Reflections on Being Inspired By My Mother
We were in Paris; it was in the late 90’s. I asked my dear mother Eunice if she wanted to take the elevator or walk up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. She said, “I’ll walk to the top.” And, she did so energetically. Later, after walking nearly a mile to the subway exit, I tricked her. I told her that we could get a taxi, or walk an extra 2 miles. The hotel was actually a block away. I was just testing her. She said, “Let’s walk”. She and I loved to be together. Whenever I offered, she eagerly chose to be with me. It wasn’t my fault. We just enjoyed being with each other. No one other than my mother ever made me feel this way.
She had never experienced adventures like the ones we experienced together. She was from a meager life, 30 years through the depression, having to quit school, endure martial abuse never considering divorce, raising 9 children, and serving as a maid for 50 years. I was honored, with burning desire, to show my mother places that were previously deprived of her presence.
On these adventures, the delight in her eyes was like the specs of crystal that would one day sparkle on her granite tombstone. Lil Eunice and I walked up the Eiffel Tower as high as we were allowed to. Though in her eighties, she was fueled by adventure, love, and trust. We had such a beautiful bond.
It was not until about 20 years later, I would realize that this all seemed to be by design, …God’s design.
Even before her eventual decline, I felt commissioned to treat her royally, never realizing that it was fate that was writing the script that would follow.
Treating my mother like royalty was not a new phenomenon for me. I always treated her exceptionally well. When I started earning six-figure incomes, her treats become more extravagant and adventurous, because she was my mother, and my best friend
In Casablanca, Morocco, she was worshipped like a queen by the locals. I was also honored for having taken a trip so far, for my elderly mother to experience. Several Moroccans took us to the top of their roofs in the medina. They all offered mint tea. She had never had mint tea before.
The same happened in Tunisia. She told me stories on our trips about how hard her life was, also stating that I treated her, the way she treated her mother. The stories she told was the delight of being with her on these excursions.
In Cozumel, she walked freely up the Mayan pyramids. I was so proud of her.
She loved helping others, as I did. I exposed to the Spanish culture, very intimately, as we stayed with a missionary family, in San Jose, Costa Rico, bringing food, gifts and entertainment to impoverished kids, who were as poor as she was as a child, during the Great Depression. The Great Depression era served as a milestone in her life until she transitioned. She brought it up often.
I remember in Paris how she showed so much pride and appreciation to me, with her simple smiles. I had taken her for the first time, but I had visited several times before. One day I was stopped by an artist on the street who remembered me from a prior year’s visit. I spoke only a few words of French to him, and stepped to the side to hold a conversation. I saw my mother from the corner of my eye, “skinning and grinning”, in pride of me, seeming so international. Little did she know that after a few failed attempts at speaking French, the rest of the conversation was in English. I saw that special sparkle in her eyes once again then.
I was determined to treat her “like a queen on a throne”, as I often told her directly, and I did. About 4 years ago, I began referring to her as “Lil Euni”. It stuck. ….she loved when I called her Lil Euni. I told her nearly daily, “that you’re my favorite girl in the world”. I really felt this way, but I also did it just to see her infectious smile.
She was treated like a queen on all fronts. She had a queen’s garden that I maintained. She would pick out the flowers, colors, and placement. She would on the porch of her historic home, and she would instruct me on how she wanted her garden to look. Later, during full bloom, I would serve her multi-course queen’s breakfasts, lunches and, dinners on the front porch, placed on a perfectly set folding table, and served by a perfectly trained waiter….me. In the midst of her meal, she would shout out and point to the various blooming flowers. ….then the butterflies, dragonflies, bees, and birds, that they, and the bird bath would attract.
I decided for her that the queen’s home needed look like a castle. The project started out as a desire, but later ended up as a necessity. I then took on more than I ever imagined to show her home in its unimaginable majesty. I could see the vision in my head, but had to create it for her to see. …To see her home better than it’s ever been.
So I renovated her 14-room home, while caring for her, and fighting battles, though I was frail and getting very sick. This was a tough undertaking, but I would never let her down, as she would show delight in each minor accomplishment. I can’t believe that it was accomplished. I know that God made this possible, given the stress, persecution, and illness I battled at the time.
I witnessed her sparkle even brighter, after the mission was accomplished.
