It’s been over a week since we buried mummy and I’ve been facing a new reality – surreal-ality.  Yes, this a word I made up as an attempt to describe this realm I’m in. It seems surreal that she’s gone, and yet, it’s the reality I must face. Nothing in life prepares you for the death of a parent, although intellectually and spiritually (for some), we know all humans will die.  A high school classmate very thoughtfully wrote on my facebook page, in sum, that she is still with me, but in different form. His words were touching.

From the outside, it looks like I’ve gone on with my life, and in many ways, I have. I went back to work on Tuesday, have been cooking, exercising, tending to my plants, shopping, doing housework, reading articles, and so on.  What has been difficult is not hearing her voice, but I can still hear her voice in my head. You see, for the past 5 years, I’ve called mummy almost daily, particularly during the work week. I decided to do that a few years ago because I was aware that I didn’t know how much longer she would live. Part of that has to do with mummy prepping us for her death for about 15 years now. She became ill a few months after retiring. She’s been telling us since then we need to prepare.

My purpose in calling her was two-fold – distract me from my work day and bring a little joy to mummy’s life. In the process, I’ve gotten to know her as a person and I haven’t held back in letting her get to know me as an adult child. It was difficult at times to switch roles and be the encourager many times, but I did it.  My brother told me twice after the funeral that he knew I was her favorite. He said he heard her talk about things with me he never heard her talk about previously.  I don’t know how to take what he said, but I am certainly thankful I made this effort. I miss her voice. Even when she was irritable due to the medications or pain, or when she was complaining, or when we were arguing, I miss her voice.

The Saturday before I returned to Austin, I was at my oldest sister’s house, in the backyard, reviewing the paperwork from the funeral home and signing the 100+ “thank you” cards.  There were 4 small boxes in a bag. Curiously, we opened our boxes together and gasped with tears when we realized what the gift was – an embedded photo of mummy in a light up key chain.  It was such a special moment that we shared together. My sister asked me not to tell my other siblings because she wanted to be there in person to see their faces.

When we returned to Austin, I was reviewing the many photos I took in Chicago. I came across a photo where I was trying to capture the breath-taking key chain in the light, and in the background, I noticed my kids playing with each other.  They rarely play with each other, let alone outside, but my sister had a toss game that she set outside for them. It was a gorgeous day.  They might have played for all of 10 minutes, but it was so touching to see in the picture because I hadn’t noticed it when we were there.

Caleb & Elise 2017

Caleb and Elise, Chicago, July 15, 2017

As my brother said, mummy is in all of us. This picture gives me comfort because I know that she is with me, with all of us, and that she left a beautiful legacy. We’re going to be okay.


Goodbye, So So, my Haitian queen

Yesterday, I received the dreaded call that no one ever wants.  My sister was on the other end of the line. She sounded calm, and for a moment, I was relieved. However, her next few words pierced me to the core, “Mummy, passed away this morning”.  It took me a few seconds to process. I heard her voice quiver. We exchanged a few more words of which I can’t remember and she reassured me of something.  I told her I’d call her back. I walked to the group of ladies from my Zumba class who were talking. I  tapped on Mary’s shoulder and muttered the words, “I just found out that my mom passed away”.  I cried hard and loud as they embraced me for what felt like forever and I’ve been sobbing intermittently every since.

Albeit painful, I made peace on Friday that mummy might not make it through the night based on my sister’s report from the doctor.  They were transitioning mummy to hospice care. This is painful to write and I stopped a few times due to the uncontrollable tears. My husband told me that I should stop and that it’s too soon, but I must because writing for me is therapeutic. When I woke up Saturday morning without hearing new updates, I decided to go about my normal routine of  going to Zumba class and then the grocery store. I’m so thankful that I was in the company of my Zumba-loving prayer warriors because they consoled and prayed for me.

