I thought my Mom was super human. I thought my mom was the Messiah. I thought my mom was the one who held everything together; and I treated her that way. On September 13 around 3:30am, Ma or "Pauline Allen" as I called her, died at Retreat Hospital in Richmond, Virginia and these lies that undergirded our relationship ascended painfully to the surface.
I thought that my momma was impervious to pain, fear, and striving. I didn't think that she could be sad, afraid, or impacted by the post-segregation community we lived in, the poverty of the children in her rural classroom and a household broken by the struggles of rejection, marriage, addiction, and the fake-ness that infects so many families. I treated her like she had some type of magic touch with my injuries, our money, and her inner pain. And seeing her lying there, unable to verbalize the pain she felt, not wanting food and her eyes with a gaze longing for some distant shore fractured that reality. I truly wish I treated her more human, than the super I believed her to be.
As my Aunt Wilma shared personal anecdotes on their plight and triumphs raising children in Brodnax, I believe these two women, one alive and one dying exemplified this passage in 2 Corinthians 4:
"For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
I hope you didn't skip the scripture just to get to the second lie that I believed about my mom because the first one is the foundation for the other two; because the Madea myth of the super-human black woman that will always rise up is actually crushing an entire cross-section of society. I ask God's forgiveness for buying into the clay, instead of the potter and giving praise to the paint brush in lieu of the artist. Selah.
I didn't just believe that Ma was super-human and stop there. I believed she used this power to hold everything together. No matter what force attempted to divide us, she would rise up with a metaphor, money or meal that rose beyond the occasion. When I wanted to publish a book, she "made it work" mortgaging the land my Grandfather left her that held our home. When my siblings scattered she prayed fervently and exuded an expectation that "it'll all be alright" and we believed like we perceived she did.
I believed lies about my Mom that were actually true about Jesus. Colossians 1:15-20 says:
"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
Simply put, Jesus holds everything together, not my Momma and to put her on that pedestal betrayed her humanity and idolized her in a way that didn't allow her to be her lovable, flawed, true self. Lord have mercy.
Third and most destructive was that I believed my super-human, peace-keeping Mom was supposed to save us. She was the Messiah of her siblings after the death of her father and she swooped in over and over as the foundation of our nuclear family shook under the weight of lies and financial instability. She went back to college in her 40's, worked three jobs for a decade and NEVER complained while raising four children. She did not utter a disappointed word to us when there were no Christmas gifts or when we found rat droppings in our discounted cereal. We treated her like a savior and that's unfair, sinful, and the weight of "saving" was never meant for any woman or man.
It is true that John 3:16-17 says this "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."
God sent His Son into the world to save it, and my Momma here to experience joy and receive love as a wholly accepted daughter of the King. Hers was not an immaculate conception, nor her birth heralded by angels and not because she was just some average woman. No! She was a stellar woman of God, dedicated and effective educator, lover of plants and walking barefoot in the woods. But these qualities don't qualify her to be Savior of the world.
The last real words my Mom said were actually sung from Psalm 27. "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear." She did not fear death because she knew that she was human, that Christ held everything together and that the Savior of the world was Jesus. I pray to God that He gifts me with the same faith and I stand on and in the truth that one day I too may rise when the trumpet sounds and go home to live with God and those who love Him.