Throughout the latter years, serving as her care giver, she was constantly undergoing ER visits, treatments, poking and prodding, etc., but never once complained. I did just as she did, though I too was getting weaker and sicker. I had no time to think about me, given my responsibilities to her. I had already resigned my life to her, and she knew it by my deeds, working 15 – 20 hours a day for years.
I remember when I would place pennies in a Mardi Gras plastic cup, so that she could walk with her walker (at 93+ years) and drop a penny into the empty cup at the other end of the 30 foot hallway. Her smile was as huge as Lake Pontchartrain each time she completed a repetition and showed me how many pennies she had collected. The smile, as well as, her passion when defending how many times she took the trek, was priceless. The satisfaction and smile eased the sacrifice and effort it took to strip, repair and polished those same floors, as though we lived in the White House.
Style, appearance and presentation were important for Lil Euni. She used to go to many Mardi Gras balls with Samson, the love of her life, my stepfather. They were known for being the style setters of the neighborhood during the carnival season. Neighbors would wait on their porches to see them leave the house, when the taxi would arrive. Eunice and Samson really loved each other, and they loved life. That was before he would die.
Well, I decided to bring style back, when I cared for her. She was dressed and styled impeccably for a woman of her age and meager resources. I had her eyebrows, nails and hair done weekly. She received at-home professional massage during most of 2009 -2010. Nearly every week, I bought her new Wal-Mart outfits, adding in one expensive item, often just to sit around the house for home care workers, or to sit on her throne on the front porch to watch her garden and have a gourmet meal.
She loved to look good and showed it in her gleam. She appreciated that I found styling her so important, since she could no longer care for herself in that manner. I realized, not only with my mother, but with most elderly people, they still like to look good.
I dressed her in various coutures, from Church Lady, Elegant Lady, Royalty, California Casual, and even Urban, during carnival. She knew she looked beautiful. I know because she would strike a split-second pose on the drop of a dime, if a camera pointed her way. Her smile erased my and her pains, worries, and illnesses-du jour.
The bond that Lil Euni and I had was surreal, but no one understood it but her, me, and God.
Describing Lil Euni would not be complete, if I did not mention that she was extremely spiritual. Not the religious type of spirituality, though she attended church as often as she could. Her spirituality was personal. When she was unable to attend, I attempted to arrange for communion at home, as well as, letting her watch mass on TV.
She could not quote bible scriptures though (we were Catholics), but she could tell you about hard times and miracles she experienced more convincingly than a televangelist. She also knew her saints very well, having a different saint for nearly every occasion. She was coincidentally born on October 2, 1918. This is the same day as the Catholic Feast of the Guardian Angels.
She would say very often, “no one can do nothing to me; I have angels watching me”. She told this to everyone and proved it with continuing to defy health odds in the present, and telling stories of unbelievable triumphs over insurmountable challenges during the depression, caring for her ailing mother and grandfather, surviving my abusive father’s suicidal death, and being left with no job and nine children, happening eight months after my birth.
She had real proof that God, Angels, and Saints were real. I believed her, and still do.
We would pray together nearly daily. This was not easy for I had to semi-convert back to Catholicism out of respect, and read many novenas and prayers to Saints, as well as, attend mass. We went to Novena masses in the wee hours of the morning in Texas, Louisiana, and Colorado. We had nearly the entire collection of Saint charms, prayer cards, books, etc. Nonetheless, our spirituality was private between, her, me and God.
I was also able to rub some of my New Age thinking on her…..we even meditated a couple of times. But, I caught her eyes open looking at me. Even though she thought I was a little weird, at times, she trusted me and did anything that I requested for her good, including drinking weird smoothie drinks, taking supplements, and trying new things.
She could tell I really loved her so. I would be her encourager, as she was for me, during my childhood. I would inspire her to:
…Act Like Royalty
…Never Give up
During her latter 4 years, she told me many stories that accentuated her virtues even further. I think she believed that by telling me these stories of Angels, helping others, dropping out of school for her mother, triumph through The Depression, and similar admirable experiences, I would conclude that she was placing the same expectations on me. She did.
But, she did not recognize that by caring for her in my condition, I was taking away my life energy to extend hers. …or maybe she did, but never mentioned. …Or, maybe she just knew that God would watch over me too. I know she appreciated me for she would pray that I would be okay, sometimes to the point of tears.
