Today would have been my daughter Marian’s 40th birthday. I don’t speak of her often. Her birthday was January 2nd and I usually quietly remember her in my heart, but not on my lips. We NEVER forget people or those pets we love. We just find different ways to incorporate the lessons we’ve learned from the emotions and secrets of love we received from them.
Marian Chinyere was my first daughter, so I loved shopping for her and dressing her. Both she and my older child, Uzo, attended the day care in Houston at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church http://www.wheeleravebc.org. Back then, the Pastor was Rev. Bill Lawson, who later became a very popular minister and community advocate. He married Herbert and I; christened Uzo and Marian, and later buried Marian.
The church was small then and so he knew me personally and would always hold Marian and make her smile. When she was Christened I bought a very expensive white gown that was absolutely gorgeous. I had no idea that just 5 months later, she would be buried in it.
There was something special and almost “other worldly” about her smile. It is hard to describe. But that feeling of other worldliness could have been evoked in me because from the very first day that I brought her into the doctor for her first checkup, until the last.. I was told that something was wrong with her heart.
Her doctor was Dr. Roett and I remember how emotional she was when she told me that I would need to go to a heart specialist. Looking back, I now see how miraculous it was. By being in Houston, we had access to a world renowned heart specialist at a time when things were barely desegregated.
Over time, my life became very regimented in taking Marian to both her regular doctor appointments, to the heart specialist, working at Prudential Insurance Company fulltime; married to a rather chauvinistic man; and going to church. It was then that I developed the habit of doing things NOT because I had the energy or FELT like it, but because I had to put one foot ahead of the other and just do it. I had little help from Herbert, principally because he just was not an involved father. It was only later that I discovered that he blamed me for her illness (as irrational as that sounds, I now see that THAT was his way of coping. I’ve since learned that life is sometimes overwhelming and people cope the best way they can).
In June, the doctors recommended that Marian have a procedure whereby they could determine the exact nature of her heart problems. On the day before the procedure, I was ironing upstairs with Marian in the room with me in her crib. Suddenly I had this overwhelming need to wake her up and play with her. I just felt the need to spend TIME with her. I did and rather than cry, she just smiled and we spent time together.
The next morning, I got up early to go to the hospital for the catherization. I felt alone and was alone. Herbert either could not or did not go with me. While waiting in the room with others who were there for their loved ones, suddenly I felt this cold chill. I looked out the window and it was as if it had suddenly turned to night. My feet started burning so hot, that I jumped up. And when I did, I saw that a group of doctors were walking down the hall towards me.
When they told me that she had died, I fainted. Someone called Herbert and when he came he was angry. Later, he said that he white doctors had killed her. Those words reverberated in my heart and ears for days, later years. A few days later, I walked to the hospital from my home on Southmore in Houston and went into the world renowned heart specialist’s office. I just had to know. Was there a reason for her death. Did I miss a pill; miss a symptom, etc. Was there anything that I could have done or did I do too much, etc.
At the end of the conversation, I knew no more than when I walked in. and even now I don’t except that I tried. I really, really tried to do everything perfectly but in the end perfection does not guarantee LIFE or good results.
At that point, I should have gotten emotional and spiritual help. Instead, I did what I see so many people do. I withdrew and painted a face …put on a FAÇADE that said, “all is well”. “I am coping.” Because I didn’t deal with my pain but only tried to bury it (instead allowing God to truly HEAL it at its root), it took more than 20 years before I was able to erase the memory or at least destroy the demon that said that I was to blame.
Now I see that people have many ways of coping with their mistakes, lapses in judgment, decisions. In life. There are FEW, if any, do-overs. Herbert chose not to participate in the life that was given to him in the gift of a daughter. There was no way that he could erase that decision. But Marian’s life AND death, made me appreciate my children in ways that helped me be a better mother. I loved the rush of activities; the energy of having children in the home and the shared secrets and opened communications with the young.
And now that my child rearing days are over, I hope to use the lessons from both her life and death and from my slow but steady growth, to become a more fulfilled woman who lives in the present; takes lessons from the past; and feels hope for the future.
Marian, thank you for the gift of life you were and ARE to me and perhaps by reading this true story (to others).
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