Forgive Me Mama, For I Was Weak


Which is worse?

At age 40 someone I loved ripped my heart out, used it as toilet tissue and flushed it. I was reduced to a wretched imitation of a man. I was swallowed by pain, lost 40 pounds and ended up with nearly without bread or bed. I was broken, pathetic and lost. I wept during the night and cried during the day. Eventually, however, unlike Humpty Dumpty I was put back together – better, stronger but with scars to never let me forget.

Or, at age 26, someone else I loved was stabbed her 19 times by a man who wanted to rob and rape her. Each night for more than a year, I begged “God” to let me die. I did not want to wake up and live through another day of throbbing pain. Her murder altered me but eventually I accepted the reality that life is death on its own terms and that we live at its discretion.

Or, at age 12 standing next to my mother, the first person who ever loved me, when her husband pulled out a gun and shot her nearly a dozen times. I panicked, jumped off the porch and ran. Once I stepped onto the sidewalk, I merely calmly walked away as if nothing had just happened. I did not cry. I did not feel. I simply walked to a store, purchased two items and then finally after I don’t know how long, returned. I could see the pool of my mother’s blood from a distance; but the police refused to let me see my mama, the first person I ever loved.

As was later explained, my mind shut down and refused to let the horror of what I had just experienced rush in and drown me. But that did not account for never crying, never weeping, never being in pain over her murder:

Indeed, I never cried. I never wept. I never begged to die. I did not break. In one sense, I defied the statistics that said I was to become abusive, dysfunctional, damaged and probably criminal; by most measures, however, I excelled and thrived academically and otherwise. Nothing about my behavior would indicate the story of what happened to my mother and me.

For thirty years, I would think of my mother and feel something, but never grief or pain. Until I was 42.

Thirty years later, on my mother’s death day, I decided to face the questions I had avoided since the murder of my friend or the loss loyalty of a lover: Why did I not even shed a tear after seeing my mother shot down mercilessly? Why did I not grieve? How could I be devastated after the death of a friend or after the ripping apart of my heart and not be at least likewise regarding the loss of my mother? I loved my mother; but did I love her less? Were the other two events more tragic or was I some sort of foul anomaly?

The answer came to me on that day in 1993.

For ten years, from age two to twelve, my mother’s husband ruled the household with tyranny and brutality. I witnessed on many occasions my mother being savagely beaten and crumpled; and I, too, bore physical and emotional scars of his madness. He terrorized us. I was a scared little boy who could not protect his mother. I would literally shake and tremble when he went on his rampages.

So, somehow, without conscious thought, after my mama’s death, I was overcome with relief. I no longer lived in quaking fear of a man whose cruelty was egregious. The realization that I was free drowned out any grief or pain I should have felt for my mama. I was selfish and thought only that finally I was free. Instead of weeping over my mother, I was joyful to be free of his brutality. It was as if I was too selfish to feel both pain and relief; I was guilty of choosing the easier of the two.

Once I realized this truth, I felt profound shame. My heart dropped to a jagged bottom. How could a son be like that? What kind of son was I that I missed my mother but did not weep at losing her? I loved her – always did – I missed her – always did. But I never felt any pain at losing her because the joy of not being terrorized left no room for the pain of her loss.

It was then that I broke down and howled and screamed in pain and agony. I sobbed for days begging for forgiveness. I hurt and there was no relief. It was if mama had just died instead of thirty years before. That realization smashed open the door to all the pain, the sorrow and grief that I should have let in on that day in 1963. The agony was raw and unfiltered.

After rising, I needed to manage my shame and my guilt [because there was no way to rid myself of them]. I decided to honor my mama’s memory by celebrating and mourning [celemourning] her birthday and death day, each year, by engaging in her “vices” [Pepsi, vanilla creme-filled cookies and strawberry ice cream]. And each morning, without fail, she comes to the front of my mind – and I feel a sadness. I take time and think of her each night – and tears fall from my heart. Lastly, I legally changed my name; my middles names are her first and middle name. I sign as such each and every time as a matter of endless pride, undying love and deep guilt.

