A Time to Say Goodbye

July 15, 2011
It was February 24, around 7:45 p.m. I was already having a bad day and it seemed as if it wasn't planning on getting any better. It was storming worst then the usual, the lights ran away, and I’d been trying to figure out what my weird dream meant all day. The night before I had had a dream that I was sitting at the front row of a church during a funeral l, crying my little eyes out, but there wasn't a body in the casket.

When the lights returned from their brief vacation, my father's phone began to ring. All I could hear was my cousin's panicked voice screaming in the background," "SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MAMA DOT SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH MAMA DOT"!

My father ghost zoomed past me and flew out the front door. My mother began to pace back and forth, telling my siblings and I to stay calm. An hour passed and no one called to update my mother about anything, so she decided to leave and send her mother to watch us. I sat in the dark, rubbing my brother's hair. I tried to talk to him with hope, but all hope was gone. As we sat there awkwardly trying to start a conversation, my grandma's phone began to ring. After watching her pretty caramel skin turned pale, she went outside to smoke a cigarette. At that moment, I knew what my dream meant. My heart dropped just at the thought of it. When my grandma came back in the house she told us that we were about to take a little ride. It wasn't to my surprise that we ended up at the hospital.

I stayed in the car when everyone else got out. Then, I watched my mother slowly approach me. She opened the door and hesitated to tell me that Mama Dot had had a massive heart attack and didn't make it. Before she could say anything else my heart beat intensified and I tired to make a break for it, but my brother tackled me as if we were playing in the Super Bowl. I couldn't take it; I couldn't believe that I was being carried into this dim, weird smelling building and into a room where my energizer bunny, the women who never stopped working, was laying on a hospital bed, not moving. I felt myself breaking down. I couldn’t stop shaking and crying.

My grandma felt that I had been tortured enough and decided to drive me home so I could get some sleep. The next morning, instead of attending school, my mother allowed me to stay at home so I could clear my mind. I was an emotional wreck, but I played it cool so that I could return to school faster. After missing three solid days of school I decided to face my peers. Although I only stayed at school for a couple of hours, I quickly learned that the walls had ears. When I was walking to class, my principal stopped me in the hallway. He told me that he had just gotten off the phone with my father, and he wanted to make sure I was ok. When he walked me to my classroom I was punched in the face with a thousand questions at once. "How do you feel?" "Why did come to school today?" "Did you cry a lot?" It was just too much to digest all at once. Plus, I was having killer head and stomach pains. " Shan'Dretta . . . please report to the office with your things," announced the secretary.” "Yesss, saved by the bell", I thought to myself. I quickly walked down the hall to see who my hero was. I came to a complete stop when I noticed my mother standing outside the office with tears in her eyes.

"What’s . . . wrong?” I asked.

“It’s time to go to the wake,” she replied.

My smile faded as I walked to the car, and we slowly drove to the wake. Once we made it there, I told my mother that I wanted to stay in the car, but that I would be in shortly. She told me to take all the time I needed. While I sat there, all I could think about was how much I was going to miss Mama Dot. I sat there and cried and cried until I thought I couldn’t cry any more.

“It’s time,” I told myself, but as I opened the door to enter the glass door of the old-fashioned brick funeral home, I was struck again by the pain of both my head and stomach. A man happened to see me on the ground with m hands on m head and my knees in my stomach.

“Are you ok?” he asked kindly.

“Yeah,” I rudely replied and then walked into the building. Being introduced to both old and new faces, I witness two bodies side by side. I walked over to the signing area to write my name on Mama Dot’s book. Not looking at which book was whose, I just wrote on the one closest to me. “Inhale . . . exhale,” I told myself before approaching her body, but I could get a good look at her, BOOM, I hit the ground hard and was knocked out.

Waking up hours later to laughter, I was being rocked by my aunt.

“What hap . . . “ I chocked on the rest of my sentence when I saw that the same man I had caught an attitude with earlier was standing in my kitchen.

“I thought you said you were ok?” he joked and he began to laugh.

“Who is he,” I asked out of curiosity.

“He’s a good friend of the family,” my mom said as she and my aunt began to laugh.

“What’s so funny anyway,” I asked, confused, and why am I here instead of at the doctor?”

Trying to hold their laughter back, my mom said that my aunt wrote her name on the wrong book, but instead of erasing her whole name, she just erased her last name and wrote the last name of the dead man, so it said Patrisha F. instead of her real name, Patrisha H.. Then it hit me.

“Oh snap, was Mama Dot’s book on the right or left?”

“The left, why?” replied my mom.

“No, no, no!” I cried, “I wrote mine on the right!”

“Cheer up, it’ll be ok. Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Not like this they don’t. And why did I pass out?”

“The doctor said is was from a lack of food and water, but you’re going to be ok as long as you are under close supervision.”

The next day was the big day. I was sitting in the front row at the funeral, crying my eyes out, but this time my lovely grandma’s body lay in the casket. She was wearing her favorite purple dress laced in diamonds, and I wasn’t dreaming. The dark brown wooden Baptist church welled with members of my enormous family and close family friends inside, and there were even more people waiting outside to get in. Although the Stuck Up separated themselves from the rest of us and the tension was thick, everyone felt the same pain.

When it was time to view the body, things only got worse. A lady dressed in all read, who was sitting way at the back of the church, ran up to the pure white casket and fell on my grandma’s body. It took an army to keep my family from hurting this stranger. But suddenly, everyone got quiet as we all observed a short woman with long black hair standing over the body for about ten minutes. Then, she walked up to her sisters and brothers and said, “I’m sorry the last time I got to see her was like this.” Then, she walked back out of the church. I thought I had seen a ghost because this woman looked exactly like Mama Dot, but I had never seen her before in my life. My father and aunts began to cry. We didn’t know what was going on, so I asked my dad why he was crying. He told me that that was his oldest sister, Mama Dot’s first daughter. It turns out that she ran away age 16 never called, wrote, or visited. Driving all the way from Detroit, Michigan, this was her first time seeing her mother in 32 years. My dad and aunts were crying, but I had no feelings. To me she was just another face in the crowd.

After the funeral, instead of having a reception we decided to go to Mama Dot’s house for the first time since her death. My cousin refused to go in and had an asthma attack in the middle of the street. While everyone focused their attention on him, I decided to go in alone. The aroma of a variety of foods greeted my stomach as I walked through the kitchen. There were large pans of half-cooked dressing, bowls of cornbread mix, and rising cakes in the oven. My best friend’s grandma had passed away two days before Mama Dot, and she was preparing all of this food for the family.

Inside the living room, the television was turned on to the news and the phone was off the hook. The dial tone sounded as if someone was tying to see how long they could hold one note. Her blanket was still hanging off the couch. As I entered the hardest room to face, her bedroom, I saw her clothes for church laid out on her perfectly made bed, which she never slept in, and her bible open on her dresser. Staring at the frozen computer, I heard my family coming inside.

We sat there in silence, listening to the sounds we usually never noticed, the sounds of Mama dot’s house.

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