I am a black woman that grew up in a white household.
My family showered me with overwhelming love, and I had a beautiful childhood that allowed me to spread love to every person that I meet in my adult life.
The person who deserves the most credit is Nana, my 78-year-old grandmother, who was recently displaced after Hurricane Harvey. Once we found out that her house was damaged beyond repair, we decided that she would live with us permanently.
She is my responsibility and I am honored to have her with me!
We have had several “mini race” conversations, but for the most part- our chats avoid controversy. Her stance has always been that she “does not see color”, and that was always enough for me….until now.
Last night, she scoffed at the t.v. and yelled for me to come help her change the channel. “What’s wrong?”, I asked. “I am tired of hearing about these black athletes kneeling for our country’s flag!” My head jerked back in shock and I asked what she meant, just in case I was hearing her incorrectly. “Here we go again – we just want to watch football!”
Growing up, I let a lot of things slide to keep the peace. Hell, I didn’t even correct Paw Paw for saying the N word in our home until I was 18 years old. He and others in our family felt so comfortable saying it around me, because in their minds “I wasn’t black”, but he had to be held accountable. After an uncomfortable, explosive argument with him- my grandfather never used the N word ( at least not in my presence) again!
It was time for me to hold my grandmother accountable, or at least educate her. In my heart, I know that she is not racist, but I am fully aware of her upbringing in Alabama and then Texas. She has always been surrounded by individuals who were disgusted by black people. Which is so strange, because then her son brought me home… 😊 That’s a separate topic for another day!
To ease into the conversation, I sat on the bed and asked her if her family owned slaves. Her response was “we didn’t have enough money for that.” The part that stung me about the response was that she didn’t mention that owning slaves was awful, she pointed out that her family couldn’t afford such things..as if I was talking about taking a vacation or a BMW. This small opening allowed me to understand that racism is not always direct!
Not the best start, but let me jump right into the subject- “Why do you think black athletes are kneeling? Not because of President Trump calling them S.O.B.s- I’m talking about the original silent protest of not standing and then kneeling during the national anthem?” By her face and my tone asking the question, I could tell that she recognized the tension and that this may or may not be a trick question. “I think they are kneeling because they do not have respect for the flag or the country. If they think race is an issue, it can be talked about outside of football.”
BINGO! I knew I had her then…that was the perfect setup..
I asked for her to propose a few places that could be used to discuss the police brutality, continued oppression and other injustices across our nation. None of ideas were big enough platforms to allow a country to recognize the subtle cruel treatment, the covert racism, or the blatant continuation of wrongful murders of black people.
It was easy for me to explain- America loves football! To grab the attention, to start the conversation, and to really get people disturbed enough to talk about these uncomfortable topics- we had to interrupt the regularly scheduled American program…
I allowed her to defend the flag, the people who have fought for this country, and for the national anthem itself, but she could not defend the fact that in 2017, black people are still considered and in many instances treated as less than human, disgusting, ignorant and like animals by many people. We both agree that there are SO MANY wonderful souls in this country, but we had to speak up on the not so wonderful..
I had to remind her that although the NFL players “do not have bad lives” and living well, they are actually kneeling and bringing awareness to the mistreatment of others! Imagine that- selfless advocates.
I told her that the new racism is simply pretending that racism does not exist.
Her wheels were turning and I decided to wrap up the conversation with this:
“Kneeling for the national anthem is a way for individuals with a popular platform to interrupt our regular scheduled program. It is to make those that just want to zone out and tune into their favorite sport actually listen to the conversation at hand. In 2017, there are still ways that people of color are being oppressed. With Black Americans making up less than 15% of the population, we need white people to help make a change.
I have visited 20 countries and if I had to choose tomorrow where I would live, it would be America. I think that we are comprehensively great. I am forever grateful to those service men and women who have fought for this great country, but the issue on race is mutually exclusive. It has nothing to do with my gratitude, but everything to do with my desperation to make this place better before Cruz has to face it all. If that means that football players kneeling is an icebreaker for me to talk to white family members and friends about real issues- I will take it!”
Her response was this- “I am with you. When you get on that internet to tell them what I said, make sure you say this- I love my country and all armed forces, but we have to do something about how we treat blacks.”
That was heavy enough and real enough for us to hug and head to the couch to watch Netflix and chill…until next time.. We are working on it here!
How the week unfolded when my mom died...9/16/2014
Ever since the first day that I met her, Mom made it known that she was not scared of death.
She had been living each year like it was going to be her last. She would always say that she had
no interest growing old, and that she was surprised that she has lasted this long. While she was
still around, she still wanted to be her best. I wanted to call her bluff at the end.
I have never felt the anxiety that I felt the week before going home to help my mother
prepare for death. I couldn't sleep without self-medicating on brown liquor and Tylenol pm. One
of my dear friends, Tina, flew in from Dubai. She spent the week trying to help me come to terms with
the trip. I can't imagine how my friends felt during this time. They were all so amazing. The
night before my flight they had a small support party to calm my nerves before the trip.
