Chapter 8: Revelations 21:4
what’s your emergency?”
she dialed her sister’s number from the landline, faint screams in the
background caused Tammy to struggle to hear the operator.
is throwing up! I don’t know what is going on. I called the ambulance for her.
Her arm is waving wildly in the air. I don’t know what to do!”
held tight to a deepened exhale within her. She sat there in silence, praying
hard within her subconscious. She slowly dialed her daughter’s cell only to be
greeted with her cheery voicemail repeatedly. “Hey, hey. You’ve reached —”
dialed again. This time, her fingers moved independently of her mind.
hey —” Click.
and anxious, Mirabel shouted upstairs for her sleeping husband. Tiny hands and
feet came trickling into her home daycare, ready for what they expected to be
another fun-filled day with Ms. Mirabel.
still frantic on the phone with the 911 operator, began to tell her the events
of the morning.
she didn’t sleep much last night.”
faded in and out of consciousness. She looked to Tammy with a look of despair
in her eyes. Tammy, the youngest, and Sharon shared her a tiny two-bedroom
apartment that was located down the street from Mirabel. The apartment suddenly
felt vast and foreign.
on the phone with the operator, Tammy grabbed a few essential items to take to
the hospital. She shoved the sadness down deep within her as she packed Mom’s
bag with uncertainty filing its brim.
just started throwing up as I was getting ready for work and complained of her
right arm hurting…”
I’ve called the ambulance. They should be there shortly.” The operator phoned
in dispatch, “We have an African American female. Sixty years old. Possible cardiac
just like that, Tammy’s ears fell deaf, and she dropped the phone as first
responders rushed passed her to revive her ailing mother. Then they all went
off to the local hospital.
at Mirabel’s home, the children played quietly while the phone rang off the
hook. Mirabel, who is unable to focus fully and unable to reach her daughter,
began calling her daycare parents to notify them of a pending family emergency.
awoke from a drunken night of irresponsibility to her phone vibrating under her
pillow. As she attempted to accept the call, her phone died.
She’d spent the night at a friend’s and slept
right through the eight calls from home.
What the hell
jumped up, rushing out of her drunken slumber. As she peered out the window,
she noticed birds chirping and the sun peeking over the fence in what looked to
be a beautiful day ahead. Tiffany gathered her items and hurried out the door
into her car to charge her phone. She called her mom as she zoomed up the highway,
not knowing what to expect when she arrived.
didn’t you answer your phone?!” interrupted Mirabel.
was sleep! What’s going on?” Both of them frantic. Both unable to fully uncover
the very real elephant in the car, in the room, on the phone.
What the hell
rushed Grandma to the hospital.” Silence ensued.
on the way.”
both hung up and sent up the same prayers.
up the highway, Tiffany began to draw inward. How could she be so stupid to be
in a drunken slumber as her precious granny was being rushed to the hospital? A
thought flashed into her head. Granny had left her a voicemail a few days ago,
but she hadn’t had time to return her call or stop by.
Sweet Pea. It’s Grandma. I made you some ribs. I know they are your favorite.
Let me know if you can stop by. Remember, Grandma loves you. Don’t forget me.”
the tears fell uncontrollably, unmasked, and ugly. The tears fell because
Tiffany knew deep down what she might not have wanted to admit at the time. And
so the tears continued to fall.
What the hell
the time she made her way home, Tiffany had managed to dry her eyes and look
somewhat presentable. She could show up and be a rock for her mother.
opened the door, and the look on her face was unforgettable. Her mother’s face
was frantic. It was the face of a mother unsure of how to live without her own
mother. It was a face full of fears hidden by the tears that continued to fall.
They embraced one another. As the last of the daycare children left, Mirabel,
Farrell, and Tiffany made their way to the local hospital where they would meet
Tammy and await their fate.
made calls to work while grabbing a cup of coffee to awaken her own dying
spirit somewhat. Ugh, must give up vodka.
