmother. My grandmother had always been my favorite person. She’d always been my go-to person. My grandma had been my first love. She and I had a special relationship. She meant the absolute world to me.
I could not fathom having my mothers funeral without my grandmother there. So- as much as it broke my heart to not have my mother’s service in the church and around the community that she loved dearly- I relented, and agreed to pick another venue. I chose The Whispering Woods funeral home. A place that one of the adults in the room suggested. I had resisted my grandmothers desire at first, because I knew what my mom wanted. I knew how she felt about the Jehovahs Witnesses. I knew how she felt about the church. It should have not been a decision to make. But my grandma is my grandma. She was my person. I thought that I’d not be able to live with myself choosing a place that she and my aunt, uncle, and cousins would not be able to attend.
So, the funeral was April 2, 1994 at the funeral home. Packed to capacity. Sweaty, tense, and frustrating.
Religion shouldn’t do that.
Nor should it do so many of the things that I PERSONALLY HAVE WITNESSED AND EXPERIENCED RELIGION DO!
So, yes, I have issue with the Jehovahs Witness religion. Just as I have issue with every other religion on this planet.
There is no God in religion. Religion proves that time and time again. Religion separates and divides. Religion guilts and shames. Religion hurts and hides. Religion subdues and enslaves. Religion manipulates and masterminds. Religion condemns and controls.
I have 44 years of experience to prove that. No need to try convincing me otherwise.
I do not have problems with people. Christians or Jehovahs Witnesses or Muslims or any other follower of any religious ideology. I don’t have problems with individuals. Humans are flawed and make mistakes and are…
I understand humans. That’s how I am able to forgive them. That is how I have been able to forgive all of it. I have absolutely forgiven all of it. I get that humans have to connect. Most times, especially in this country, connection comes by way of religion. It’s tradition, it’s culture, it’s the system.
So it is what it is. Some people are unable to separate themselves from their religion. That’s okay. I know how to separate myself from their religion.
Even if they can’t.
That don’t mean I’m reconciling or reconnecting with everyone though.
I forgive you. I’m not forgetting though.
I believe in God. I know that God, this Universe, Creation, is much bigger than me and in me at the same time. I know that to be how and why I am here, still here, and why I want to be here. Why I still have hope and faith and love and care and concern and get this, trust. Why I believe and why I forgive.
Believe me, it is only an act of God that could give me the level of tolerance for the trials that I’ve withstood.
The following is an excerpt of an article that comes from:
Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (US). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Health Services. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2014. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 57.) Chapter 3, Understanding the Impact of Trauma.
“…Trauma, including one-time, multiple, or long-lasting repetitive events, affects everyone differently. Some individuals may clearly display criteria associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but many more individuals will exhibit resilient responses or brief subclinical symptoms or consequences that fall outside of diagnostic criteria. The impact of trauma can be subtle, insidious, or outright destructive. How an event affects an individual depends on many factors, including characteristics of the individual, the type and characteristics of the event(s), developmental processes, the meaning of the trauma, and sociocultural factors.”
Everything that I’ve been writing about over the past couple of years is about this. About how trauma affected me. About why I’d been largely ineffective at consistency. Inconsistent as it pertained to humans. I was able to do some amazing things on my own, but as soon as humans were involved I would withdraw, run, escape, hide. I was triggered by the right and proper things. By the good things. The things that should have been well with me. Words like trust, love, commitment, belief, and similar, when delivered from even the people I loved and appreciated, caused me anxiety and depression, hurt and frustration.
For so long I didn’t understand why. Before I begin to study the effects of trauma. Especially childhood trauma.
The traumas that I experienced early on altered my way of thinking. As a defense mechanism I adapted protective measures that my mind believed would keep me from experiencing much of the same hurt, chaos, dysfunction, or disaster that I had. I formed what I can only describe as a full body scab in order to cover my openly wounded self. That scab became a callous. That callous became my shell. After awhile it became a fossil.
I had to excavate myself out of it.
To do that, my past had to be dug into.
Some of that shit has been HARD to do.
But I had to dig. I’ve been digging. And dealing.
And here I am.
Out from all of those layers.
Woooh. Deep breath.
That’s enough for today.