But You Couldn’t Stop Me, Could You?

Fifty-one years ago today, shortly after 2:00 A.M., Mama gave birth to me. There was no pomp and circumstance, she simply gave birth to a 5-pound baby girl and was released to go home by 7:30 A.M. that same morning.

I was welcomed home by my older siblings, the youngest of whom was 11. My oldest brother was away in San Francisco with his own family. I have two nieces who are older than I am. My sister, Margaret, had already told Mama to name me Trease. I have no middle name. I was never babied. I was spoiled, but I was never babied. Most people who know me say that I’ve always been grown. I have an old spirit.

The past 51 years have carried one lesson after another for me in a constant fashion. I know when some of you heard that, you said, “Yeah, we’ve all learned lessons over our lifetimes.” For the most part that’s true. I say for the most part because in some cases, people don’t learn anything from their experiences. They continue to make the same mistakes. They grind their gears and they spin their wheels.

Here is some knowledge I picked up along the way:

  • In almost all cases, you get one chance to make an entrance. You get one chance to make a first impression. If you storm through any door in a destructive manner, reeking chaos, disrupting the good, folks won’t forget. Even though we’re supposed to, most folks won’t forgive either. Be mindful of what you do when you enter another’s space.
  • Your exit is probably more important than your entrance. I really can’t think of a reason to leave a situation in shambles. Why? Because to do so means that another person has gotten under your skin so deeply and has disrupted your psyche so much that you became someone you’re probably not. Don’t get it twisted — I’ve left material damages in some places that were so bad I should have been charged with the highest level of vandalism. It was bad and it was stupid. I let someone who had mistreated me take me to another level. I’m not coming at you in a “holier than thou” manner. Just don’t allow another person to take you out of character. What I think makes a  more profound statement is to simply take your ball and go home. You don’t even have to provide an explanation or say goodbye. Just go and be at peace.
  • Be extra-possessive of your time. Time is a precious commodity. We don’t have as much of it as we think. Don’t waste it on people who don’t love you fiercely, on a job that you hate, or in a situation that you don’t want to be in. Do life big!
  • Let no man or woman take you for granted. This is a lesson I learned the hard way. My presence — my whole being — was taken for granted by someone I thought valued me. Turns out, he is the most selfish individual on the face of this or any other planet. Lesson learned. The wrong people will take your love for granted. Take it back and give it to someone who deserves it. You’re so amazing. You’re such a blessing. If a man or woman can’t see that – GO! Plain and simple, just go!
  • Love your folks without condition. I’m grateful to see this day, I really am, but I would be lying if I said my heart is not filled with grief this morning. It has been nearly 11 months since my nephew passed away suddenly. The void his death has left in our lives is massive. Cherish your people. Loss is inevitable. Cherish your people.

I’m going to end this by saying that all those things that were designed to stop me from living my best life have failed. An abusive marriage, an aneurysm, unemployment, a devastating breakup — all those things wore on me, but here I am. None of those things stopped me. Nothing will. Trust that. The decision to live is yours. The kind of life you live is up to you. Let nothing stop you from having it all and from being it all. It’s up to you.

Advertisements

Month Nine

It’s been nine months since my nephew died. At 41 years old, he died in his sleep as the result of a heart attack. The only days he missed working out at the gym was Sundays; however, undiagnosed hypertension caused him to have a massive heartache as he slept the morning of December 9, 2017.

Minutes

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine minutes since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. I was still sitting on the side of I-20 West shaking uncontrollably nine minutes after I got that call. Or maybe I had started driving again; I don’t remember. Time stood still for me that day and to be honest, I don’t know when it started moving again.

Hours

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine hours since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. By that 9th hour, I was still fielding phone calls in my sister’s stead, responding to text messages, inbox messages, and emails, and replying to Facebook posts from people across the country wondering if it was true. They wanted to know if he had really died. I didn’t know some of the people who called me on Facebook Messenger, but that day, I wasn’t upset by the fact that they had taken the liberty to call. He was loved so deeply by so many people.

Days

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine days since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. By the 9th day, we had already had his funeral, but the fact that he was gone was still unreal to me. I sat on the second pew in the center of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church in Sarepta, Louisiana, so I know it happened, but it was all so surreal. I heard all the beautiful things that were said about him. I heard my family choir sing. I pulled my two cousins aside who were in charge of the music that day and told them to keep things upbeat because I didn’t want any sad songs being sung. We were there to celebrate his life. We sang congregation songs. There was a two-minute limit for tributes to him that day, but who could speak about him for only two minutes?