She phoned work to let her boss and staff know that there was a pending
emergency with family, and she wasn’t sure if and when she’d be in.
the hospital, they made their way to the fourth floor, Cardiac unit. Nurses
flashed by. Doctors answered pages. They stood there, unaware of what those
elevator doors would reveal.
sat in the family waiting room, quietly updating family members and responding
to texts. They were so unnecessarily busy to keep from the pending thoughts of
Jeffries was the presiding doctor that morning. He approached the family with
eagerness and delivered the news many hoped would be positive.
mom is a very sick lady. She had a massive heart attack. Her heart is only
working at about twenty percent on its own right now. We put in a stent;
however, it’s only a temporary fix. With her being a Jehovah’s Witness and not
taking blood, our options are limited. We have her sedated right now, and you
can see her once we move her to ICU, which should be within the hour.”
the news penetrated each eardrum in that small space, the weakening of knees
soon followed. Tiffany watched her mother go weak as Farrell attempted to hold
her up. Tammy fell into Aunt Sally as she tried to walk away, only finding
stability and comfort against a wall. Tiffany walked away. Stark in her spirit,
she walked towards an abandoned corner and let out her fears and tears. Her
wail seemed to instinctively break her own heart right there in the Cardiac
unit, go figure.
in the family waiting room, Mirabel, Tammy, Tiffany, and Farrell sat waiting.
Everything was uncomfortably still. The news on in the background, nurses and
hospital personnel rushed by as the elevator opened, and what they all saw
could never be forgotten.
body nearly lifeless strapped to the hospital bed. A protruding belly and IV
lines tracing the perimeter of her sweet face. Beeps and buzzing of heart
monitors disrupted the silence in their hearts. In and out her inhale and
exhale assisted, tubes running down her throat, eyes closed seemingly dreaming
of a better day.
family watched their mother and grandmother be carted away up to ICU, where
they would soon follow. All of them sat in stillness as the sting of being in
the hospital for a loved one continued to pierce.
Tiffany, you need to eat something.” Mirabel said while handing Tiffany a pack
of vending machine graham crackers.
thanks, Mom. You go ahead and eat it.” Tiffany, pushed the graham crackers back
towards her mother.
You need to eat something. Here!”
Mirabel shoved it back to Tiffany, as she held a lost look of a mother trying
to comfort her daughter when she needed comforting herself.
I DON’T WANT IT!!!” and everyone in the family waiting room started laughing.
Laughter was our thing, and Tiffany smiled at her mother with content.
was nothing but a mother feeling helpless in her role as a daughter. The only
way to combat that was for her to feed and console her own. Here’s the thing,
the laughter is what satisfied Tiffany’s soul the most. It had nothing to do
with that stale graham cracker. Laughter in her family was familiar, it was
comforting and meant that no matter what, we would see this through and keep our spirits light as we go, at least that’s
what she thought.
the family, now in full cackle and banter, Dr. Jeffries and his nurse came into
the waiting room. They gave the family the green light to see Sharon.
they transported her up to ICU, the pain of what they were witnessing started
to set in. Dr. Jeffries made it clear that she probably should have died during
that attack, another sunken feeling of defeat. As she arrived in ICU, the
family followed suit forming a line of love to see their ailing mother and
grandmother. Her eyes flickered open and closed, and she tried to make sense of
her new view. Unable to fully speak, a teardrop formed at the corner of her eye
and like a worn levy gave way to her sadness. Scared and unaware of what was
coming next, Sharon closed her eyes and prayed to her God. The family filed in
attempting to display a strength they only
got from her.
all the excitement and sedation, Sharon found the strength to speak to her
loved ones. “Make sure they know I am a Witness and don’t take blood.” Holding
Tammy’s hand, Tammy and Mirabel reassured her that it’s in her chart, and
everyone working on her case will be made aware.
had a heart attack? They said I had a heart attack? I — I just can’t believe
it.” Sharon whispered in complete disbelief and shock.
stroked her hair, “You did, Mom. Dr. Jeffries is going to take great care of
you. In the meantime, try to rest. We’ll come and check on you tonight. Aunt
Sally is talking to the nurses to make sure they are aware of your case. Don’t
worry. You’re in good hands, Mom.”
drifted off to sleep. The family filed out of the room and back into the
waiting room, where they dried their eyes and prepared for whatever was coming
night Sharon slept somewhat peacefully as the beeps and buzzing persisted and
penetrated even in her dreams. That night she dreamt of the new system. A faint
smile quivered on her lips as she dreamed of green grasses, feeding the
elephants, living amongst the land, no pain, no sadness, and pure tranquility.