Words can’t truly express the sorrow I am feeling right now. However, despite the sorrow, I am overwhelmingly thankful Solange (SoSo) Nicholas was my mother. I’m thankful that I saw her beautiful smile in person last month. I’m thankful that I hugged and kissed her.  I’m thankful that my sisters and brother made sure mummy was not alone while she was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks. I’m thankful that my sisters made efforts to shield me from what they were experiencing while watching mummy suffer. I’m thankful my sister put her phone to mummy’s ear so mummy could hear me tell her that I loved her.  She told me that mummy’s eyes got bigger indicating she heard me.  I’m thankful that mummy is no longer in pain and that she can finally rest in peace. I’m thankful that mummy gave us her best. I’m thankful that she saw me beat breast cancer and came to Texas to be with me for my surgeries. I’m thankful that she always thought of us first. She even made and paid for her funeral and burial arrangements, so we wouldn’t have to worry. I’m thankful that I had a loving mother because not everyone has a loving mother.

SoSo, you did a valient job raising your 4 children…only if you knew it while you were alive. However, maybe you did because I spotted the look of contentment on your face when all of your children were together last month. You were always so humble and generous.  You came to Texas to visit your baby, the youngest (me), any time you could. You’ve been here, by far, more than anyone else.  You’ve been there for me, by far, more than anyone else. I can only aspire to be like you. BRAVO, my Haitian queen!

I have no more words…for now.



Family is everything

This has been a difficult week…so much so, that it feels like months since I wrote the blog post “Happy Place” a few weeks ago. I lost my happy place this week. My mom, my mummy, had a heart attack on Monday & went into kidney failure shortly after. The prognosis was grave. She was on a ventilater. The doctors inserted a balloon pump to help her heart. The doctors placed her on continuous dialysis. Then, she got a contagious infection. My sister asked me my thoughts on resuscitation. She and my other sister said mummy told them on different occassions she didn’t want it. Having completed my 1st social work internship in a nursing home a few years ago, I knew resuscitation could cause more harm than good for the people that are aging. I couldn’t hold back the tears on several occasions as I told some of my staff and coworkers what was going on.

Day 7 in critical condition and she’s doing better. No more heart pump. No more ventilator as of today. She’s still on continuous dialysis in the Intensive Care Unit  (ICU), but she’s headed in the right direction. Her primary oncologist said her body’s reaction to the chemotherapy for multiple myoma indicates she can’t do chemotherapy. We’re all ok with that.

To think that I almost lost my mom this week is heart wrenching and I’m all the way in Texas. My two sisters and brother are the ones who’ve been there: taking turns spending the night, talking to the doctors, talking to mummy, conforting her, and notifying her friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have called the hospital myself and requested constant updates from my siblings. 

I even bit the bullet and called my uncle despite the somewhat strained relationship. One of my sisters was opposed, but acknowledged that it was the right thing to do. He and my mom go way back…way back to Haiti. This has to be a 55-60 year old relationship. They’re ex-brother/sister-in-laws for I don’t know how long. I find the dynamics strange at times, but who am I? Mummy would have wanted him to know, so I called. I’m glad I did too because he’s been to see her twice. He told my cousins and they’ve visited. In fact, members from mummy’s key tribe have taken the time to visit and pray for her. I’ve also asked my friends to pray for her.

The stress at work was almost unbearable coupled with what was happening with mummy. I lost myself this week. I really did. I barely used any self-care tools. I exercised a little, barely ate, barely slept, and was in a constant state of anxiety. I did pray. 

It’s Sunday night and I’m just now starting to feel better. When my sister told me via text that they were taking out the ventilater, my response was, “I can finally breathe again.” This evening, I completed about 30 minutes of Zumba and 15 minutes of stretching. I am actually breathing again.

The siblings: Gina, Patrick, Mylene & me. Chicago, June 2017

Tragedy has a way of bringing families together, and with each experience, good or bad, we’ve gotten closer. Words can’t express how glad I am for making the trip to Chicago at the end of May/early June because I almost canceled my trip for a JOB. You read that right. As mummy gets older, I don’t know when our last time seeing each other will be. Therefore, I went to Chicago with my children and had a wonderful time. Having experienced breast cancer first hand, I’m keenly aware that tomorrow is not promised. 

Work is the wheel that keeps turning whether you are there or not. Work is work. Family is everything.