She made it clear to everyone, to the chagrin of my older siblings, that it was “Kevin” and only “Kevin” who she wanted to care for her, because “Kevin cares for me, just like I cared for my mother and grandfather, when I had to quit school”. She told more people this, than I was aware of, often secretly. She told sitters and therapists, she was “ready to die, but wanted to make sure Kevin will be okay”.
But this trust, love and appreciation was very bittersweet. I loved her beyond boundaries, but was not sure that mentally, emotionally, and physically, that I could continue the level of intensity of care giving for a 90+ year old on my own.
But every smile or call, especially the screams, “Kevin come help me”, erased all doubts and worries. I was actually receiving her virtues through this process.
By how often she brought him up, she really admired her grandfather from Cuba, Francisco Delgado. She told many stories about him, and how he referred to her as, “Mi Granddaughter”, and how he found favor in her because she was “light skinned”. She said that he was protected by the nuns to stay in New Orleans, and passed for white, as an elevator car driver. She loved him so much, and told me she wanted to go to Cuba one day. I am so sorry that I never got to take her there, especially once Obama opened the pathway.
She loved her New Orleans culture, though she could not cook or eat in true New Orleans style anymore. I sometime would cheat and allow her to eat it anyway. We went to many parades and festivals. I loved wheeling her to the parades because we would get to watch from right near the floats and she was loaded with kisses, stuffed animals, and beads. She would be so delighted. It was priceless! Shortly thereafter, she made it a big deal every week to figure out to whose children she would give these trinkets to, as we would sort through the beads together.
We did wheelchair dances, ate crawfish, and celebrated as though she was real royalty in the open amongst thousands, as though no one was there but her, me and God. She was not embarrassed of her immobility and age. I was not embarrassed of my frailness and closely with my mother in public. We attracted lots of attention to nearly every event we attended. She loved attention, as strangers would come to talk to her, give her a kiss, beads, or a flower. She would especially tell everyone about it, if a “white man” or “white woman”, would kiss her or give her a trinket. To a degree, she never totally eliminated feeling inferior to whites in the South.
We were like fugitives together too. …Admirable ones, though. Like Bonnie & Clyde, we worked together on our moves, as we were constantly attacked by envious siblings, senior and state agencies, and others that worked against us. Many folks seemed to not want us together, and especially me being her care giver, POA, and confidante.
I had to transport her across state lines, from Texas to Louisiana, back again and ultimately to Colorado. She took these treks with me to dismantle my former life, and establish a new life with her. My siblings who did not like the closeness of our bond, never offered to help, so I would always figure something out, and Lil Euni would always come with me. She preferred adventure, anyway.
My siblings did their level-best to cause me to fail in caring for her. It actually seemed as though their intent was to expedite hers or my death, or both. They felt I was a show-off because I gave and gave up so much for Lil Euni. In their eyes, since I was the Golden Child, they refused to help us, and left me to figure out touch logistics, on my own. As a result we had to travel in huge rental trucks multiple times across states together, and my mother encouraged me on every move. She made it clear that she would only go with me, even when asked publically, privately or secretly.
I was honored and always exonerated by her (and by truth). But, I was getting weaker, and sicker. ….so was she… Nonetheless, she relied on me serving her head to toe. At this point, I was bathing her, grooming her, feeding her, dressing her, encouraging her, and everything else.
My mother’s confidence in me, I believe, was due to her faith in another secret plan she had made with God.
I am convinced now, that she was determined, just as she was during The Depression, to make it to this place called Colorado, even though she only saw pictures of mountains that I showed her on my phone. She was thirsty for another adventure with me. I introduced Denver, Colorado to her as our potential new home.
I gave her the choice to stay with my siblings, though they weren’t welcoming to her, to give her options, but she chose to go with me. This question was scrutinized by her friends, family, her other children, and state agencies, and she always spoke eloquently on my behalf, and how I cared for her, as she cared for her mother. She was not bashful about expressing how she felt. I was unaware of some of these discussions, until after she transitioned to angelhood, and I was informed by others.
Our last trek was to Colorado, but this time we flew first class, and stayed in 5 star hotels. Her home was eventually renovated to castle stature, and we sold it in one day. We were able to treat ourselves royally. Though Denver was unfamiliar to both of us, nonetheless, we savored in the idea of leaving New Orleans in our past, based on how The Big Easy treated us. We’d been on many illuminating journeys before, at this point, so this was just another chance for something magical to happen.
