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Facing the mortality of my Mama

POSTED: July 5, 2017 1:00 a.m.

"She died."

That was the two words of the text my Mama sent me about her best friend.

I didn't get it so Mama called me.

"Did you get my text?"

I could tell by the sound of her voice she was upset and holding back tears.

I reached for my cell and found her message with those two words. My heart sank.

Mama's best friend of nearly 40 years had passed away.

The week before, Mama was in a panic.

"I haven't heard from her," she said. "This is not normal."

The number she had was wrong - Mama's habit of wearing two pairs of reading glasses made it difficult to see the numbers she had punched in her phone.

She was worried. "Would you see if you could find her?"

I found her daughter online and called Mama to tell her.

"What's that number?" she asked.

I gave it to her and she hung up to try to reach her.

Thirty minutes later, she sent me that text.

Mama doesn't express those emotions of grief well.

In Mama's mind, everything is perfect, ordered and balanced and nothing bad happens; to this day, she still stops "Steel Magnolias" before Shelby dies because she believes she lives happily ever after as long as she doesn't see it.

But she was having to process the fact her best friend passed away and just the week before.
"I think you being so worried about her was letting you know something was wrong," I said.
"Perhaps," Mama said quietly.

Mama, always kind of shy and reserved, hated doing things even with her friends.

One day, several of her friends wanted to go to lunch, and Mama begrudgingly agreed. She left an hour early on purpose, planning on missing them and came back home to find them sitting on the couch.

"Jean," her best friend said, her drawl making Mama's name about three syllables. "We are on to you; we knew you would do this. Get in the car. You are going with us to lunch."

Mama later complained they forced her to go to lunch and made her have a good time.

"Shame on them!" I said, laughing and glad her friend knew Mama's quirks and loved her anyway.

Mama secretly enjoyed it but she just couldn't admit it.

Mama's best friend was there when I was baptized at 10 years old, gifting me a Bible and showering me with hugs and kisses. She was such a warm, loving presence, I had told the pastor I had to make sure she was able to be off the day of my Baptism.

"If Sara can't be here, I will need to reschedule," I had said.

A few months later, she begged my Mama not to cut my hair off again after Mama did.

"Jean...please, I am begging you, don't do that to that child!"

She hugged me and kissed me, as if she was making a boo-boo better, knowing that a short bob on a chubby kid cast a light on every flaw.

And then, many years later when I married my first husband, she was there to offer emotional support to my mother and to help keep Granny reigned in.

"I have to say," she began, her voice as rich as molasses. "I have never seen that many sequins on one dress. It was like Sudie's mother-in-law was trying to compete with a fireworks exhibit, she had so much light reflecting. I may be temporarily blind."

Every year, she made a floral arrangement to go on my grandfather's grave after he passed away. And, she always made it a point to make my mother stay in touch even though Mama always has a hard time doing so.

"I am so sorry, Mama," I said, not knowing what to say. "She was such a good friend to you."
"She loved you, too, you know," Mama said.

I knew.

And then it hit me: Of all of my Mama's friends, maybe only two were still here.

We knew one of her dear friends was battling a terminal illness; one passed away a few years ago.

Mama asked me to find another friend she hadn't heard from in a while.

She was starting to realize, those dear friends she had went through so much with - picket lines and union battles, marriages, children, divorces, re-marriages, the whole gamut of life - were passing away too quickly.

I didn't like to think about the fact that if Mama's friends were passing away-people I had known for most of my life, if not all of it, as some had held me as a baby-that it meant my own Mama was getting older.

My heart ached for her best friend's daughter. I couldn't imagine the void she was feeling.

I knew my Mama could drive me crazy at times.

She calls me at 3 a.m. because a text finally went through and she thinks something is wrong; she makes me call her when I get home even though I am two and half hours away so she knows I am safe; and, if I cough or sneeze when talking to her, she thinks I am battling pneumonia and demands me to go to the doctor. She's been known to call one or two up here and make appointments for me.

I knew, one day, I would miss all of that, along with my morning texts with her and her wanting to know what Doodle was doing; her fussing about how NCIS had changed and not for the better; and her just sending me a text saying to be safe and to keep angels around me if I went anywhere.

I couldn't imagine how empty I would be without all of that, without all of her presence in my life. It would create a huge chasm in my heart.

And that's something I just didn't want to think about.

Sudie Crouch is an award winning humor columnist and author of the novel, "The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery."

 

 

 

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