Fight vs. Flight

Flight Won

I was never much of a fighter anyway.

And so I fled.

The decision to leave my not so home anymore of a hometown wasn’t one that came without consequences. Many consequences would follow but for now just a few nay sayer’s was what I had to endure.

“Leaving to go where?”

“Are you seriously leaving?”

“You’re a girl, a Haitian girl. You’re not suppose to do things like that.”

Some of the things I heard when revealing my decision to move out-of-state. I was fleeing and there was nothing anyone could do or say to stop me. My intention, my plan, was to take whatever money I had, say my goodbyes, then head to the south where eventually my “unofficial” godparents path and mine would cross then some version of happily ever after blah blah was to manifest itself.

I was to head out alone leaving behind the turmoil that had become my life. A close friend decided her life in Boston was not for her anymore as well, so she, her boyfriend, and myself packed up and headed south. But first one last stop. One last goodbye. Again.

With fresh flowers in hand to cover my guilt, I took steps towards the spot which held my mother’s tombstone. With everything she owned still in a storage in my name, the thought of being completely disconnected overwhelmed me. I knew for some time I was leaving but now, before the representation of her, it became clear I was leaving that spot, her spot, as well. Stupid huh? Did I ever think I could take it with me? Not really but when you cross a bridge you had been putting off  you never really know what the outcome would be. I couldn’t take her with me. I couldn’t take the tombstone with me. I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. So I snapped a pic. Should I have done that? Who knows. It felt weird doing it then and weirder remembering that I did now. Don’t ask why, all this was new to me.

My friends gave me all the time I needed to say goodbye but knowing we’d be driving, or at least they would since I hadn’t learned yet (don’t judge me, it was Boston and as long as I had the bus and train schedule I was fine l.o.l). I expressed my love to a piece of rock engraved with the portrait of her face. I laid down flowers which I’ve never been good at picking out, I turned and left.

The feeling of freedom I thought would come from saying goodbye and driving away from it all did not transpire. Quite the opposite in fact. At that moment, had I packed up the whole of Massachusetts and drove off with it, it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. Everything, everyone, every agony brought on by this tragedy, every last bit of it all, was in that car driving to start a new life with me.  There was no need to turn back as most do when moving away from all that they’ve known, turning to see the homes they wouldn’t see anymore and the stores they’d no longer visit, and thinking of the reasons for the move. My stuff, all of my stuff was coming along for the adventure. My baggage would have front row seats to the new me’s next move. My baggage had already begun forming the new me. I didn’t know it or I didn’t care. I’m not sure. Mostly, I didn’t want to care.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

…Sometimes we wish we knew the plans that was mapped out for our lives. When we have children we sometimes try to shape their lives with our own plans. I thought I had a plan, as unclear as it was, I thought I had one. Living blindly in grief leaves so much unnoticeable room for a plan. God’s plan. Thank God for His plans.

The sounds that plagued me

I thought I’d be terrorized for the rest of my days. Memory is something else I tell ya. For a while I thought perhaps I was one of those people compared to an elephant because my memory was so in tack. I realized my mind had another mind, one of its own. That mind was selective. Drawn only to those memories that rendered me a coward, jumping out of my skin at every turn at what seemed to birth a déjà vu moment. Numbing those senses was my only refuge during those in the valley moments of my life.

The crashing of pots and pans that resulted in her facial disfigurement. The sounds of feet, in haste, rushing down flights of stairs to her rescue. Rescue from what, at that  moment, we did not know. Those are the sounds that plagued me. The meeting of metal to the skull then the resounding clanging as that piece of metal hit the tile floors. The slamming of a bathroom door. The rummaging of a not so much a stranger aimlessly looking to destroy whatever crossed his path. Those are the sounds that plagued me. The shouts to go away and what are you doings spilling out from a crackled voice that was my own.

Many more sounds followed but the two that haunted me to the point of…I couldn’t speak of them were the laughter and gargling. The laughter, the sick almost clownish, empty giggling laughter of a once welcomed individual, that sound, that horribly frightening sound, followed me even as I slept. There were many horrific sounds. None however, can top the gargling. The gargling at times brought me to my knees. Not to pray but to force the noise out by squeezing my ears against my head tight enough between the palm of my hands, fighting back tears and hoping to pass out into a deep dream-free slumber. A vain attempt because I longed for dream-free rest that never came. Remove my innermost memories was my wish, my only wish, in those times. Gargling, trying to breathe through a mouthful of ones own blood. I misspoke, or mis-wrote…whatever, what tops that sound was much worse. The sound that tormented me more than the agony of hearing her struggle to breath as she choked on her own fluid of life was the sound that followed. The sound when she was unable to struggle for life any longer. So now the sounds of silence had its own torment to dish out.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers (Goretty, readers, you) whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.

Being able to put aside memories that stalked my every waking and sleeping moments was a far more difficult task for mere puffs of smoke and or gulps from a bottle could handle. But what grace. What mercy. What honest to goodness breath of fresh air it is to be able to sort through the silence and noise and hear my Jesus. He calls on to me through it all. And now, now a shower behind closed doors with my children on the other side making various noises and slamming this bedroom door and crashing that toy truck against the other, those noises are exactly what they are. Just that.

Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Back up to Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Very deep sigh. Jesus is so awesome ya. So very awesome.

My once home

It was that time. Boy, how things moved along. We were in a special category since her death was what it was.  They couldn’t exactly kick us out in the streets. We were relocated to a much smaller apartment in another part of town. Our once 3 story apartment was to be a 3 bedroom, section 8 whatever. I had nothing against section 8 but it was just another slap in my already bruised up face. I am grateful however that we were at least of age enough to be on our own. Kinda. We all know early 20’s ain’t really adults, might as well have been 16, 17, but yea.

We had been staying with an aunt but it was time to clear out our home. The scene was no longer a part of the investigation or what have you. So my older brother and I set out to dispose, clean, and sort through 3 floors of a lifetime. As we got closer to our destination my chest reverted back to the puking feeling I dreaded, an odd feeling that resided deep in me since that day. The feeling I got the minute I was put in the back of the cop car, naked, wrapped in a sheet a female officer handed me from the house, and watched as they rolled my mother out on a stretcher. She was covered as well, completely covered with a sheet not from our home. My stomach twisted and turned. I refused to express the emotion, especially to my older brother who was dealing with his own feelings, I’m sure.

As we stood in front of the building before entering, he inquired whether or not I was scared. I said nothing. He assured me that our mothers blood should have been cleaned up. I said nothing. He then continued to say not to be afraid of ghosts or anything because if anything it was the spirit of our mother and she was all good. How I wish we had smoked before this. Or did we? That’s all I ever did anymore, well most of anything I ever did. It was whatever. So in we went.

We came through the bottom level, the living room, which I wonder if it was strategic on my brother’s part. The back door, the middle level, which we could have come in was the kitchen, where it took place. Maybe it was me, for having gone through the ordeal, but the smell of my once home was so different now. The faint smell of real authentic Haitian cooking was once a staple in our home. Now, the walls bled the odor of death muddled with the hint of bleach or whatever the city’s cleaning people used. I decided to close my senses to everything but the memories rushed over me like a wave. I wasn’t fit to ride this wave. My brother handed me an industrial sized black trash bag. I should’ve just jumped right in because that’s how I felt, like trash.

Psalms 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.

…I wasn’t ready to cry out to Him, not then, not the way He wanted. If I had I wasn’t sure I’d ever stop. I was a leaky faucet of emotion. A slow drip that made its appearance during appropriate times, nothing more. My few outbursts were reserved for me alone. Otherwise, I’d…I’d drown outwardly as much as I was drowning inwardly. I was fine holding it together the way I had been. I was… I was fine… I was fine.

…I held on to that lie for what seemed like forever.

Now what?

The word mom never held so much meaning to me until I had no one to call by that name. For many years after her death I preferred to be working or sleeping through holidays such as Mother’s Day. Even after having children I felt a bit out of sorts celebrating on those rare occasions.

I was 21 when my mom was murdered. Her funeral was a blur as much as anything else during that time. The constant memory of the one and only song that replayed over and over, “Mama”, still brings a lump in my throat. Who knew we should’ve had more music on that tape? Leave two very young adults to put together a funeral and well that’s what you got. At least in our case. With my younger brother in a coma, casualty from the gruesome event, it was up to me and not so much older brother to deal with details. Of course relatives extended help but there was a sense of obligation. She was our mom. We had to make the decisions.

The funeral was crazy to me. I mean I knew my mom was a goodhearted person and she gave of herself to anyone in need but wow! I can recall numerous times when she would pack up food for random people, invited many people at different times to come stay with us because they were down on their luck. It was never a surprise when I overheard someone thanking her for some act of kindness she showed them. I knew people valued her on her job where she was an RN for many years. I knew our church loved her. She was loved yes, I knew, but my gosh! It wasn’t until her burial did I realize just how much people respected her. You’d have to have some ounce of respect to go to someones funeral. The grave site was quite a sight. It was utterly packed and cars were still coming in. Who knew she knew so many people, touched so many lives, earned so much respect from so many? She was just mom. She was just my mom. But now, now she was gone and I felt numb. Numb and cold. Cold as the brisk October air. I felt totally lost. Not a word to explain, not a thought to hint at a feeling worthy of this emptiness. Mom, a word I could never say to anyone again and feel what I should feel when uttered.

In an effort to comfort me, someone who I can’t recall, said to me my mom wouldn’t want it any other way. That her death was preferred over my own or my brothers. You see, we, my younger brother and I shared that horrible experience with her. She was the only one to receive the fatal end of it all. Of course I understood the logic behind the words and I know my mom would give her life for her children all over again but….did I wanna hear that? Side eye and sucking my teeth Haitian style. Now a deep sigh. “Now what?” was all I could think to myself.

Now what? I needed a new skin. Mine burned and itched. But it was mine. I needed a new brain. Mine was full of emptiness and it swallowed me deep. But it was my mind to deal with. I needed a new heart. Mine was broken into dust. My mom is no longer and I am stuck with remnants of my former self. I hardly knew me before. I still needed her. But now…..Now what?

Romans 14:8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

…she now belonged to the Lord in death as she did in life.