We cannot thank Bretta enough for sharing such a raw post about loving and losing her mum. So many people feel shame or guilt after losing their person; “if only I could have done or said…” Managing these tumultuous emotions can be the single most difficult thing to come to terms with. One day you will accept that you coped the best way you knew how to at the time, and when you are feeling stronger you will forgive yourself and take your person’s kindness with you. Thank you, Bretta.
Go gently and be kind to yourself,
Katie & Evee
My mother was my best friend.
When I was 6 months old she she a bad car accident that in turn caused a blood clot to travel to her brain. This resulted in a stroke that nearly took her life. She was in a coma for three months.
She was only 23 years old.
When she finally woke up she had no control over the right side of her body. She was a right-handed person so she had to learn to do everything again. As I was learning to talk so was she, as I was learning to walk… so was she. We grew up together in a way. My father was absent my entire life, she was my whole world.
She never fully recovered from the stroke. As I grew taller and stronger, she grew more and more unhealthy. She had nearly died three times before I was 16. Double pneumonia once, multiple heart attacks, ruptured appendix left unattended too long. She was in and out of the hospital so much that the nurses knew what my favorite candy bar was. As I grew into a teenager I became resentful… I was angry at my father for not wanting me. I was angry at mama for being sick… as if she could help it. I lashed out at her. My sweet mama who loved everyone so purely, I made her feel like I hated her. One particular fight I told her as much, that I hated her and couldn’t wait to leave. I remember looking into her eyes as she cried.
“I know you hate me, you think I’m fat and ugly and you’re ashamed of me.”
As she cried out all these insecurities do you know what I did?
I stood there like a proud little idiot and never comforted her… never told her just how amazing I thought she was. I never told her how strong she was. How she was the reason I got up in the morning… because I was too blinded by my own sadness and rage. I let her think that I thought all those horrible things.
I never got to make it right and it still haunts me. She died when I was eighteen, another stroke rendered her completely brain dead. It is strange how life comes full circle in that way. I held her hand as they took out the machines and I sobbed because I suddenly realized just how much I had lost. I had lost the only person to ever care about me as hateful and ugly of a person I was.
The funeral was a blur. I couldn’t cry. Couldn’t eat. Couldn’t breathe. My friends surrounded me but I had never felt more alone. So many people came, people I had never met. Each of them with a story on how she had impacted them, how her kindness had changed them for the better. They would tell me I had her eyes, her face. I couldn’t tell them that the similarities ended there, my shame was so thick.
I escaped to the bathroom after a while. The comfort I was getting from strangers was suffocating… I didn’t deserve it. I hadn’t deserved her, maybe that’s why she left me. I remember looking in the mirror and hating the girl I saw. Hating her for hurting her mother. For allowing her own pain to gnaw at her until she was an ugly caricature of the woman her mother wanted her to be.
Some of my mama’s words came to me in that moment.
“Be a pretty girl, Bretta Jade.”
She said this to me often. When I was being hateful to a friend or unkind to someone. “Be pretty” she would say. Sometimes she would just say it before I left the house. “Make sure you’re a pretty girl, Bretta Jade.”
She never meant appearance… it was my soul she wanted to be pretty. The way I treated people. The way I carried myself. That is what she had been trying to instill in me all my life. What she was trying desperately to give me before she left me here; so in that second I decided that I would be the woman she was. I would love people without want of anything in return. I would be kind to strangers. I would have open arms for anyone who needed them.
It has been 9 years since she died and I like to think I have obtained at least some of her kindness. I try to be patient when someone is obviously hurting. I try to encourage everyone I speak with. I still look in the mirror and grapple with self hatred on most days for my treatment of her, but paying her kindness forward makes it seem like she’s still here with me. Makes it seem like her death meant something.
I still wish more than anything I could thank her. For saving me. For molding me into who I am today… a bitter path I had chosen before she died. Her death was a rebirth for me. I just wish she was here to see it.
So to anyone reading this. Hug your mother, thank her for everything.
And be pretty. Always.