How did you do it?

Sometimes it seems you’ve struggled your whole life. You were born in 1932, three years after the start of the great depression. The circumstances into which you were born would be considered more than a “little to be desired.” However, the family into which you were born was held together with a strong bond of love. There were eight of you altogether, father, mother, three boys and three girls. This was a small rural, poor farming family, by any stretch of the imagination, in rural Cross County, Arkansas. Being African-American and living in the heart of the Jim Crow South, placed horrendous limits on just how much justice, equality and humanity you could expect.

I can recall, though at the time I wasn’t aware, the various kinds of separate and unequal treatment you received. Unequal though it might have been, you were persistent in providing a home and care for your children: Larry, William, Terri and me. You never seemed to be so discouraged that care for your children was placed on a back burner. As I got older, I could discern the weight of the struggle under which you reared all of us. Somehow, though surviving in dire poverty, you would bring laughter into our ram shackled, no-running water, wood-stove heated abode. I can recall many times when joy would abound. How did you do it, knowing that there would be times when we had doubts about from where our next meal would come?

You only had a ninth-grade education. I think that had a lot to do with you making sure your children received as much education as we wanted and desired. Although you didn’t always know how to support us, academically, your emotional support was always strong and invaluable. All your children went beyond high school in their educational pursuit. Your support was instrumental in making that happen.

You’ve been struggling the last fourteen years with Alzheimer’s. We’ve seen this vicious invader of your body slowly chip away at your ability to remember acts performed just minutes after you initiated them. Conversely, you would have detailed conversations about events that happened fifty years ago. The hard drive would playback randomly and with such eloquent detail. Oftentimes, the struggle under which you were operating was obvious, as we all saw you slowly retreat into some dark corner of your being that we couldn’t reach. Somehow, we all knew you were there, you just couldn’t find a crevice to peek out beyond the darkness. Fourteen years, that’s a long time to struggle with losing your connection to self and all that you love.

Yesterday, your struggling came to an end. You are no longer navigating in an imperfect world with imperfect skills by which to exit. You are with your Lord. Yes, I do believe you’re in a better place. I’m convinced that where you are now is far better than where you’ve been these last few years. Looking over your life (what I’ve witnessed and been told about), I’m still left with the question: How did you do it? I’m sure the answer is obvious to you, and it’s one to which I cannot argue: God’s grace.

Rest peacefully, mom. We all love you.

I’m old and blessed…. hope you will be too.

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