Even before I answered the phone the second time my sister called the morning of October 22, 2015, I knew it would be one of the calls I dreaded most. I knew in my spirit that nothing would be the same after that day. I’ve always had incredible intuition so I knew that my world was going to turn upside down with that call. I was right.
I had already talked to my sister around 9:30 that morning and she said what I had been thinking for a couple days already. Her exact words during that call were, “I see death in Mama’s eyes.” I had seen that same thing when I visited her the day before. It was their intent to get her into her wheelchair and take her into the living room for a while, but it became evident that she was leaving us when she didn’t respond to their actions.
After she was taken to our local hospital and they quickly determined there wasn’t much they could do for her and that they would be moving her to Shreveport, my most immediate concern was getting to my son so that he could see her one more time. I drove that 2.5 hours to his college and even then, I didn’t have the expected breakdown. I needed to get to him.
Mama passed at 3:17 AM on October 24th. She slipped away quietly. We were allowed to see her exactly six minutes after she went home. My older sister, her husband, and my son were with me and as I’ve said before, there was an incredible sense of peace in the room. I kissed her on her forehead and whispered, “You can fly now.” With that, I left my mama’s side, which is something I hadn’t done since I had moved back home in 2013.
Letting Everyone Know
That one hour drive back home from the hospital was the longest ride I’ve ever had. No one spoke. There were tears, but no explosions. We wept silently.
We called Mama’s sister to let them know she was gone. I called one of the most important people in my life right after I left her to let him know she was gone. I didn’t cry. I took to Facebook to let everyone else know and the outpouring of love and support was amazing. Everything that was happening was surreal, yet there were no tears. I don’t know why.
Trease, Are You Okay?
From the time I let my close friends know that Mama was in ICU, I received a zillion calls and texts asking if I was okay. When I spoke to my close friend in Denver, her first question was, “Trease, are you okay?” I said, “Yeah.” I’ve known her since our boys were in pre-school together so she knows me almost better than I know myself. The next thing she said to me will be with me forever. She said, “I know you’re not okay. Your mama was your lifeline. Your mama was your world so I know you’re not okay. I know that you’ve learned to hide your feelings like an expert over the years, and I know you are good at holding back those tears, but I know you. Your world is destroyed.” I got another call and I was so glad because I just didn’t want to hear that. She was right, but I didn’t want to hear that.
There was stuff to be done and I knew that I had to do the majority of it because my sisters and brothers were distraught. I made the large majority of the arrangements. I picked her clothes out. I made sure her hair was the way she would have wanted it. Still, I hadn’t broken down.
There were so many people at the service. People that we hadn’t seen for many, many years came to say goodbye to Ms. Keel and to support us. There were a ton of people who couldn’t come for various reasons and we definitely understood. The service was incredibly sad and there were so many tears and breakdowns. I needed one tissue. One. When it came time to view her body for the last time, my ex-husband walked up to the casket with me and after I looked at her, I said to him, “That’s enough.” Still, there was no breakdown.
The Days After
To date, I haven’t had a breakdown. I can count the number of days I’ve missed going to the cemetery. Even if I don’t stop and actually walk over to her grave, I wave as I go by. I don’t have to go that way to get where I’m going, but I get a sense of peace being in her “presence”. I’ve cried, and there are times when I’ve cried hard, but I haven’t broken down. Perhaps that day will never come, but my mama’s memory is what keeps me going. Perhaps it’s the strength I inherited from her that has kept me from breaking down.
I am at peace knowing she’s at peace. I just keep going the best I know how.