Weeks

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine weeks since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. Nine weeks after his death, the numbness had truly set in for all of us. One of my first cousins had died during that time so combined with Arthur’s death, we were all numb. I remember going to her funeral, but for the life of me, I didn’t recognize the woman in that casket. All those years of depression and abuse had turned her into someone her own family didn’t recognize. She is buried near my nephew. I wouldn’t know exactly where because at nine weeks, I still hadn’t gone to the cemetery.

Months

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine months since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. Today, it is nine months since my nephew died. Nine months is 39.133125 weeks. Nine months is 273.93188 days. Nine months is 394,461.9 minutes. Some of those weeks, days, and minutes have been so excruciatingly painful, I thought I would die myself. Not one time have I questioned God as to why He took him because I don’t question God’s will, but there hasn’t been a second of that time when I haven’t wondered how I can go on with him. I know I have to, but I still wonder.

Years

Sometimes it feels like it’s been nine years since I got that wretched phone call telling me he was dead. It feels like it’s been forever since I last talked to him. It feels like I haven’t seen him walk through the front door of Mama’s house for Sunday dinner in nine years. It feels like it’s been nine whole years.

Today

I’m sitting in my nephew’s living room right now and on this 9-month anniversary of his death, I continue to be sad beyond belief. I’ve fallen back into a somewhat normal pattern of living, but I still find myself lost. I still find myself wondering where he went. A very close friend put it best when he said, “It’s like Arthur went out the back door and just never came back.”

Perhaps one day, I’ll come out of the fog of grief and this vicious level of mourning will subside, but today I’m still underwater. I’m treading water, but not on the surface. I can see the sunlight above, but for now, I’m treading under the surface. Today, I’m still treading.

 

“Who Were You Looking For?”

Even before my childhood friend asked me that question, she knew the answer. We both knew the answer. There were so many people at my nephew’s funeral.

he family processional was huge. For every one person who considered him- or herself a friend of his in that church, there were 2-3 blood relatives present. I’m not talking about “play” cousins, sisters, or brothers, I mean the blood-related real thing. I actually ended up sitting on the far end of the second pew next to one of my younger cousins. I ended up there because some of my first cousins sat on the first pew with my sisters. It didn’t matter where I sat. It just didn’t matter. My heart was annihilated so I could have been swinging from the church bell and it just wouldn’t have mattered.

The Question

ask-blackboard-356079.jpg
Photo credit: www.pixabay.com

A few weeks after the service, a very close friend of mine who had been at the service asked, “Trease, who were you looking for? You kept looking around the church during the funeral. Who were you looking for?” She knew the answer before she asked, but in an effort to help me come to terms with Arthur’s death, she needed to hear me say it out loud. She wanted me to say it out loud so that I, myself, could hear the answer. We’ve known each other since we were children so she knew exactly how close I had been to my nephew.

I had gone to my doctor and asked for something to help me through the service because I knew that at some point, I was going to lose it. It didn’t happen at the service and it hasn’t happened yet, but I digress. My doctor prescribed Valium and told me to start with a half-tablet so that I wouldn’t keel over should a whole one be too strong. I took that thing around 9:30 that morning even though the service wasn’t set to start until 2 PM. By 11 AM, I knew that I needed to take the other half of that tablet because as my family members began pouring into my mother’s tiny house, I found myself getting agitated and extremely upset. Believe me when I say mind over matter is a thing — it’s a real thing.

Nearly every other person in my family is either a nurse or a doctor so I let them know what I was going to do in case something funky happened. By the time we, the family, walked down the center aisle of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church, I was a little calmer, but I was still extremely agitated. My mind began to wander. I remember looking around two times. My friend told me that I looked around more than two times — way more than two times. When she asked me who I was looking for, I calmly said, “Arthur.” She knew that already.

Only twice before had Arthur and I gone to funeral services without one another. One time had been my uncle’s funeral who passed away in July 2017 and the other had beenScreenshot_20170320-093621 that of a family friend a few years back. We always maintained eye contact during those services in case we needed to come to one another’s aid. I was looking for him on December 17, 2017. I know that sounds crazy, but I was looking for him. I knew he was in that casket, but I was looking for him. I needed to make eye contact with him even though I knew he was in that casket. I just could not fully wrap my mind around the fact that he was in that casket. My friend said, “I knew you were looking for him. We all knew.” Since my little talk with her, three other people have told me the same thing. They knew I was looking for him.