She drifted off to sleep, reciting the lines silently to one of her most
teachable scriptures. Revelations, the power of God’s will, was seen there
through passages emphasizing his beautiful work. For the first time in weeks,
she was able to sleep peacefully.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death’ or pain, for the old order of things has passed
away. Revelations 21:4.”
month had passed since Sharon’s initial attack. I, on the other hand, had made
great strides with the chemotherapy rounds. My hair was completely gone; Bald
as an eagle. I didn’t mind because my nieces and daughters continued to make me
feel beautiful as I went through this process of unveiling. One of my nieces
did those fancy eyelash extensions once when I was hospitalized a few weeks
ago. Gosh, I felt so beautiful that day! I wore a wig from time to time; A
short one with a bang that fed into my sunken cheeks. I walked with a walker
now. Since the cancer had metastasized to
my bones, I had to have rods placed in both femurs to prevent a total break of
the hip. So I’d gotten really acquainted with said walker. I visited Sharon
when I was able to; When my levels were at a decent range to tolerate the
germ-infested walls of the Intensive Care Unit. Go figure, and I thought I
would find myself here for an extended stay rather than visiting my eldest
sister with our mother in tow.
week went by. The doctors were now at the point of removing the balloon that
was inserted into Sharon’s heart. They explained to the family that for someone
as sick as my big sister, this was a temporary fix in preparation for
open-heart surgery. Because she was a Witness and couldn’t take blood, the
options were severely limited. They were running out of time. They explained
that once the balloon is removed, there was a high chance of her passing
before her surgery, the family filed in one by one meeting Sharon at her
bedside with warm smiles and aching hearts to send their love and well wishes.
She laughed and joked as if she were in the hospital for a routine checkup and
not to check out ultimately. Elders from her congregation made their way to
read their scriptures. They facilitated Sharon in finding a level of peace that
could only be brought on by none other than the Holy Spirit.
Tammy, and Tiffany entered her room shortly before she was carted off and
prayed with her. Unsure of what was next, each of them took what they could
from the moment. They tried to be as strong as possible for her.
hands quivered in fear, a fear she hid from the rest of her visitors. Sharon
spoke to her girls, “This might be it for me, ladies. If anything, I really
want you to get to know Jehovah, our God.”
eyes met Tiffany’s and Tiffany’s to Tammy and back to Sharon as she worked to
hide the affliction on her face while fidgeting with her signature red
nails. “He’s done some beautiful things.
I want you guys to know all about him and his amazing works. I want to see you in the new system. I gotta have my
girls with me in the new system.” She smiled, fighting back the tears.
was the first time since her initial heart attack that the three of them felt
the panic in her already breaking heart. Tears fell from each of their eyes.
She quickly instructed them not to cry, be strong, and be like she raised them
to be — fearless in the face of adversity because God was on their side. And
like she always told them, “I didn’t raise no weak women.”
waited patiently for the procedure to commence. The surgeon gave notice that
her heart could possibly give way in the next days. Sharon continued to laugh
and joke and was extremely vocal with nurses and hospital staff just minutes
after the surgery. A medical marvel yet again. With a heart working at only
fifteen to twenty percent, Sharon was supposed to be in critical condition,
unable to speak, let alone laugh and joke.
a little more stir crazy as the hours passed, Sharon was adamant about getting
someone to smuggle food onto the ICU floor. She phoned Tiffany and requested a
Slurpee. Tiffany declined. Sharon called Mirabel, but before she could even get
her request out, Mirabel informed her that she was unable to bring her any
food. Sharon, with an attitude, hung up the phone.
then phoned her son-in-law Farrell. She was sure he would do it. He always went
above and beyond for everyone in the family, so she called him and put her
request in for a Dairy Queen ice cream sundae with sprinkles and whipped cream.
