The Courage to be OK

We must have the courage to fall–and the courage to be OK.

“It takes courage to love again when you’ve been hurt.
It takes pain and strength again …
to pack it all away.
Somewhere in all the pain somebody has to have the courage …
to be OK…”

Madea’s Family Reunion

April’s painful, unexpected events have blurred my vision. I feel confused and angry, pessimistic and heartbroken.

But I have trained myself so diligently to think positively yet flexibly. After more than a year of introspection, therapy, and growth, my brain yearns to feel joy in spite of pain. I want to be brave. My lips want to smile even when I’m frowning. Although though I am sad, I long to be happy.

Then guilt sweeps over me. How can I continue to laugh and smile when someone I loved can no longer do so? But reason must prevail: I know my loved one would want me to be alright. He wanted me to succeed when he was alive, and I doubt he would have changed his mind about that.

I’ve practiced the art of positive thinking because life is going to feel unbearable at times. This is exactly what I’ve been preparing myself for–the heartache, the loss, the sadness, the inevitable difficulties of life that fortify us, if we allow them to.

Slowly, the little pieces of glitter dancing in the snow globe of my life are falling back down. Soon they will settle, leaving my house in precious peace for a time. I am determined to keep my head on tight as the chaos dissipates.

In any hardship, I want to have the courage to be OK–and I know that strength is inside of me.

Living, Losing

The day before he passed, my younger sister wrote our uncle's name in the sand in Gulfport, MS.

A week ago today, I watched a man I’d known my entire life take his last breath.

My two sisters and I drove over 1,000 miles to see our Uncle Donald, who was in ICU at a hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi. I hadn’t been home in six years.

For the past week, I’ve been through an array of emotions. Disbelief.  Sadness. Anger. Fear. Loneliness. Disappointment. I lost my grandmother (his mother) two years ago, but this feels different. Unlike Weya, who had been ill with dementia for years, Uncle Donald was up walking around, driving–he had taken the long trip from Maryland to Mississippi in his beloved “Jeepo”–and doing things the average person does. He had even recently begun texting. I knew he was battling a few illnesses, but I didn’t know he had been sick for as long as he had.

While I’m still having trouble accepting the fact that my dear uncle is gone, I have so much to be thankful for. He survived Hurricane Katrina. He always had a smile on his face. He always wanted to make us laugh, even if his jokes were corny. He would come bearing gifts–T-shirts, car adapters, oversize headboards–anything to make us happy. I can say, without a doubt, that he squeezed every ounce out of this life that he could. As much as it hurt to see him in that bed, I had the privilege of being there until, literally, the very end. We went down there to see him, and we didn’t leave him behind: It was as if he had waited for us. The truly profound experience of watching his final moments means more to me than I can express.

I’m coping with this loss. I sleep, cry, and stare into space a lot. I’ve been looking at old photos and calling his answering machine. I can laugh sometimes, but I can’t smile yet. With each day, however, I’m doing a little better. That’s all I can expect from myself at this point. I’m preparing myself to write something beautiful about him for his memorial. Though losing Uncle Donald hurts, the peace I know I will feel when I fully accept what has happened and embrace my wonderful memories of him is worth the wait.

Who Does That? Pretending Someone is Dead

Fresh off the heels of a glorious Vegas trip, I received astounding news: My 29-year-old friend passed away in a car accident. I was stunned. Shocked. Heartbroken. I didn’t question why the sender notified me of such harrowing news in a text. I briefly wondered who she was and why she asked me if I ever dated the victim, but I left it alone. The important issue was that my friend was gone. I’d never see him again. I felt extremely guilty for not responding to his last text. I was numb.

When I asked the sender for more information, imagine my surprise when she told me she didn’t have any more. Why, you wonder?

Because my friend wasn’t dead.

When I was fleeing my classroom and bawling in the women’s restroom, he was at work. Alive. Doing things that living people do. While classmates were consoling me and helping me take slow, painful steps to the Metro–I rode the train home with my head covered the entire time–my friend was just doing business as usual. The sender admitted that she was his ex-girlfriend and, after seeing my name in his phone, she became jealous–to put it very, very mildly.

Needless to say, I was furious. I was truly grieving for my friend. For the three days I believed he was gone, a cloud hovered over me, and anvils sat on my shoulders. I couldn’t crack a smile, not even a fake one. Sure, I was relieved to discover that he was alive and well, but grief is not a state you just snap out of. I still feel heavy, sickened, slow. It doesn’t help that six years ago, two close friends actually did pass away in a tragic car accident. My brain still believes something is wrong–and that’s because something is.

This girl is crazy. She’s dangerous. The fact she can tell another person that a friend is dead is lunacy of the highest order. You don’t play about deaths. You can pretend you’re sick all day, but to say that a loved one died–and actually carry out the sordid joke for days–is insanity. Who does that?

Thankfully, I’ve talked to my alive-and-kicking friend, and he apologized profusely for his ex’s actions. Although I still can’t believe a person can be so tactless, cruel, and deranged, I have been able to smile and laugh more, just a little bit. With time, I’ll be completely fine.

So will she, with professional help and proper medication.