This past week I got a call from my friend that his mother died, suddenly and unexpectedly. Over the past three months, she’d defied so many odds to make it to this point, it finally seemed that perhaps she’d turned the corner. First, three months ago her heart stopped for nearly twenty minutes. My friend, a neurosurgeon understood the miraculous nature of her even surviving that event. She wasn’t supposed to survive (apparently 90% of folks don’t). Later, she defied the odds by getting on the heart transplant list, and even actually successfully receiving one. Everything seemed to be lining up for a success story. And then a fluke blood vessel bursts, and she bled out. And that was the end.
Or so I thought.
As it turns out, Mrs Betty Mosely had more lessons to teach us about faith, hope, and being there for one another.
After getting off the phone with my friend Yusef, I immediately called our other friend Reggie. We’re a trio of brothers who have been good friends since high school, encouraging one another, supporting one another, and challenging each other to grow over the past two decades. Whenever I talk to young people, I encourage them to find their tribe, a group of people who you will allow into your life, fellow companions on your journey. This is my tribe. So, I called up Reggie and told him, we’ve got to drive to South Carolina. Though we’re all a bunch of country boys from SC, We all live in different places now. I’m in Atlanta, Yusef is in NYC, and Reggie is in Charlotte, NC (though his heart is in Chicago!). But for key moments in each others lives, we’ve stood beside one another. This moment was no different, one of us was hurting, which meant each of us was. And so Reggie and I both drove the next day to South Carolina.
Talking about death is always interesting with kids. The morning I left, I told my daughters where I was going and what for. They know both of my friends, and so one of my daughters asked me, daddy are you going to cheer up Uncle Yusef? I paused, because this was an opportunity to help her understand something that I was just coming to appreciate myself. No dear, I’m not trying to cheer him up. I’m actually just going to be with him, let him know I care. We’re trying to help the girls appreciate the reality that it’s ok to not be ok. The truth is, what we resist, persists. So it’s best to learn how to sit with the various emotions we may be having at any given point in time. Let’s figure out what they are here to teach us.
And that’s what we did with our friend. Sure, we laughed as we reminisced about the years. But we also didn’t offer trite answers when the tears came. And we didn’t shy away from the grief and sorrow that filled the moment.
My friend kept saying, this changes everything as he reflected about the passing of his mom. And he was right. Life won’t be same. That doesn’t mean it’ll be worse, but it’ll be different. We’re afraid of different because it’s uncertain. I think we really struggle with the loss of control that comes with uncertainty.
At her ceremony yesterday, I proudly watched as my friend gave a powerful message in remembrance of his mother. He talked about her legacy and the content of her life. I was moved and inspired, and just so honored to know both of them. This is the power of showing up and being in relationship.
In my lowest moments, I don’t remember what people said, but I definitely remember who was there. I remember my friend Whitney being there the day I broke down and sobbed my first year teaching (what a tough fall semester that was!). I remember my wife Samantha being there when I cried over my grandfather’s death (that was the first time she’d seen me cry, we’d only been dating a few months, and I remember thinking…this might be the one). I remember Alfred being there to take me to his funeral. Even in my highest moments, I remember people who were there to celebrate and share my joy. Those were the same people I wanted (needed!) around when I was at my lowest points.
I’m so glad that we were able to show up for him. In many ways, it helps us to learn how to show up to our own selves. And therein lies yet another lesson modeled and instilled in us by Mrs. Mosley. She was all about showing up for one another, particularly for those overlooked or ignored by society.
This morning during my quiet time I came across this scripture…
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me. Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.
It’s not just those we like or look like, that we need to show up for. You’d be surprised how your perspective can shift when you show up for others. Looking forward to continuing Mrs. Mosley’s legacy as I learn this life lesson.