“I’m sorry, Mom. I can’t do that. You know the situation. I’m sorry, Mom.”
That was Sharon; She wanted what she wanted when she wanted. Unfortunately,
this was not a fight she would win with her family.
prognosis worsened after getting the report from her surgeon about the state of
her aching heart. Arrangements were made to move her to hospice care (up a few
floors in the hospital) until the family could decide what was next. As the
chosen ones to make the final decisions, Tammy and Aunt Sally agreed on a
charming hospice home not too far from the hospital. Sharon would go there in a
few days when a bed was available.
family then decided that they would allow Sharon to have what would become her
last meal. Her request: lobster tail and an ice cream sundae. The family
obliged, and Sharon had a last meal of her favorite comfort foods as hospice
arrangements were being made.
birthday was fast approaching, and she had plans to have a big fortieth
birthday bash. However, given the circumstances, she was unable to get into the
birthday spirit fully.
and family came together to celebrate her while silently wondering if these
would, in fact, be Sharon’s last days. Family arrived for a night of fun at the
Davis home. They hosted a pajama jammy jam to bring everyone together to laugh
a little and enjoy these quick moments of respite from dealing with doctors,
nurses, phone calls, etc.
just needed a break, and I, for one, needed to just see my family in good
spirits again. We got together for a family game night and pot luck. Everyone
came dressed in their favorite jammies. We played games, laughed, ate way too
much, and for a moment, let the sadness slip away.
played the Wii game, Michael Jackson I think it was. I watched my girls, my
nieces, and nephews let loose in a fashion that had been prevented given the
recent lemons life so graciously provided.
The next morning, bright and early, Mirabel
was frightened out of her sleep from a phone call from the hospital. This time
it was from Sharon’s hospital room.
Mom. Is everything okay?”
scared, Mirabel.” Her voice was drowned out by the constant beeps and buzzing of
know, Mom. But, you’re going to be okay. You’re going to be transported to the
hospice house later this evening, and we’ll come down to get you set up and
situated so you are comfortable, okay?”
I’m terrified, Mirabel. Please come down here soon.”
Mom. We’ll be down soon.”
hung up the phone and prayed. This entire time she was only able to hold
herself together because of her mother’s strength and tenacity. Today she heard
something different in the quiver of her voice. Mirabel’s mother was
approaching the end of her life. Sharon was frightened to the point of needing
to hear her eldest daughter’s voice for reassurance.
evening Sharon was transported via medical transfer to the hospice home where
she would be made comfortable. It was a cozy home in a lovely quaint
neighborhood not too far from the beach. Sharon’s hospice home was one just
like any other home with four bedrooms. Each room was equipped with a hospital
bed, small sofa, television unit, and a window or sliding glass door.
home smelled of lavender and lemongrass; Calming and suitable aromas to satisfy
the nerves of those entering and ultimately exiting. There was a kitchen where
home-cooked meals were prepared and a common area with artworks of serene
landscapes. It was a beautiful home with a staff that prided themselves on
exceptional bedside manner and a level of compassion comparable to angels
family arrived in the late afternoon. By this time, Sharon was unresponsive and
nearly comatose. The family was told she was aggressive, slightly insulting,
and combative upon transfer. So, she was administered Ativan to ‘relax’ her
during her transition into the hospice home, and well, you know the rest.
this place is really nice. I am so glad we decided on this rather than bringing
her home. That would’ve been way too difficult to handle.” Mirabel said as she
walked through the room, making sure things were in tip-top shape for her
wish she could see it. She would be so happy to be out of that hospital
finally!” Tiffany said, followed by a nervous laugh. Tiffany had already
decided she was going to spend that evening with her beloved grandma. She’d
vowed to stay as long as possible to make sure she was comfortable in the days
was the evening of May 22. Tiffany made herself comfortable on the small sofa,
which was situated just to the left of the hospital bed. Her grandmother lay in
peaceful slumber in her favorite nightgown and pink bonnet. They spent the
evening scrolling the TV as Tiffany continued to speak to her in standard
nature. As the sun began to set, Tiffany went into her duffle bag where she’d
packed her Nikon camera, Johnson’s baby lotion, and her journal for the
evening. Sharon loved Johnson’s baby lotion even at sixty years old. That was
her go-to after shower moisturizer. Tiffany brought her journal to capture her
emotions as they spent this time together. She brought her camera to capture
what could be her last photos. Everything became so surreal.
