To My Queen Mother
I have not cried since I was told about the home going of my God mama... But I cried, endlessly, the last time I was with her, thanksgiving day, which was about a week before she transitioned.
My tears were brought on because she lost her ability to speak coherently. She kept trying to answer me but most of her words were sounds and facial gestures. My God mama was a woman of words, many colorful hues of words. To see her struggle with one of her greatest gifts hurt like hell to watch.
It was her words that got me through some of the darkest periods of my life. Her monthly handwritten cards, emails, and long conversations over the phone always left me with clarity, guidance, and peace of mind. Her advice was always delivered in the simplest of forms while remaining robust enough to move my spirit:
"The battle is not yours."
"All you have to do is your best."
"I am so proud of you."
"You are so strong."
It was her words that made her one of my greatest teachers. The most powerful lesson she taught me was how to love. She would take me to the movies or let my sister and I spend the night at her house and when she would take us home, she would always ask, "Who loves you?" We would say, "You, Ms. Dunston!" So many years later, that question is one that I ask my students, in what always seems like the moment they need to hear it most. I told her about this when I was with her last and she pursed her lips together to tell me to give her a kiss.
Whenever I would tell her I love her, she would always respond with, "I love you back."
By definition, the adverb "back" means to do something in return, in a way that reinforces what was initially done. My godmama was humble, intuitive, and quite intentional with all that she did, including loving everyone in her presence. The way she loved me back, STILL reinforces the notion that I, a little girl who was abandoned by both parents, am worthy of love, chosen for greatness, and eternally connected to a Source that will never let me fall short of grace. After all, it is such Source that led me to her and her to me.
Though she could not put her thoughts into words during our last time together, she managed to leave me with 4 words right before I walked out of her bedroom. I told her I loved her and this time she said, "I love you too." This time, I take it that the use of "too" was to remind me that she, too, loves me in addition to so many other people in this world. She wanted me to know, though she would be leaving this earth, I was not alone.
There's a quote I once heard that says, "When you impact a girl, you impact a community." Because of my Godmama's impact, I have been able to redirect the trajectory of my family, as well as the families of each student I teach. The power in my Godmama's love has broken chains of bitterness, poverty, and self-hatred in me and so many of the women and men who knew her.
Her love changed us all.