I was sitting in the courtroom, hoping I could make it through this time. Unlike most people, I have a desire to serve on a jury. I registered to vote as soon as I turned 18 and had registered in every place I lived beyond then. Still, I never got a call to even come in to court as a prospect, until I moved back to my hometown. This was my third try to make an actual jury, to get on a case, to weigh a consequential decision. So, I sat in the courtroom, hoping. In came the attorneys and then the Judge. At this point, I knew my hope was hanging by a thread. All of the jury prospects were seated in the box and the roll was being taken by the Judge. When he got to my name, he looked up, smiled, called my name and proceeded to tell the courtroom about the impact my mom had made on his life. When he was through, one of the attorneys chimed in and I knew I was on my way home. On that day, the Honorable Judge Ben Studdard painted such a marvelous picture of my mother (a photo he enhanced and reprised at her funeral) that some of the other jurors came up to me to tell me they wish they knew her or that she sounded like a wonderful lady. I smiled, nodded and thanked them, as I settled into the knowledge that another jury would go on without me.
That was my mom. A long time ago, I thought she had commissioned Earth, Wind and Fire to sing a song commemorating the date of my birth (the 21st night of September, love was changing the minds of pretenders while chasing the clouds away). She could have known them! People would stop us all the time and they were always overjoyed to see her. Often, they recounted for me a story or an account of how she had impacted their lives. It was like traveling with my own personal celebrity. My brother and I used to bet on the number of people who would stop us while we were out for whatever reason. We would be out-of-state sometimes and people would recognize her and I would be exasperated. How?! The well-groomed, impactful diva from the classroom. She was my first role-model and she was a powerful one. She didn’t bow before anybody and she demanded excellence – both of my parents did.
The stories shared the day before her funeral, were so warm and comforting. Hers was truly sublime service to all mankind! There were secrets students kept of her protest-instruction; stories of her quietly providing for the needs of students and people from church; stories of her creativity, vision and wisdom; stories of her sharp tongue (left tongue, Nikita) and quick wit. She was a bit confined and physically diminished as she aged, but Mrs. Reese, Mama Reese, Soror Artelia, Artelia, Peggy and Mama, held her quick-wit and sharp tongue until the end.
AH, the end. I was home at the beginning of October, having left on October 10. Feeling uneasy about reports of low blood-pressure, I was heading home again. On October 25, according to what I’ve been told, my plane was landing in Atlanta as she was transitioning. We passed each other in the air - have mercy! And while I was deeply saddened (because I missed her last breath by such a narrow margin), she was surrounded by love, as she left her earthly body. Now there is, mingled with sorrow, all of the collateral beauty (if you haven’t seen the movie by that name, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it), and there has been much. These occasions often give people a chance to live out their faith and many of you have done just that. For your kindness, my brother and I will be forever grateful. Your outpouring is further evidence of her impactful life, her purposeful journey. She was uniquely gifted and profoundly blessed. And while there have been others like her, she was mine, she was ours; ours up close and always personal. Truly marvelous was she!