pulled back the blanket to her grandmother’s hospital bed and revealed her
weeping extremities. She pulled out the pink Johnsons baby lotion and squeezed
a dime-sized amount into her hands. She began to effleurage up her
grandmother’s calves, around her knee, circling down around the ankle. She made
swift strokes around the feet, through her toes that were painted the color of
love. Tiffany massaged her way up to her arms and poured her way up, circling
her grandmother’s elbow. She noticed the moisture in her skin, its elasticity,
and luster. She continued to massage past the veins of her arm and beyond the
bend in her flesh. She softly pushed her way up to her shoulder and spilled on
to her chest and back down, dividing amongst her fingers. She gently caressed
each finger, studying her nails in their natural state, painted red with joy,
long and beautiful. She worked her way
across her chest, making peace with the gold chains around her neck. The simple
gold chain was the second half of a best friend necklace. She began to sing.
She sang a song that came so natural, one that she never sang before but felt
compelled to sing it to her grandmother in her passing days, one that she once
sang to her as a little girl.
Summertime and the livin’ is easy,
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high,
Oh, your daddy is rich and your ma is good lookin’,
So hush little baby don’t you cry.
opened her eyes almost as if to say a quick ‘thank you. I love you’ to Tiffany.
Then, she closed her eyes and drifted
off to sleep. Tiffany continued to sing and massage her favorite lotion into
hours passed, and the day transitioned into dusk. Sharon continued her slumber
as Tiffany watched her intently praying, finding peace, and reminiscing on
their lives together.
the next morning, nurses and hospice staff came in. They asked Tiffany to step
out while they cleaned and changed Sharon. At this time, her breathing was
slightly labored yet productive; however, she was still unresponsive. Tiffany
stepped out of the room as her phone rang.
babe. How are you? How’s she doing?”
opened her eyes briefly for me. I don’t think she was really there, there, but it was nice!”
could hear the tears swelling up behind her smile.
nurses called late last night and said that she is actively transitioning and
they don’t want you there alone. Why don’t you come home and we’ll go back
together this afternoon?”
I’m not leaving her alone.” Tiffany growing in frustration, paced the living
room area of the hospice home.
on, babe. Do this for me. I don’t want you there alone, either. Besides, Tammy
is going down there soon so she won’t be alone. Come on, babe.”
fine. I’ll go into work for a bit and leave around twelve and meet her down
sounds good. I love you. Drive safe.”
you too, Mom.”
went back into the room to gather her items. She snapped a few pictures of her
beloved before kissing her softly on her cheek. “I love you, Granny. Always and forever,” whispered Tiffany before
making her way through the home. As Tiffany made her way through the
house, she found herself taking in its sights and smells as she exited the door
to her car and off to work.
arrived around 9:30 am to a desk piled with work and coworkers who gave her the
space she needed to just to be. One by one, she was greeted with a soft embrace
and warm condolences as no one really knew what to say. Tiffany was the
youngest in this small office of women. Right now, they were the moms and aunts
she needed to survive the hours to come.
hours passed. Tiffany instinctively checked her phone every five minutes for
updates and to respond to texts and well wishes. Her phone rang, and it was her
Mom.” Tiffany’s heart raced. She pushed her chair back to step away from her
desk for another quick break.
Tammy is there with Aunt Ann and Zora. The Elders are going to come to pray
with her. They say it’s going to be soon.” She did it. Maribel got through the
words on her very first call about her dying mother.
I’m leaving work and heading down there. I’ll call you when I get there.”
babe. I love you.”
love you too.”
time it felt just a little stronger. The love, the intent, the meaning held
each of them together just a moment longer.
Tiffany arrived, she was greeted by Aunt Tammy, Zora, a family friend, Aunt
Ann, another sister of Sharon’s, and three elders from Sharon’s congregation.