 

Answers, Solutions, and More Questions

I know he’s gone.I know I won’t hear his voice again in the present. True enough, I have a ton of videos of him laughing, making people laugh, dancing, jet-skiing, and other stuff, but I’ll never hear his voice again in the present.

I know I’ll never receive another one of his foolish texts. I know I’ll never get another text asking me what his mom cooked for Sunday dinner then telling me to fix him a couple of plates.

I know he’ll never call again telling me something weird has happened to his phone, swearing he hadn’t done anything to it. I always knew he had.

How am I supposed to move forward? I know I don’t have a choice because, for one, he wouldn’t want us to be sitting around mourning. Secondly, I have stuff to do.I’m going to keep pressing even though there are still many mornings when I just don’t want to get up. I have to, though.

Handling the death of a loved one is never easy. If it’s someone you’re extremely close to, it’s even harder. The heart will mend, but the pain will remain.

In This Time

It’s been just over 28 weeks since my nephew passed away.

IMG-0129
Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

So many things have happened since that time. My son has been home since school let out in early May. My granddaughter has been here since that time, too. We needed this time together. We needed this time together so desperately.

We needed to love on each other. We needed to lean on each other. We needed to bump heads. We needed to make up. We needed the tears. We needed to laugh.

With my nephew’s death came many lessons, not the least of which is that we have no time to waste on things that don’t matter or on people we don’t matter to. My best advice to you: get out of the way of toxic people. It’s true that hurt people, hurt people, but that is purely by choice. Hurt people don’t have to hurt people, they choose to. You, my friend, must choose to get out of their way.

One of the best things I’ve done recently is starting my own business. I’m not talking about reviving my Mary Kay business; I’m talking about a business of my very own. I’ll be writing and editing full time. I am also working on attaining my notary commission and am very excited about that. Every single thing about my life will be different by December 31, 2018.

My quest to become a speaker on the atrocity of domestic violence is neverending. I have some engagements coming up and will be sharing those things with you guys.

Know that your time and energy is precious. Don’t waste it.

 

Fridays, Saturdays, and a Month of Sundays

 

Arthur and Mia
Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

 

That Friday

“Hello? Whatchu want, Big Sexy?” I answered my phone at exactly 2:16 P.M. with that playfulness we’d shared all our lives.

“Trease, tell my mama I need some antifreeze for my car” my nephew, Arthur, said.
He said a few more things before we ended a very short conversation that day, including the fact that he was running late for work and needed to get off the phone. It was the last one I had with him. The last thing I said to him during that 2-minute call was that I was leaving for Dallas as soon I got off work that day; he simply said, “Okay.”

It has been 122 days since that little chat. It has been 122 days since I last heard his voice. The date was Friday, December 8, 2017.

Just as I told him I would, I left for Dallas right after work that day. My spirit was restless. Even though I had had a lot of coffee and soda that day, what I was feeling wasn’t caffeine jitters. My soul was vexed. Friday evening exit traffic didn’t make matters any better. I just could not settle down. At one point, I turned my radio off and prayed to God to still me. That prayer lasted two hours. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I just knew that something was off.

My nephew died the next morning.

That Saturday

He went to bed somewhere between 3:30 and 4:00 AM the morning of December 9, 2017. That would be the last Saturday morning he would sit outside on the porch of his home in Cotton Valley.

As usual, he had sat on his porch smoking those Black & Mild cigarillos and drinking his homemade peach vodka (he was cheap – he’d mix peach soda and vodka). The last thing he told the guy who was staying with him was to leave the sliding door unlocked because a friend was coming by to make sure he was up for work later that morning. She would find him shortly before noon, still warm.

They tried to call me four times before I finally answered. I did not recognize the number so I didn’t answer. It was an Arkansas number and since I had received three calls from it, I figured I should answer.

Before the young woman said anything, I could hear my sister wailing in the background, saying, “I’m never going to see my son again! Arthur’s dead! Trease, Arthur’s dead!” I had slowed to a crawl and finally pulled over to the side of I-20 East. I kept screaming, “What are you talking about?? Who is this?? Who’s dead?? Who are you talking about??” That’s when the young lady said, “Ms. Trease, Arthur is dead!”

It has been 121 days since he died. It has been 121 days since he drew his last breath. The date was Saturday, December 9, 2017.

