You might have noticed that I’ve been pretty quiet on this site lately and I promise there’s good reason.
On August 3, 2016 at 7:25 AM, my momma, Bishop Gwendolyn P. Mack, took flight and transitioned from this life to the next.
There’s so much to say about the grieving process. Even when you know death is coming and have time to somewhat prepare, the grief still hits you hard and comes in waves. I also learned that there is no shortcut or accelerated course for the grieving process. You have to go through all of it.
I appreciate cultures that give you a year to mourn because there are days I’m ready to take on the world and other days I don’t want to leave my bed.
Mix grieving with a near four-month weight loss stall and another big loss to our family and you’ll understand my desire to go on a real vacation; one where I’m not obligated to do anything.
The Woman Who Had Eleven Strokes
Momma had a total of 11 strokes. Eleven strokes. So many people don’t even survive the first one. Thankfully, momma’s first set of strokes were minor; her speech and mobility weren’t severely impacted. With a few rounds of therapy, she was up and moving around again. We thought we had dodged a big bullet and that “all was well.”
But momma’s high blood pressure and diabetes were difficult to manage. Finding the right combination of meds to combat it all was like chasing a moving target. Not to mention momma liked to eat whatever she wanted. Like the one time I walked in the house and smelled fried fish.
Momma, what did your provider cook for you? No ma’am!
The next set of strokes were game changers. These strokes would immobilize her, interfere with some of her cognitive and memory skills and slur her speech and she was frustrated. She believed God would heal her and that she would one day walk again and even drive. She believed the best was yet come.
Wade in the Water
On Sunday, May 22, 2016 my youngest niece got baptized and my momma wasn’t able to attend.
We took lots of pictures and video and sent it to her. I called her later that evening to tell her about the service. I relayed all the messages from the pastor and members on how she blessed their lives and how they loved her. They said momma would always have lasting fruit as a result of her labor of love and I told her so.
I told her how much she meant to me and that I loved her. I thanked her for all she had done. Even through slurred speech you could hear the smile in her voice. “Aww, thank you baby girl, ” was her response.
I knew in that moment she needed to hear all of it. That she needed to be edified and I reminded her that she made a difference in the lives of many. We wouldn’t realize the span of her influence until the day of her funeral.
My mom was an incredible woman who mentored other women in ministry. She welcomed other women into the presbytery and shunned the competitiveness that can sometimes happen in ministry. She was always lady-like, even from behind the pulpit. That is what people remembered about her and shared on that day.
What I also didn’t know was that would be our last conversation. In the wee hours of the morning, momma had strokes nine, ten and eleven and they were massive.
As much as we wanted her to get better, we were realistic about the outcome. Her full recovery and complete healing would happen in the presence of her Savior.
Operation Push Play
Over the next few months, my sister and I planned what we called Operation Push Play. We put as many things into place for momma’s transition as we could to make the process easier when the time came.
I pulled info for momma’s obituary and tried to remember as much as I could. I had to call remaining relatives to help fill in some blanks. My sister and I rummaged through photos and I designed and laid out momma’s obituary. You can download it here.
I would create a page then lay my head on my desk and weep. I created my Grandmother’s obituary but I don’t remember the process being so soul wrenching.
True story. When I was designing momma’s obituary, through lots of tears and sniffles, I scrolled through tons of photos of flowers and different cloud backgrounds. None of those images resonated. I kept saying, she would so not like this. She would get me good if I did some flowery kind of montage with her image on it. I knew my momma. I needed something that spoke to who she was. When I found the image I got a “that’s it” confirmation. I knew I had found the image worthy of Bishop Mack’s legacy.
My sister and I met with momma’s pastor, planned the service and made calls to the insurance company. So when the time came we would just Push Play on the process we created.
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Over the weekend, I visited momma in the hospice section of the nursing home. She had been moved there for an “extra level of care” a few weeks before. I sang to her, I prayed with her, I shared my hopes and dreams with her.
Early Wednesday morning, I made my way to visit her. I called my sister-in-law and we chatted as I made the short trip to the facility. I pulled into the parking lot and parked my car at 7:25 AM. We chatted for another five minutes, said our goodbyes and I got out of the car. As I made my way to the door my phone rang.
It was the nursing home.
They told me there’d been a change in momma’s condition and I needed to get there right away. I told her I was walking in the door. She looked at me very apologetically and said that momma had just passed.
Henry, my mom’s husband had just left the nursing home at 7 AM.
I walked in at 7:30 AM.
I asked the nurse to walk with me back to momma’s room…the doctor who pronounced her death passed us in the hallway. Momma’s caseworker and a nurse were in the room with her and they told me she went so peacefully and very quickly.
I think I know why.
When my grandmother passed away, we were all there for her final moment and it was hard. I mean really hard.
I don’t think my mom wanted that for us.
If Jesus gave up the ghost, I sincerely believe my momma left here right after Henry left and before I walked in the door.
I told her I wasn’t mad at her. I knew she was tired and was deserving of this rest.
Then all the emotion of the past few months and the realization that she was gone came flowing out in a river of tears.
After momma passed, the outpouring of love and support was incredible. There were many who reached out who had lost their mothers and prayed for me and checked in on me frequently. Women who knew the pain in my heart and were further down the path of redefining normal after their own loss.
There’ve been some really tough moments on this redefining normal journey. One was our son’s last football game. I cried all day because momma loved to watch him play. When he played little league football she’d be in the stands with us yelling and cheering. When she became ill and couldn’t attend anymore she’d always ask about his games. She’d buy him all kinds of football gear and paraphernalia because that was her baby.
So not only was our son playing his last high school football game, momma wasn’t there physically to share the moment and I wept.
Then there was the time I saw the same make and model truck momma drove to work parked at her old job and I completely lost it.
It’s all these little things that make redefining normal challenging at times. The waves of grief that overtake you with no warning.
That’s why I’ve been quiet here lately.
But I’m doing better. Still need that vacation where I’m obligated to do nothing and I’m working on that.
I’m finally in a place where I can put thought to paper again and have it make sense.
To all the TWK contributors who published during my hiatus, thank you! To all the readers and supporters, I sincerely appreciate you!
Gearing up for an incredible 2017.
Love to you all.
Bishop Gwendolyn P. Mack’s eldest daughter…Lisa
#ThisWomanKnows cause she taught me.
Lisa N. Alexander is the author and founder of This Woman Knows and What Million-Dollar Brands Know. She is an award-winning filmmaker, director, producer, and writer and is the owner of PrettyWork Creative.
A moving and loving tribute to a Proverbs 31 woman – your mother. Her children rise up and call her blessed. Thank you for sharing your broken heart with such beauty.
On the picture of you and your son there is a light over your left eye. I believe it is her. I pray that comforts you.
Thank you Diana! Your words sincerely comfort.
Thank you for your transparency in sharing this with us. Losing someone that you love is tough! I have had the unfortunate experience of losing a parent and here I am 10 years later, still feeling and still dealing. Only time and tears can heal that type of pain. But, I can see that you have a lot of your mom in you, and so her spirit lives on!