It has always been my greatest desire to be like my mother.

The night before her passing, my mother held my hand tightly as I lay beside her. I hugged her and prayed with her and asked her for her blessing.

Her last words to me were, “Tell them everything you know about me.”

I chuckled (clearly not understanding her message at the time), “Of course, I will Mommy.”

When I shared this with my friend Marcus, he stated, “She is already making her way home to the ancestors and this now becomes your journey …..at this most sacred time.”

Overcome by the grief of her passing the next day, I had forgotten about this comment till this moment has brought it back to me. My mother passed the next morning in that delicate space between dusk and dawn.

It was her birthday.  

It’s been a couple of months since and as memories of my mother wash over me and I work to handle the huge loss that enshrouds me, I am strengthened by the gift of peace, compassion and grace she has bestowed on me and my siblings. And I am cognizant of the responsibility I hold in discerning her story and how to tell it. And as I ponder the priceless gifts my mother has left me, I am also pondering the gifts that I too may bestow onto others and that gets me thinking, what kind of footprints am I leaving for others to follow? I am grateful for my mother’s example.

From childhood to the day she passed, I adored my mother. I recall watching her dress to go out. She always turned this into an experience. She began preparing from the night before, resplendently laying out each item of clothing from dress to shoes, to scarf, to handbag. Then in the morning, or whenever her appointment was, she proceeded with the ritual of getting dressed.

I recall a time when I was about five or six and how enthralled I was observing this ritual. At that time, she wore her hair close to shoulder length and used the cones from the toilet paper to set her hair. I watched as she removed each roll, each curl falling, and her fingers twisting them into place. Then powdering her face, just a little, then the final touch, the red lipstick. In the end, she was simply the most beautiful person I had ever seen. This could be one reason why I did not want to leave her and go to school. I would invent stories and illnesses just to stay home and be with her. When my ruse worked, and it often did, I stayed home and she made me teas and let me stay in bed. I watched her as she worked, sewing or tidying up the house and we had these wonderful conversations talking about life and making big plans like going to the library and getting a new book or having a party with my friends. (As our family grew to be eight siblings over time, it seems that there was a birthday celebration almost every month).

I have always wondered at the comments people make about becoming their mother, for it has always been my greatest desire to be like my mother. From the earliest memory I can recall, I have always adored my mother. Sure, there were my teenage years when I scoffed at the constraints she placed when I sought to embark on adventures with friends away from home. There are those times when I asked her permission to go to a party with my crew and she said, “No, it is not every drumbeat that you must dance to,” and I just could not get why she would say that. I recall another favorite of hers, asserted in her lilting Jamaican vernacular, “Don’t stay out till dog ‘fraid,” as I dressed to leave for an outing with friends.

Later on, she must have passed on this same piece of advice to my teenage daughter Nicole who spent many summer vacations with my mother in Jamaica. It was April 2022 while we were on a rugged beach front, off the beaten path  in St. Mary, Jamaica that I observed Nicole feeding the stray dogs while she took photographs of them. “Why are you feeding the dogs and taking photos of them?” I admonished her. “If you feed them, they will follow us around all day.”

 “I want to share these photos with Shain (her son/my grandson),” she replied. “I had told him about Grandma’s saying, don’t stay out till dog fraid but couldn’t  quite explain the metaphor. Now I get it. If it is so late that even these stray dogs are too afraid to be out, then no teenager should be out at that time.”

I smiled to myself. The wisdom of my mother, trickling down through the generations.

I now realize that my mother has left a sustainable framework for us to continue the journey for I can and will pull from her lessons. And as I walk in her memory, I like to think that I am becoming like my mother, for it is my greatest pleasure and my highest achievement to say, I am my mother’s daughter, for that says everything you need to know about me.

(This photograph taken the day I said goodbye to my mother.)


About Dr. Marvalous!

I am an educator, author, and community/cultural activist of Jamaican heritage, deeply concerned about the way we shape and are shaped by society. How do we engage the resources around us to realize our creative potential? How do we give of ourselves to become the change we want to see in this world? It is my intention to engage an audience in energetic and provocative discussions on these issues. https://www.soundtheabengmarvamcclean.com
This entry was posted in Family Life, Loss and Grief, Mother's Love. Bookmark the permalink.

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