I seriously debated whether or not I should post this next year or this year. But I figured hey, why wait until next year? There may be someone out there that's going through or went through the same thing. They need to hear this story now!
This day, 14 years ago, will forever be etched in my mind. My beloved mother, Elizabeth Brunson, lost her battle with a horrible disease I was 15 years old at the time, and it was truly one of the worst days of my life. But first, a little explanation on how it got to that point.....
I have always admired my mother She went to college (Rutgers) and landed a good job with Blue Cross & Blue Shield (now called Horizon). But I admired her even more after my father passed away, and she was left to raise my 2 older brothers and I on her own. In 1988, she was determined to start a new, better life for us. So we moved from East Orange to a more peaceful Linden. Things were going pretty well for us. We had adapted to our new surroundings and loved it. We were experiencing a newfound peace.
Four years later, our serenity was tested. It was around 4PM (I remember Oprah being on TV), and my mother walked into the room that my brother and I were sharing. I was sitting on my bed doing my homework and when I looked up, my mother had a tissue in her hand and a look of despair She rested her elbow on the dresser and blurted out those awful words, "I took an HIV test today and the test came back positive. I have the AIDS virus." All my brother and I could do was just sit there and look at her. What can you say to a person that just told you something like that? She definitely didn't wanna hear that everything was gonna be alright, and she can get through this. Shit, we didn't believe that ourselves! I scared and worried for her. Questions just came running to my head: What are we gonna do if/when she dies? And who gave this to her? It was too much for a 14-year-old to think about.
Over the next few months, I watched my mother go from energetic and independent to a feeble, dependent woman who was losing her hope, faith and will to live. It was a time of few highs and many lows. Her illness prevented her from working a steady, full-time job. Weight loss, pain in her body, and constant visits to the hospital (that was attributed to her not taking her medication) were customary. Her condition also caused her to become irritable and cranky most of the time, and she often lashed out and/or kept saying how she wanted to die. It was so heartbreaking for me, and many times I just cried and prayed to God that some miracle would happen and she would come back to her old self, or at least not let this virus ravage her body and spirit. I felt so helpless, but I knew I had to be there for her and help her in any way I could. Many times I would go into her room and just kiss her on the cheek as she lay on her bed. I didn't need to say anything, because actions speak louder than words. She had found this facility in Newark (by this time, we had moved to Irvington) for AIDS/HIV-infected people. They feed them and take them on daily outings such as the zoo and restaurants. It's also a facility where you can sit around, watch TV, play games, and just sit and be with your family. This was during the summer, so many times I accompanied her to the facility. I just wanted to be around her as much as I could while I still had time.
But like they say, time waits for no man, and my mother was no exception. A few days before that fateful day, my mother once again entered the hospital. On a Sunday morning (around 9AM), my aunt (the one I stay with now) woke my brother and I up and told us the two words that I knew I was going to hear eventually...."She's gone." We both got dressed, and we headed over to my other brother's girlfriend's house to get him so we could all go to the hospital. It seemed like an eternity, but we finally made it to East Orange General Hospital and went up to the room where my mother had spent her last days alive. We entered the room and there she was, on the bed with her eyes still open. For a few minutes, we just stood there and looked at her. For my oldest brother, this was all he could take, and he broke down and walked out of the room. This was the first time I had EVER seen him cry. My aunt went out to console him. A few minutes later, I came out of the room enveloped in grief, and my aunt had to console me too. I cried for so many things that day: that I was never going to see her again, that I wouldn't have any more mother/son moments, that I would never hear her voice or see her smile again. But the main thing I cried about was that she went into eternity in some bare, cold hospital room without being surrounded by people she loved and cared about by her side. I couldn’t help but feeling guilty about it. I later learned that she also had a brain tumor, so I guess her body gave out from trying to fight off two maladies at the same time. And to this day, I’m still not sure who she contracted HIV/AIDS from. It could’ve been my father or a man that she was seeing at the time of her death.
So now here I am, 14 years later, reflecting on that horrible day and the aftermath. Honestly, there are some days where I don't think about my mother. Ironically, one of those days is Mother's Day, but that's because we were raised as Jehovah's Witnesses, and we didn't celebrate any holidays. But there are some days when she just pops up in my mind and I get really sad, especially songs specifically about a person's mother ("A Song for Mama" by Boyz II Men and "Thinking of You" by Lenny Kravitz immediately pop into my mind). I’m able to view pics of her with no problem. My cousin videotaped a cookout he had at his house, and it has my mother in it. I can’t bring myself to watch it because I don’t wanna remember her in her suffering stage. It’s painful when your father passes away, but when your mother passes away the pain is almost unbearable. I wish she could've been there to see me get my first job, graduate from high school and college, get married, have a child (if I do decide to do those last two things), and all the other joys of life. But I know she’ll always be with me in spirit and mind. But everything happens for a reason, and God was showing me just how strong a person I was (or at least needed to be at the time). If I can make it through losing both parents before the age of 18, I can make it through just about anything. This trial has made me into the strong person I never saw in myself. I'm not where I wanna be, but I'm definitely not where I used to be! And I embrace this lesson in life and get through it. Notice I said "get through it" and not "get over it," cause you don't ever get over the loss of a loved one; that chapter is never closed. And to all you out there having problems or differences with your parents, appreciate them anyway, because you never know when it's going to be their time to go. And when they do, it’s going to be one of the most difficult things you will ever have to deal with in your life.
And you know something else? I didn't even break down at all when I wrote all this (but my eyes did fill up with tears a few times). I am so proud of myself for this inner strength, but my mother would be prouder. Thanks Mommy, and I love you!
August 8, 1949 - October 3, 1993