Fear. A word with no boundaries. It can strike anyone at anytime without her knowing. It can attack like a lightning strike or slowly crawl inside something like ice growing on a wall. It can cause chaos, grievance or possibly even death. Fear is what makes the world so mysterious and unsafe. It’s what separates good men from bad. It defies bravery and intimidates the innocent. I should know because I looked fear dead in the face. I was only nine when the biggest, most life-changing fear came to reality. It was a cold winter’s night when everything started to unravel. My two brothers were walking in and out of the kitchen with bowls of hot soup and bottles of medicine.
I heard my poppa call out “Bobby!... Bobby!”
“I say Bobby Lee get out here right now!” Poppa barked.
I came out of our bedroom tired and scared of what Poppa was going to do.
I said in a timid voice, “Yeah Poppa?”
“Go ‘git’ some blankets for ‘yo’ momma!” Poppa said.
“Ok Poppa.” I replied even more timid than the first time.
I went into the linen closet to fetch our warmest and most comfortable blanket. I walked into the master bedroom and saw Momma coughin’ and wheezin’ like a dog. She had a tissue in one hand and her blankets in the other.
She said, “Don’t come in here Bobby. I’m sick!”
“But Poppa said to give you a blanket,” I replied.
“ Well then bring it here, child,” Momma replied, “Just don’t touch my hands.”
I fearfully walked in the room and laid the blanket on Momma’s lap. She was covered in blankets and a sea of mucus uniquely packaged in little pieces of tissue. Her eyes were as red as rubies, and she looked tired and weak. It looked like she has not been able to get any sleep since she got sick. I thought it was only a cold, but then I realized it was much worse. She continued to cough and wheeze. She even gagged a little. I started to get scared as she started to have difficulty releasing mucus from her lungs. My brothers came rushing in with medicine and blankets. My older brother was layering Momma in blankets, while my other brother was putting a bowl of chicken noodle soup on her dresser.
My younger brother said, “Here, Momma, take this.” He gave her a spoonful of cod liver oil.
She slowly gulped down the oil and continued to cough.
“Bobby. Come here child.” Momma said hoarsely.
I cautiously strolled closer to her and she said, “Here take this ring of mine. I want you to have it. I want you to know that you will always be loved by God, and I will always be watchin’ you in heaven. Your father is going to take such good care of you, and he will protect you from what’s out there.”
“Bobby, come here,” Poppa called from the kitchen.
“I love you, sweetheart,” Momma said.
“I love you, too, Momma,” I replied.
“Bobby?” Poppa refrained.
“Comin’, Poppa!” I said.
I walked up to Poppa and asked, “What’s wrong with her?”
“Well, Bobby, she has a little somethin’ called pneumonia,” Poppa said.
“Will she be alright?” I asked fearfully.
“I don’t know, Bobby, I don’t know. This is a tough time for all of us,” Poppa said.
“I know she’ll be okay. I can feel it,” I said.
“Well, I don’t know, sweetheart, let’s just do what we can and pray for her recovery,” Poppa said.
I went to our room and started to hope and pray that Momma was going to be okay, but by the sound of Momma’s coughs, she was getting worse. My heart was beseeching God for help.
Poppa then called out from the living room, “Bobby! Go to bed!”
“Ok, Poppa, good night!” I replied.
I didn’t think I would get any sleep that night. Despite the loud coughing, fear took over my body. I wanted to fall asleep, but I was “worried sick to my stomach” about my mom. All of a sudden, the coughing stopped. There was nothing but complete silence in Momma’s room. I walked out of our room, hearing my brothers crying softly. They were devastated when they walked out of the room. Poppa started to shed some tears, too.
As soon as he saw me Poppa said, “Go back to bed Bobby.You need to get your rest.”
“What happened Poppa?” I asked.
“Well, Momma sort of... well, she’s gone, sweetheart,” Poppa said.
“Gone where?” I asked
Poppa put his head in his weary hands and started to lose it. Sadness slowly crawled through me and started to live inside me. Then I found out the devastating truth. Momma was gone. Not like on vacation but gone off to a better place. My face bursted into thousands of tears when he said that. Poppa heard me crying and wanted to put his arms around me, but I ended up running back to our room and shutting the door. Thoughts raced through my head, and I asked myself, “How were we going to live now?” “What are we gonna do?” All of these questions started to break me down, and soon I felt like running away. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces and I wasn’t able to sleep that night.
I faced fear in the face that night. It stared at me dead in the eyes and laughed. I couldn’t save my mother. She was in the worst position, and I doubt she wanted to live the rest of her life in a hospital bed. Fear invaded my house and stole my most precious possession. It broke my heart and cackled like a witch. I knew from that moment forward my life was never going to be the same. I wasn’t able to sleep for about a month. The thought of her gone haunted me forever, and for those weeks I couldn’t imagine what may happen to me or my brothers. The thoughts and memories of her passing gave me nightmares. My mother was gone forever. I still have the ring, but it only reminds me of that horrid night many years ago.