Early this morning, just before sunrise, I spent time with Mama.

Minnie Lucille Elliott Danley. The woman who loved me most in this whole weird world. The woman who, inexplicably, searched her big purse as if looking for her car keys when the doctor told her even chemo couldn’t save her. The woman who believed the best thing was to know a thing, no matter how painful, than to hide and deny the blackeye of reality. The woman who hated all her jobs but never missed a day. The woman who drank hard and loved harder. The woman who fought for my right to attend Howard University even though it wasn’t a nice White school down south. The woman who loved 70’s Marvin Gaye and 90’s Sade. The woman who never stopped saying don’t you worry, you gone make it one day Baby, you think that lil award was sumthin? you ain’t seen nothing yet. ( FYI: For my little punctuation freaks, I’ve decided to use italics this time instead of quotation marks. Shoot me).

My Mama. That Mama, stopped by, finally, to visit me this morning.

And shut up. No! It was not a dream. It was a vision visit, like a Zoom, if that helps you understand what I’m saying. She was there, we were there, but there was in another space, the one in which she now exists.

The visit was courtesy of some benevolent Realm Manager who said: here girl you’ve been asking for her every since she died three years ago here ya go and she looks so much better than you remember with her smooth skin and legs that walk here she is all whole and breathing and back home to see you on a visa from Heaven see God let her step away for just a minute so you could stop hurting so badly during this dreadful pandemic so you can stop wondering if you’ll ever see her again and hear her nagging voice the voice you want to die listening to. see look here’s your mom so now you can go back to your little life telling everyone she came to see you after all those years of snot and headaches. she came. she’s alive, somewhere.

But, I digress. Let me tell you about the visit: Mama was home in the little old house where she raised my brother and sister. She looked so good, walking through the rooms, babbling, smiling, so at home at home.  I can’t remember what she was saying; maybe that’ll come to me later, like some forgotten scent recalled by a happenstance waft of perfume at Macys. My cousin Rennie (her nephew, who suffered a fatal heart attack years ago) was there with her, keeping her company, kneeling at the foot of her bed, delighted. They were, they are so happy in the little rambling house. I was ecstatic thinking wow, she’s back, this is so so special, she’ll only be here for a few weeks but isn’t this wonderful that she’s back?

And here’s the part that sticks: when it was time for me to leave, I asked her if she wanted me to turn off the lights filling up each room. She said yes. But there was a final light, a small one, on the back of the stove, illuminating the time. (What time was it?) I asked her if she wanted me to leave that tiny light on and she said:

no, you can turn it off

This is where I came to, reentered my body and exploded. With my hair a wreck and my plaid pajama pants falling off, I jumped out of bed, threw on my glasses, ran to the car and drove around the block to scream and cry in private. A few minutes passed (how many?) and I calmed enough to breathe, I started wading through the vision, trying to get a handle on it without squeezing it too tight.  (The lawnman on the standing mower must’ve thought I was insane). 

My takeaways so far: 

One: Mama intentionally chose me to visit because she knows how Corona-distraught I am. She must’ve been watching the other night when I was sitting at the kitchen table, looking out of the window at the saddest, most barren streets I’ve ever seen and feeling like I wanted to run, naked and sweaty and bug-eyed, beneath the street lights, lonely if not for a few fire flies.

Two: She knows I will honor and respect the vision by sharing it with the right people, like Aunt Myra (Rennie’s mom, her oldest sister), my sister and brother, my children and my husband, my grief groups (and maybe a few people at the grocery store).

Three: She knows I will not denigrate the vision by calling it dream, nor will I allow it to drip through my sieve of memory and fall away. Best believe, I’ll be recounting this bad boy on my deathbed.

Four: She also knows her babygirl is the family communicator who will find all the right words to recount each fleck of detail, down to the way her hair was undone, how she shuffled contentedly from bedroom to kitchen to bathroom.

Five: She misses me, too.

And another thing: If you can turn the light off was her attempt at closure, it didn’t work. I’m not ready. I’m still reliving the vision: how her skin was smooth and healthy; how no hospice nurses were in the room, nor any oxygen tanks or vials filled with morphine by a trembling hand. I’m still so glad she saw fit to stop by and see me, even it was while I was lying down in raggedy pajamas. I’m not ready for goodbye or any such sweet finalities.

See, at the end of the day,  I’m just a little dog waiting beside the front door, wondering why my friend left, where did she go and when is she coming home.

I’ll wait here forever.





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