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By Bethsheba McGruder

 

 

Yesterday was Mama’s Birthday.

Chloe Gladys Augusta Bowman died 18 years ago and I still remember the last day.

“Bethsheba…come read the scripture to me, please.”

 

The sweet sound of her voice still rings in my right ear. I sit at the edge of the bed and begin to read from “the good word.”

Don’t remember the text. A few minutes pass and I look up. Mama is trying to swallow and her face is twisted.

 

She slurs “B-e-t-h- s-a-y- t-h-e- A-L-P-H-A-B-E-T.”

“A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J…” and so on.

Mama tries and she only gets to the letter C.

“I- t-h-i-n-k- I- h-a-d- a- s-t-r-o-k-e.”

I dial 9-1-1.

“K-e-e-p- t-a-l-k-i-n-g- t-o- m-e.”

 

For the first time, I am scared that Mama wasn’t going to make it or maybe I just knew. But all the other times while I watch the tubes circulate her blood thru her left arm while she sat in her in-home dialysis chair, I never thought she would leave me. 

But this one moment, I just knew and I held on to every memory; her bedroom wall lined in strips of gold like wall-paper, rose colored chair, beige curtains, teal green bed sheet, and perfume lined across the dresser top.

 

I looked into her eyes and told Mama we’re going to see Alvin Ailey. 

I was 20 years old, worked part-time at The Walt Disney Store, and didn’t have tickets.

The ambulance came and Mama didn’t return home; her heart beat for seven days and when she took her last breath, I was not there.

 

I was huddled in her closet caressing her clothes, inhaling her scent, packing every smell and word in my memory bank.

Happy Birthday Mama!

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