Writing is a part of my therapy. As I find healing memorializing experiences with my pen or my MacBook, I chose to share some of these experiences with you (my readers) in hopes that it also unlocks something within you that makes you feel supported and helps you in your journey of healing, peace and prosperity too! I may not read this at my Aunts memorial service. That may not be necessary, but I can share this and allow her life to make one final impact on you. Thank you for reading this and being present with me during this time and many other times in my life.
My Aunt Charlene was the fun Aunt growing up. She was your typical young black single mother growing up in Jersey in the 80’s and 90’s. She was an “around the way girl.” She was extremely fashionable with a larger than life personality and sense of humor. She didn’t take no shit from anyone and would offer a quick quip if she felt you needed one. She also loved the Lord and knew how to be balanced and graceful and lean into her AME (African Methodist Episcopal) roots when she needed to. She exposed me to amazing music, food and fun! She was an amazing cook. My all time favorite dish was one she made during the holidays when I wash a child! Candies Yams with marshmallows on top! Mmm!!!
My Aunt Char is the reason why Anita Baker is my absolute favorite singer. Aunt Charlene taught me how to clean house because when it was time to do that…EVERYONE in the house had to clean up whether you lived there or not. If she fed you she was also going to “put that ass to work!” As she would put it. She also taught me that you could punish kids for misbehaving without beating them. She never beat my brothers or I. She made the boys do “The Chair” when they cut up. It's an exercise that probably contributed to them being the muscle bound men that they are to this date! 😆
I will pause right here to recognize that I can only speak of MY experience with my Aunt. Everyone’s experience was not the same with her and I sincerely pray for healing ❤️🩹 in that regard.
For the past decade as far as I knew my Aunt endured some significant mental health challenges, however she had frequent lucid moments and I am grateful for any time I was able to be present to witness and be a part of those moments. We stayed in contact, she ALWAYS kept up with me through my ten year metamorphosis. Never judging, always encouraging, always supportive in the best ways she knew how when she could. When I lost my baby earlier this year she was one of very few who could speak to my grief and had the presence of mind and spirit to reassure me that no matter how old my baby was that this little life MATTERED and my pain mattered. She helped me tremendously during that time because unfortunately she had been there many times herself.
If you knew my Aunt well, then you also knew that if you took her phone calls then you’d better be prepared to talk…FOR A WHILE!! When she called during times I could answer, I would just put the phone on speaker and continue working and let her talk, talk, talk… or I’d pop my AirPods in and let her talk while I was cleaning house or doing whatever run around stuff I needed to do. If you didn’t or couldn’t take her calls, please forgive yourself. We all have a different level of grace and different capacities to be present for different things. Be at peace with whatever you CAN be present for.
During those calls my Aunt Char would share a LOT of laughs and jokes and ask about me, my life and my kids. She would listen to the capacity that she could. Sometimes it seemed like she wasn’t listening AT ALL and she would cut me off and go into into some other dimension within our conversation and I would just go with it. But then she would surprise me weeks or months later and call me back and repeat something I was SURE she ignored because that heffa cut me off!! 😂
I got some of my favorite witty quotes and sayings from my Aunt Charlene. My absolute favorite quote that you’ll find me saying to you, if you’ve earned it is: YOUR APPROVAL IS NEITHER DESIRED NOR REQUIRED. 💅🏾
My aunt always asked about my brothers, BJ & Cory (pictured above) and she always said how proud she was of both of them. She was a single mom for many years until she married my Uncle Eric (a very kind hearted, patient and caring man) and so she understood a lot of my experience over the past decade and she always told me how proud she was of me and how I “never cease to amaze her.” I needed that encouragement. She also would say that I "never would let no grass grow around my feet" and she applauded me for never staying in a situation that was beneath me. She would actually strengthen my resolve in this regard manu times in my adult life and I wish I could thank her one more time for this.
Aunt Char also shared a tremendous amount of grief and pain. She would open up a dam and this river of experiences, traumas, pain, strife from decades, all of these memories that seemed to torment her, she would share them with me. Sometimes over and over. And I would listen and find MANY lessons in these monologues that I sometimes felt held hostage listening to TBH. But there was something in me that would tell me to pick up the phone as often as I could and just try my best to BE PRESENT for my Aunt. And at the end of almost every call she would say THANK YOU MY SWEET COLEYBOO. She just needed to talk and be heard. I’ll never know why but I don’t think that’s my job I just had to understand the assignment. I’ll also never share anything she said to me just like I am confident she never broke confidence with me either.
I am dealing with frustration and grief because I firmly believe that despite our families best efforts, she did not get the help she needed and that is a direct result of the racial disparities that exist within the mental and physical healthcare field. But this is not a battle that can be won right here right now. The only thing that I can do is try to find peace in the fact that she is no longer suffering. She is no longer struggling to find peace and total balance within herself. If we believe what many sacred scriptures say about death of the body, then she is now whole…nothing missing…nothing broken.
I woke up at 4am a few mornings ago and I was really really FEELING it because there is a joke that a young FA (flight attendant) that I mentor shared with me. I couldn’t WAIT to tell her because its a brand of humor that she could appreciate and we would frequently share with each other. I cant tell her and hear her very loud, boisterous, melodic laugh and screams. So youre going to have to get this joke instead:
So this young FA told me he finally figured out how to get rid of spam callers and bill collectors FOR GOOD! He said that when one calls him he answers the phone like this, “Thank you for calling Dewberry Mortuary and Pizzeria, where yesterdays loss is todays sauce!” He told me that every time hes done this the caller would be stunned, apologize and say “Ok I am removing your number from the list so sorry.” And I’ve actually tried it a few times AND IT WORKS!! It's ok. Laugh here! Youre welcome! If my Aunt Char’s spirit is capable of humor shes laughing and screaming HARD about this somewhere where she is no longer bound by Time, Space and Matter! Perhaps we will both be able to laugh about it together later. Who really truly knows!
I am at peace with the fact and grateful that I could take as many opportunities as I could to tell her I LOVE YOU.
If you're reading this. Please remember to do the same with all of those you love every single chance you can get. And please try to be as present as you have the capacity to be for anyone you know who is suffering in any way. If you are reading this and suffer in any way... PLEASE find help and ACCEPT HELP over and over again no matter how long it takes. Do it for you and for everyone who loves you.