A month ago, my Mom-Mom died.
I can remember vividly sitting in News Writing 2 in 2009 during my first semester at Rowan, listening to George Clark talk about semantics in journalism.
"In journalism, people die," he told us matter-of-factly, leaning backward against his desk and scanning the room. "They don't 'pass on,' they don't 'go home to be with the Lord,' and they don't 'attain a new level of being.' They die. That's all."
I snickered that day. George would grow to become one of my favorite professors on campus for his blunt honesty and fierce love for his students.
That same semester, Mom-Mom had yet another exacerbation of the lung disease that dogged her for ten years. I would call home and listen to the rough weariness in my mother's voice as we hoped for the best.
But deep down, we also wondered how much longer sweet Mom-Mom could endure.
Alone in my apartment at night, I would sit up and rail at God. Why did He let her suffer so? She didn't deserve that. It wasn't fair. Where was He? And all the while I was petrified of going on without her laughter, her wisdom, her lighthearted dismissal of my mother's temper. I didn't want her to die. More than that, I didn't want to die. Heaven was too idyllic for me, and hell too bleak.
Eventually, I began to believe that God must not exist. It took a long time for me to recover from that period.
When I did, I emerged with a new appreciation for the sacredness of this one life I've been given by God. My journalist instincts kicked in and I sat down with Mom-Mom and an audio recorder a week before her 80th birthday in 2010. Lack of oxygen had begun to rob her of precious memories, and I wanted to preserve it all, preserve her, untouched and exuberant.
We talked about everything that day as the oxygen tank rumbled and puffed: The joyful simplicity of a childhood uncluttered by traffic and technology; her decision to give up the restaurant she ran to be more present to her children; her pride at our election of a black president; her suspicion of a society so bent on self-preservation that they attempt to play God.
I haven't listened to that recording since the day I made it, waiting for a moment after her death when I would miss her laughter. I'm going to edit it down and burn it onto CDs for my family.
I am not trying to bring her back to life. She neither wanted that or us to mourn too long for her. As she told us recently, she lived a long and happy life with no regrets. What more could she want?
She died on Saturday, October 5th at 3:00 in the afternoon, the same time I visited her since I was a little girl. That day, I was meeting with priests and searching for a reception hall. Mom-Mom wanted me to go. A few days before, I went to see her one last time and covered her with kisses. She told me she loved me.
Her ferociousness and the brightness of her spirit will burn on in my heart as long as I live, and if I can help it, they will be passed to my children.
She was a phenomenal woman, simple but strong, who died at peace in hope of seeing heaven and my Pop-Pop Lou.
I live in hope of being like her, and in hope of seeing her again someday.