I was told by a long-time friend’s mother, years before it happened, that my mother was waiting until we were both safely out of New Orleans, before she would die. I did not give this much attention for I was ‘stuck on miracles’ at this point, after experiencing them in my own life, and after having read so many novenas. Besides, I did not want to seriously consider my mother death, after giving my blood to save her life.
But 7 days after arriving in Denver, she was hospitalized. She recovered after a month, and I continued her on organic juices, herbal teas, nutrition, and metaphysical therapy, in which I placed my faith, and it seemed to work.
After moving to 3 states in a matter of years, my daily routine became very tiring. At this point for I had to literally pick my mother up to bath her, clean her, dress her, and serve as her mobility. Though I was losing weight, weighing less than she did, I did it anyway. I really had no other option, for my siblings were nonexistent. But the mental and physical work was draining my remaining nuggets of life. Through plenty of meditation and prayer, I was able to extend beyond my physical and emotional capacity. I had been regularly encouraging my mother to be strong, and she proved to be a more diligent fighter than I imagined. We were fighting together.
But she had a secret that she never revealed to me. It was the only betrayal in my life that I appreciated.
Having to put her in home hospice care, I begin to have about 5 – 10 home care visitors every week. She enjoyed art therapy, sitters, weekly nail service, and gourmet meals that I prepared daily. Beets, brown rice, greens, healing juices, and herb and vitamins were her daily staples. She honored the regiment, but secretly expressed dissatisfaction to home health workers.
Initially, I strategically used the home hospice service as a convenience, still never accepting that my mother would die soon. I fought vigorously anyone who would suggest that she would die soon.
Six to seven months after arriving in Denver, we found she had metastatic cancer that had spread.
She had this for years unbeknownst to anyone. Even with this news, she was a warrior until the end. I asked, “Momma, are you worried?”….are you scared?” She said, “No, because there is nothing I can do about it”. She was sincere and seemed ready to go. This news was like a relief for her, as though she had been expecting it.
About 8 days later, after being administered morphine for unbearable pain, she died. The night before she died, I remember lying in the twin sized hospital home bed to hug her. She had not spoken much in several days at this point.
She had been nearly comatose, but seemed very peaceful. Unexpectedly, she called my name, “Kevin, you did good”. I confirmed with her that she said that I did well. She confirmed again, “Kevin, you did good.”
Those words to me, exulted from her limited final breaths, is the most priceless reward that I could have ever received from serving her, and God.
The next morning, I went to kiss her on the head, as she lay in bed. Her head was cold as an ice cube. I did not know or want to accept that she had made her transition. I had never experienced a person’s death before. I called my best friend to confirm that she had left this world.
Lil Euni had become and angel on May 14, 2014, two days after Mother’s Day. …9 days after learning of Cancer, and 9 days after waiting for her other children to come to see her. They never showed, except one. But when she transitioned, there was only me and Lil Euni, peaceful, with a Mona Lisa smile. She’s still ‘my favorite girl in the world’, to this day.
Since I Closed My Eyes
By Kevy Michaels
My eyes are closed now
I’m looking deep within
Seeing more than I’ve ever seen
Taken to places I’ve never been
I am still now
Finally, I am at peace
This is what I’ve been missing
It’s just the thing I needed
I’m reflecting on it all
From beginning to end
Putting the whole story together
Now everything makes sense
Don’t think that I’m burdened
For I am no longer in pain
Gone is all resistance
I’m now free and unrestrained
I’ve been elevated up high
But not like a statue on a shelf
It’s my soul that’s illuminated
So you can enjoy my spirit for yourself
Don’t look around for me
For you won’t see me anywhere
Just feel my presence
Feel that I am always there
Smile at our good times
Admire the joy I shared with you
Reserve a place in your heart for me
My light shall forever shine through
Don’t mourn for me
For I’ve gone nowhere
And don’t shed any tears
I know how much you care
Celebrate our memories and joy
That my new Beginning is just at its start
Thank God for allowing me the honor
To forever hold a sacred place in your heart
I will be with all those who loved me
All at the same time
God’s granted this beautiful gift to us all
Since the moment
I closed my eyes
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