The Elders were there to pray over her grandmother in her last moments. What a
sight to see. Never in a million years did Tiffany ever imagine herself in this moment.
all sat around her bedside, staring at the muted television. Tiffany scanned
the room and noticed no one was watching the TV; just a room full of low gazes
over the screen nearly hypnotized by the bitterness of this harsh reality.
breathing became more and more labored. She struggled and gasped for each
breath as if she was still holding on to the possibility of life — of true
healing. A wave of silence swept the room as each space between her breaths
became more substantial, more real.
attempted to use the restroom a few times but was unsuccessful as other
families were visiting and there were only two bathrooms to accommodate. She
tried again anyway. She met Aunt Ann in the hallway, and they waited for the
restroom together. They consoled each other and shared quick stories about
their beloved grandmother and big sister. They sat on the ledge of the window
in the dining area. They waited what seemed like fifteen minutes, where they
shared in a few laughs and admired how beautiful the home was. Sharon would
have been proud there.
came out into the lobby and made eyes with Tiffany and Aunt Ann. Then, without
saying a word, she nodded her head, blinked her eyes, and subtly summoned the
two of them to the room. That was it. Sharon passed away at 1:39 pm on a Monday in May.
could not bring herself to enter the room, but she had to get her phone. She
had to call her mom. She walked in and placed her hand near her head, blocking
her grandmother from her eyesight. She reached for her bag and glanced quickly
at her beloved. Tiffany bid her sweet dreams and made her way out of the home
and down the street.
tried so hard to contain it, but Tiffany had the breakdown that had been
looming over her shoulder for months. She walked down the road into a cull de
sac trying to make sense of the moment they’d been anticipating for months.
Nothing could quite prepare her for the depth of pain that she finally was
forced to surrender to.
was met shortly after by Cousin Marshall, who was visiting in from New York for
Mirabel’s birthday festivities. Marshall caught Tiffany on her way down and met
her with a warm embrace. He held on to his baby cousin for as long as it was
necessary to shield her from the pain ahead.
death was a hard blow for everyone because Sharon hadn’t been sick on that
level. At least that’s what everyone thought. Tiffany didn’t know what to do
with herself at this point. She had spent the last three months practically
living on the third floor of the hospital. She knew the Intensive Care Unit
staff, and their shift start and end times. Tiffany knew what time they came to
reposition her grandmother, and even when her next medicine dose was due. She
was right there for every minute of it. She lived on hospital coffee, hot
Cheetos from the vending machine, and fast food delights from when friends
would visit. She set up an area complete with her pillow, blanket, and laptop
so she could do homework. She was attending her last set of classes at the
local college before transferring. She was a busy young lady but made it her
responsibility to be there for her grandmother every step of the way. Today she
was relieved of her duties. The family decided to meet over Grandma Bella’s
home to discuss arrangements.
funeral would be a week later. Sharon’s service would take place at her local
Kingdom Hall, where family and friends would gather to pay their respects to
the family. She would be cremated as this was her choice, and ashes would be
split between her daughters. The repast took place at Mirabel’s home, where
most family and friends attended. The Witnesses from Sharon’s congregation planned
a separate repast. Tammy and Mirabel attended to express their gratitude for
the outpour of love they received for their mother, a Witness of nearly thirty
at Mirabel’s home, family and friends gathered to enjoy an evening of
celebration in honor of Sharon. A close family friend of Tiffany’s offered her
voice as a gift to the family. She sang Sharon’s favorite song by her favorite
artist: Etta James’ At Last.
At last, my love has come along,
My Lonely days are over, and life is like a song, oh
At last, the skies above are blue,
My heart was wrapped up in clover the night I looked
I found a dream that I can speak to,
A dream that I can call my own,
I found a thrill to press my cheek to,
A thrill that I’ve never known,
You smiled and then the spell was cast,
And here we are in Heaven,
For you are mine at last.
a dry eye in sight. The lyrics of the melody were the perfect send-off for a
soul ready to be reunited with the love of her life. Mirabel and Tammy’s father
had preceded her in death many years before. We all believed her heart never
fully recovered from that. That day they met again, at last.