With a bottle of jack, two suitcases and a strong heart- I entered her room. Her face lit up, my
heart almost beat out of chest and I crawled in the hospice bed with her. She wrapped her arms
around my entire body and squeezed tight. I couldn't help it, I burst out into the most painful cry
that I had ever felt. We both sobbed and made the entire bed shake. There was nothing to talk
about. She was dying, I was hurt. As I sat up, I looked her up and down. She looked so sad. Her
fine little pieces of hair were sticking up with nowhere else to go and barely hanging on. I could see her limp body and obvious chest bones now protruding out of her hospital gown. She used to
always say how important it was for her to die with dignity. I know that this is not what she
The hours ran together and the next three days felt like they all happen within one. The first
night, she was the most lucid and continued to normal conversation as we always had. Her
stories got a bit funnier directly following the morphine injections, but I understood all of it. She
dozed in and out of sleep and I took advantage of this and napped with her. My body and my
mind were both exhausted. The eighteen hour journey was nothing but an anxiety stricken
waiting game. The pull out couch wasn’t awful, but the room was freezing and it wasn’t the most
comfortable situation Mom tossed and turned in her sleep and moan quite a bit. Once the nurse
would come in and give her more meds, she would be out again and comfortable.
She had many visitors on the second day and she was still in high spirits. Her conversation
began to slow down and I noticed that she was having much harder time breathing on day two.
My friends were extremely supportive and kept the family room full. Everyone was respectful of
the fact that I didn’t want everyone crowding her in the room, so they sat and kept each other
company. They just wanted me to feel their presence and it definitely made a difference.
Day three began and I wasn’t prepared for it. I woke up early to see that she was picking at
the breakfast tray that they brought in the room. I asked if she wanted me to get her something
else, she scrunched up her nose and shook her head. I stayed up late and read plenty of articles
on the signs of our final days. No one wants to eat when they are dying. The body decides that it
is no longer hungry.
I couldn’t accept this. “ What about Le Peep breakfast, Mom? It’s your favorite!” She gave a
small smile and nodding yes. I am positive that she was only doing this for me. My denial
allowed me to play along. I rushed to get dressed and drove to Le Peep for two breakfast orders
to-go. When I returned, my appetite was actually gone as well. The thought of all of this moving
so fast was making me nauseous. We both picked at our food for about thirty minutes. She
looked like she was in more pain and she wanted to sleep.
The main doctor made her typical Monday rounds and stopped to check her finger nails, toe
nails, and the rest of the full assessment. As mom was nodding off to sleep, the doctor asked me
to step outside. She didn’t sugar coat a thing. “Hi Lacey. I am happy that you made it in to be
with your mom. I know that this is a very difficult time, but I want to be direct. We are now in
the final hours. No one can know for sure. I never try to play God, but if you want my best
guess- I would say that she’ll let go today or tomorrow. “ I didn’t have a response. The doctor
asked if I had any questions. I had plenty, but none that she could help me with. My cousin Brandy walked in ten minutes later. I was alone and had just received the news.
She was right on time with flowers in her hand and a small card. She sat with me for a little
while and let me tell her about how scared I was to let go. I read the card that she left for Mom. “
Bettie, You have been a blessing to me and my family. Thank you for giving us Lacey!” My
heart sank and I was grateful to have a family that loved me so much.
A few other friends came and went. Candace agreed to stay the night with me. I am sure I
looked terrified to face the night alone, after the report that was given by the doctor. It was a
terrible night. We all three fell asleep quite quickly. She fought the nurses in the late hours of her
last night and tried to pull her IV out of her neck. The drugs weren't allowing her to stay awake
any longer. As soon as they would wear off, she was back to gasping for air. Her lungs were
quickly filling with fluid and the cancer that spread to her spinal cord was now shutting down the
rest her mobility. She was extremely irritable and was trying to rip off her hospital gown. She
grabbed my arm tight and I covered my face with my t-shirt. It was awful to watch her suffer and
gasp for air. I pressed the button to call for the nurse. She came in with extra morphine and said,
she was basically drowning. Mom eyes got really big as the nurse injected the needle
into the IV,
Mom faded to sleep mumbling that she was scared. Her last words were - "I''m scared."
The nurse explained that this would be the final phase and the most painful. She
recommended that we keep her comfortable by increasing the morphine. At least she wouldn’t
have to experience the scary stages of drowning. I agreed to the recommendation. I called my brother and a few of my close friends. We all gathered in the room with a lot of whiskey and kept
the conversation going as steadily as possible.
It was starting to get late, so Ryan suggested that we all gather around her and say a home
going prayer for peace. I sobbed the entire way through it, but it did actually make the entire
room feel better. Mom had been breathing the exact same all day. One of us read an article that
stated that playing music helps to calm the nerves of people that may be frightened or holding
on. We turned on a soft R&B song at the edge of the bed and as soon as it started playing, her
breathing changed. Everyone was shocked. I pressed the call button for the nurse. She came to
check with her stethoscope on her chest. She announced that these would be her last few breaths.
My friends all looked at me and took the cue to rush out.
It was just my brother and I on each side of the bed. The music continued to softly play. We
both just stared in shock like zombies. We both kissed her cheeks gently and felt her chest with
our hands. As the music stopped, mom took her last small breath. We both froze and time stood
still. Her soul was leaving her body and leaving us here in this room. The nurses came in again,
checked her heartbeat and looked at us both. “She’s gone. God bless her soul.”