Today is not about October 06, 2013. The day is correct but the year was different. I awoke in the early morning of October 06, 1992 and I didn’t go back to sleep. I didn’t know why and I had no idea of the day ahead.
Starting the Day
My day began like most others around that time. That is, of course, with the exception of waking in the middle of the night. I am sure I got up early to read. I probably dressed, ate breakfast with my parents and was out of the house by 6:50-7:00am and on my way to the Magees.
Remember Curtis Magee who I mentioned in the last post? This is his family.
I worked at Collins High School in 1992 and my routine was to take Tim, Anthony and their cousin Lemetrius Magee with me to work instead of their riding the bus. We were, after all, headed to the same destination. My arrival around 7:05-15am meant watching either Sportscenter or some other program until we were leaving around 7:35-40am. That day was no different. I am sure, as was common then, Anthony and I were arguing about his taking too much time and the others looking like “won’t those two ever quit arguing?”
This was the start of the day.
I don’t remember what I was doing when one of Mama Mae’s granddaughter’s came into the office sometime within the first two hours of arriving to work. Her grandmother had been sick and had been with one of her children who lived in/around Sunflower, Mississippi.
I am sure I said good morning. I am sure I said how are you but I really don’t remember; however, I will not forget the next part. She asked where she might find the principal because she needed to call her mother to come get her and check her out of school. She said she just came to school today to get her assignments for the week. I am sure I told her where to find the principal and, before she left, I asked, “So, how’s your grandmother doing? Is she feeling better?”
She turned and looked at me. “You didn’t know? Grandma died early this morning.”
The air was so violently ejected from the core of my being that I could not breathe. I didn’t exist any longer except for a multitude of thoughts and emotions engulfing my most fundamental self.
I checked out.
Making the Call and Going Home
I called Curtis, who was attending Mississippi Valley State University at the time. It was mid-morning and not likely that he would answer. He did and I remember telling him what happened. I remember sitting in the school counselor’s office and calling my mother and being told that my mother knew since she received the call shortly after I left home. This was in the time before cell phones and she had hoped I would be home again before hearing. I remember the principal getting Anthony out of class and that he drove me back to his own grandmother’s house and I stayed there until school was out.
The person who I childishly argued with hours before was there when I hit the bottom and the fact that our skin color differed and that we were in DEEP South Mississippi is testament to Willie Mae Fairly.
I had never faced a close relative’s death in the almost twenty years I was alive when October 06, 1992 almost destroyed me. I couldn’t comprehend and I couldn’t cope. Instead, Mama Mae’s death had a lasting and profound impact. I recall the Saturday of her funeral and hearing my name called when they read the names of her children. I remember the single white silk flower I was given that came from one of the flowers – one that I still have today. I remember the months after where my mind delved deeper into despair.
You see, October 06, 1992 began “The Year” for me because three more deaths occurred in January, July and September 1993. Those four deaths equaled the sum of everyone who most affected my early childhood memories – who were not my parents.
It took years to get back to something that wasn’t in a state of depression. It took years to reach a state of non-mourning. Her own family and the Magees were instrumental in my recovery and I owe it to her. She had such a strong impact on me allowing me the connections I have today. Her actions then in the 70s and 80s influence my actions today. I am a part of the legacy she left. She made me – me. She added to the color of me.
The Color of Me: The Sixth of October
I will never forget all that she was to me. I will be eternally grateful for the blindness she gave. I hope that my story can be an inspiration to some and a reminder that we are all people. Period.
Thank you for indulging me in this post as a celebrate and remember this most wonderful woman. I close with the words of a song. Rumor has it, she hummed during those last moments on that early October Sixth morning around the same time I unexpected awoke from my sleep.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.
Until We Meet Again: I Will Always Love You
The video below is a recreation of one I made in the days after her death.