– A Journey of Understanding
We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see -Zen Proverb
She was murdered. That was the lie I told everyone when they asked how my mother died. I was too ashamed to admit that she committed suicide. “Black people don’t kill themselves”, “Only crazy people commit suicide”, “If you kill yourself then you’re going straight to hell!” These were the stigmas I grew up around. I was already self-conscious of the fact that I was poor, dark-skinned and lived in an overcrowded house with my grandmother. I didn’t want to give my peers anything else to judge me by. It was only my very closest friends that knew my shameful secret. And it remained that way the majority of my life.
Only hearing bits and pieces of my mother’s life and death, I didn’t really have much to go on. On top of all that, I didn’t even look like her. I had no proof that she even loved me. All of the photo albums I had seen thus far were filled with pictures of her, my Dad and my older sister (who looks like her twin). I only had maybe 3 baby pictures of me and no other pictures until I was 5, long after her death. So, I remained bitter towards her and didn’t have any desire to ever go back to the cemetery to see her. She had abandoned me in life so, I had abandoned her in death. It wasn’t until I became engaged did I really start to become interested in her story.
I was 19 when I became pregnant with my first child and got engaged to my longtime crush, Mr. Ex. Mr. Ex’s family was thrilled that we decided to get married. Being a very religious family, they saw it as the only proper thing to do. His mother handled all the arrangements including altering my wedding dress to fit my pregnant belly. Mr. Ex’s sister helped make the brides maids dresses and offered her church for the ceremony. His other sister volunteered to cook the food for the reception.
My family, on the other hand, was not very happy. In fact, my dad tried to talk me out of getting married. “Just because you have a baby together does not mean you have to be married Manosha”, that was his exact words. He even tried to point out attractive women to Mr. Ex saying, “See what you will be missing out on if you get married”. On top of all that he refused to help in any kind of way with my wedding. At one point, I considered having my uncle walk me down the aisle instead of him.
My dad wasn’t the only unsupportive person. Mama Lou refused to attend the wedding saying “This is Cindy and Malcolm all over again”, (my mother and father). My grandma Phy asked me to take some time and really think about this. “Don’t let his family pressure you into marriage. No one wants to see what happened to your mother happen to you but, if this is really what you want, I will support you”.
I could not understand for the life of me why my family kept comparing my engagement to my parents. The more they kept bringing it up the more curious I got. Regardless, I was determined to get married. Not because I was pregnant but, because I had found my soulmate, and nothing was going to change that. So, I did what I wanted and got married. Threats in all, everyone showed up even my Mama Lou.
After the wedding, I was sure that all the comparisons would stop. Nope didn’t happen. Son after, Mr. Ex and I attended a dinner at my Mama Lou’s home. “You not going to kill Manosha like Malcolm did Cindy, are you?” Total shock and embarrassment was my reaction to my grandmother’s question to Mr. Ex. “My dad did not kill my mom she did that to herself!” I shouted. “No not physically he didn’t but figuratively he did Manosha. Trust Mama when I tell you, he crushed her spirit. She loved that man so much till all she could do was worry about where Malcolm was and what he was doing. He didn’t love her as she loved him and that is why she is dead.”
This was the first time I had ever heard Mama Lou speak that much on my mother’s death. That was all she said though. I tried to push her to tell me more but, she told me that was not her job. That my father knew what she was talking about and needed to tell me the truth. That is when my mission started. My mission to find out why my mother killed herself. What made her want to take her own life?
I was on the verge of motherhood myself. I couldn’t imagine anything in the world that would make me abandon the child growing inside of me. I loved my baby so much and I hadn’t even had it yet nor did I know what it was. Was she really just crazy or was there a real story behind the madness? There was only one way to find out and that was to ask the only person who ever bothered to be completely honest with me my entire life. So, I showed up at her door ready to find out the truth and nothing less and to my surprise, she was ready to give it to me.