That Next Sunday

We knew there would be many people there. We had no idea the church would be packed for both the wake and the funeral. As is pretty much standard in the black community, funerals are held on Saturdays. I don’t know why, that’s just the way it is. Arthur’s was held on Sunday, December 17, 2017, at 2 P.M. We did that for two reasons: my cousin, who delivers the eulogy at the funerals of all family members couldn’t be there until that Sunday; and the employees at International Paper wanted to be there. The entire plant wanted to be there but wouldn’t have been able to had the service not been held that Sunday.

I remember the service. I remember the fact that my son, who was immediately in front of me with my granddaughter, stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Arthur lying in state. There was a kind of domino effect because I had my head down and bumped into him. My son started screaming, “No!!” Although I had taken a prescription Valium, I remember every single thing that happened during the service.

I remember my sister’s dedication to him. I remember all the people who got up and paid tribute to him. I remember that I didn’t cry a lot. I don’t think I did. Maybe I did.

It’s been 113 days since we said goodbye to Arthur James Wade, Jr. The date was Sunday, December 17, 2017.

A Melding of Days

For the longest time following his death, the days all blended into each other. There were no weekdays; there were no weekends. Holidays were just…days. Easter was not hard this year, it was just another day. In years past, just like Christmas and New Year, Easter was a huge deal for the family. There would be a lot of food and pictures. This time around, it was just another day.

I’m better now. I’m still so deep in the trenches of grief that I’m breathless, but I’m better.
He wouldn’t want us suffering. He wouldn’t. I’m trying so hard to push forward, but there are so many days when I just spin my wheels.

I miss him. There are no words in anyone’s dictionary to describe the void in my life his death left. I miss him.

The days are finally separating themselves. I’m glad they are because as of yet, I haven’t been able to. They’re all one big jumble in my mind.

That Back Road

CVOC. I don’t know the exact length of that road, but I know that from Mama’s house to his trailer in Cotton Valley, it is exactly 6.7 miles. It’s ½ a mile from Mama’s to CVOC, but in total, it’s 6.7 miles. That’s the shortest route. It takes about 13 minutes to get there on that back road. It never really takes anybody that long on that road because most everyone travels well above the speed limit back there so in reality, it’s about 10 minutes from Cotton Valley to Sarepta. To be honest, I don’t even know if there is a posted speed limit back there. I’ve traveled that road my whole life, but for the world of me, I don’t know if there is a posted speed limit back there.
I used to take that road 3-4 days a week as an alternate route on my way in from work. The other way, straight up 371 North, is a true 10-minute drive. There was never any special reason for choosing one over the other. Most times, I would decide shortly after I passed the trailer which route I’d take. I haven’t been on that road since December 17, 2017. That was the day of the funeral.
I don’t know the exact distance of the entirety of CVOC from tip-to-tip, but I can tell you that if you travel the entire road, just short of the turn-off to go to Dorcheat Bayou, you’ll find St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church’s cemetery. It’s nothing fancy, just the burial place for many in the black community in our little area. My mama, daddy, grandparents, some of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends are resting out there. My love, Arthur James Wade, Jr. is resting out there.
As I typed his name just now, my heart skipped a beat. I stopped breathing. I do that nearly every time he crosses my mind. I still do that. Here lately, I’ve started to get headaches when I think of him. For a while, I giggled a lot when I thought about him, but lately, I’ve gotten headaches. I’ve actually gotten physically sick a few times in the recent past when he’s come to mind, but these headaches…
Back to that back road.
I used to take that road on my way home from work. I made a point of traveling it when I needed to run to Springhill for something, too. When I would go to Springhill using the back road, I’d get to glance over and see Mama and Daddy’s grave marker, and I’d say, “Hey, Mama! Hey, Daddy!” Sometimes, I’d just wave. I haven’t been back there since December 17, 2017. I don’t plan to go back there any time soon because Arthur is back there.
The cemetery is nearly on the other end of CVOC from the point where I would get on it near his trailer, and to get home, I wouldn’t have to pass his resting place, but for some reason, I can’t get on that road. I just can’t. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like if I get on that road, this little scab that’s formed over my heart is going to be ripped off. It’s not even close to being healed. It’s still kind of bloody and raw, and Lord knows it’s tender to the touch, but if I go back there, that scab is going to get ripped off.
I feel like if I go back there, I’m going to lose it. I’m not afraid of encountering his spirit or anything like that; I just can’t accept the fact that there’s nothing back there except his body in a cold, dark grave. I can’t accept the fact that when it’s raining and cold, he’s lying back there in a box. None of us have been to the grave and back so no one can tell me what’s going on with him. I don’t know what happened after he was buried. I know his body is still there, but that’s all I know.
At some point, I’m going to start the grieving process. I haven’t reached those stages yet and I’m okay with that. People grieve differently so I just taking this thing one day at a time, but I’m still at a complete and total loss. He just isn’t gone in my mind. I know he’s not here, but again, he’s not gone in my mind.