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Published in: on May 17, 2016 at 4:47 PM  Leave a Comment  
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50 Years


Fifty years ago, my mother stepped out onto a porch and stood next to me. Her husband stood near us both. She feared him but since he brought me with him, she was sufficiently at ease. After all, he had just pleaded so softly for her to step out on the porch to talk. I stood there completely clueless – – clueless as a door knob. Only he knew the agenda; he had come there to fulfill his self-imposed mission. Seconds later, he fired six bullets, reloaded and fired five more. My mother lay in a pool of her own blood. I panicked and fled like a coward.

Fifty years ago on 17 June 1963, I was twelve and we had lived under that man’s tyranny for ten years.

On the fiftieth anniversary of my mother’s murder, these things I believe:
a] When I die, my mother will die again — without ceremony or recognition
b] Praying to “God” or any deity is as effective as praying to a wall
c] As a male, I belong to a species half of whom believe it is their  damn-near divine right to subjugate and marginalize the other half
d] I am ashamed of the half to which I belong
e] Life is not only unfair, it is, at times, egregiously cruel
f] Cruelty is often a function of the image a man has of himself
g] When we come here, we are confined to death row — all the reason to live a life of color in a black and white world

I miss my mother so much; what he did was so wrong — still so hard to believe … so hard to understand … so unforgivable … so painful

But I recognize that death, murder, mayhem and cruelty are as common as their counterparts. My mother’s murder was just one of the billions before her and after her. No worse, no better. That’s life on Prison Earth. Her death is a big deal to me; in the scheme of things, however, it was ordinary. That fact is not lost on me.

Nonetheless, to this day: My heart still bleeds tears for her.

Published in: on June 12, 2013 at 1:52 AM  Comments (3)  
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That’s What My Mama Said


From time to time, in conversations with me or with others near me, people have often uttered words of wisdom or other sayings their mothers have oft repeated to them when they were growing up. They often parrot their mothers with pride or at minimum, with a sense of profound respect. I, however, do not recall any such words from my mother.

I was with my mother for almost 13 years before her murder. During that time, we spent many, many hours together, but I do not recall any sagacious words or pithy sayings that would later serve to guide me through this life. That is not to say my mother never spoke any words of wisdom; it is to say, if she did, I do cannot recall.  But what I do remember are the things she did that are tattooed into the heart of my mind.

To be sure, words can be as important as deeds; though deeds tend to have a longer shelf life. Accordingly, I remember a mother who cooked and cleaned for seven children and an ogre who beat her mercilessly. I remember a mother with whom I would walk for what seemed like miles to Receiving Hospital in Detroit. Upon arrival, we would wait, literally for many hours, before a doctor would see me about my migraine headaches  [headaches that evaporated once I no longer lived with him]. I remember a mother who confided in me about her husband’s infidelity and other cruelties – as if I were the only one she could confide in. I remember a mother who, after she left her tormentor and us, would meet me on my way to school and walk with me each day. I remember a mother who would watch my siblings and me from a safe distance as we played in our backyard. I remember a mother who could have completely abandoned us after being brutalized for more than ten years by the “god” of our hell – but did not. Finally, I remember a mother who let her guard down because I was standing there – neither of us knowing what his plan was – for me to be the audience to her murder.

I do not remember any words of motherly wisdom; I only remember her motherly deeds. Admittedly, there are times when I hear others repeat their mother’s words, I wish I could hear in my mind some words of wisdom that my mother spoke, but I cannot. Nonetheless, I take comfort in remembering the things she did as my mother. I guess it can be said that her actions spoke words of love rather than words of wisdom — and love was what I needed most.

Published in: on April 29, 2012 at 4:54 AM  Comments (2)  
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