Depression and All Its Might

Everybody feels depression at some time or another. We all get a little down in our spirit now and then. A little depression is normal, right? No one is 100% happy, 100% of the time. Some people call it the blues. Some folks just refer to it as being down. True enough, we all feel down in the dumps from time to time; the problem is some people fall into the pit of depression and can’t find a way out. Sometimes, we cannot find our way to the surface of that deep blue. Some people are pulled under by a current that won’t let go.

 

A photo by Clem Onojeghuo. unsplash.com/photos/-YMhg0KYgVc
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo from Pexels

 

That Sinking Feeling

I’m not going by things I’ve heard. I’ve been severely depressed before. I’ve never been suicidal, but let me tell you, there have been days when it really didn’t matter if I woke up or not. I just didn’t care. Did I want to die? Nah. I would never want to leave my friends and family. My son and my granddaughter need me. If there’s one thing I know, I know my folks love me. That man loves me. He needs me.

During the time I was married, though, when the days of hell melded together, I just didn’t care. I knew that on any given day, I would likely be blamed for something. I knew that it was likely I would be belittled or made to feel inadequate in some way or another. I knew that regardless of how clean the house was, he’d find a speck of lint (because he made a point of looking for things like that). I knew that he’d head upstairs to check if the underside of the toilet lid was clean. I knew if there was a single cup in the sink, he’d stand there with his coat on and wash it because he “couldn’t stand mess”. Overall, I knew nothing I ever did would be good enough.

When It Finally Sets In

For me, deep, deep depression set in on three different occasions in my 50 years. As I said before, the first time was while I was married. The depression I experienced back then was the result of being battered mentally and emotionally. Eventually, I got professional help. I had to. To be honest, initially, I sought help for my son because I could see him spiraling out of control. I was kinda blind to what was going on in my own mind, but I knew my child needed help.

Almost from the beginning, the sessions that I had meant for my son turned into joint ones because the counselor recognized the mental and emotional beating I was taking. He actually told me that in the beginning, he was afraid he wouldn’t be able to help me because I was so damaged. He thought he would have to refer me to a more experienced counselor. I was a complete mess. Like I’ve said a million times before, I didn’t realize that I was in shambles because I thought the hell I was in was normal.

Anyway, the next time I found myself down under was after the divorce. Sure enough, I had been freed from that hell, but the dissolution of my marriage also meant that for the first time in nearly 20 years, I was on my own. I found myself floating in the middle of the ocean with nothing but a life raft. Yes, my family and friends were all around me and refused to let me fall or fail, but depression can put a stranglehold on you that can’t be readily pried loose. It had me and it was suffocating me. All I wanted to do was sleep. Honestly, that’s all I did. I slept. I ate. I gained weight. I cried uncontrollably. I repeated those things day after day. The difference with that bout of depression, though, was that I was able to pull myself out. I know I would have benefited from the help of my counselor, but he was 250 miles away in Dallas, but thankfully, I was able to pull myself out.

My latest battle with depression is going on right now. It still pains me to say my nephew died. My entire world shifted on December 9, 2017. Many people who knew us have said that on that day, Margarett’s son died, but that he was my baby. He was. I was nowhere near being okay when one of my closest cousins died on January 14, 2018.

This time around, though, the depression is different. I know I won’t need professional help (although I wouldn’t hesitate to get it if I felt I needed it) this time around because I’m shrouded more in grief than anything. I’m still so stunned, I haven’t reached the point that I’ve entered the grieving stages. I’m not even at the first stage of the process which is denial because the truth is, it’s still not real to me. In my mind, neither of them are dead in the sense that I will never see them again. They’re just gone. I know that makes no sense, but neither of them is dead to me.

I know the reality will set in at some point, but as of this writing, it hasn’t. Nope, there’s nothing wrong with me — folks grieve differently and this is just my reality. I’m okay. I just need to process this stuff in my own way.

Help

 

pexels-photo-211681.jpeg
Photo credit: Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

If you’re depressed, get help. If that means reaching out to your folks, CALL THEM! I know what it is to be too embarrassed to tell your story, but trust me when I tell you, your folks are there for you.

 

IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF CRISIS COUNSELING, CALL THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE AT 1.800.273.8255. Call those folks TODAY!