Happy Feature Friday, everybody!! As promised, I have a very special written piece to share with you today that is sure to touch you deep down in your heart. I am delighted to present our inaugural guest writer – my dad. Please, leave your comments and encouragements below!
Mom and Me
Rayvell Snowden, Sr.
Sitting there watching her and listening to her shallow breathing, I was reminded that she was only fourteen years older than I. My mind took me back to my earliest memories of the two of us.
I guessed that I must have been three or four years old. But the memory seemed as fresh as the day it happened.
“Rayvell, sit down baby. Momma don’t want you to fall off.” I was standing on the end of her cotton sack in the cotton field. She was pulling cotton, and as she pulled up to the next group of cotton stalks to pull the cotton bowls and put them in the long cotton sack that was strapped over her shoulder, I sat or stood on the end of it pulling what cotton was within my reach. I’m sure, looking back now that I was no help to her at all but it kept me busy and out of her way.
Funny things that I know now as I sit here reflecting on those moments that had no meaning for me then… As an example: I would learn as we traveled around following the cotton harvest that there is a difference in pulling cotton and picking cotton. In Oklahoma we pulled cotton (taking the entire bowls) and in California we picked cotton (taking the cotton out of the bowls). Looking back now I’m sure that was a hard time in my mother’s life, but I never remember her complaining about it.
Now as I sat watching her laying there not able to speak or to move I felt such overwhelming love for her. I also realized that I had never made a point to tell her in unmistakable terms how much she had always meant to me. I wanted to tell her and hold her. Why hadn’t I ever told her? I tried to convince myself that in my thirty three years I must have told her, but why couldn’t I remember? I did remember that on a very few occasions she had hugged me and told me that she loved me, but in my embarrassment I pulled away from her. I always knew that she loved me and I assumed that she knew that I loved her too. However, sitting here now, I couldn’t be sure that she knew. I experienced such pain in that moment, because until that moment I never really believed that she was going to die. Oh, yes, the doctors had told us that she didn’t have much time left but we kept seeing improvement in her and I convinced myself that the doctors were wrong on this one.
At this time my siblings and I were taking turns sitting with her. We didn’t want her to be alone. I remembered that earlier in the day when most of us were there with her she opened her eyes and looked at us. I knew that she wanted to speak to us but she couldn’t. I saw a tear form in the corner of her eye as she looked at us.
Convinced now that the doctors knew what they were talking about, I watched her very closely. Several times during the night she stopped breathing for long periods of time. I called the nurse in a couple of times to check on her. The nurse told me that at this stage, patients sometimes would stop breathing for long periods of time and then start up again. I didn’t want to see my mother suffer and at the same time I wasn’t ready for her to go. There was so much that I needed to tell her. Why hadn’t I told her when there was time? She was only fourteen years older than me. Too young to die, and yet I knew that it was not in my power to stop it. I was thinking, she has been so good to us. She gave all she had to us. Did all she knew to do for us and we could do nothing for her.
I sat there with all of these thoughts going through my mind and then I felt myself conceding to that old fear that I’d had in the past. I remembered that my grandmother had died at the age of forty-one. Now my mother was dying at the age of forty-six; maybe we were all going to die in our forties. That’s about the time that life was starting to make a little since, but then it was over and we would die. Why? I just could not get my head wrapped around that concept. What was the purpose of life anyway if we had to die as soon as life started to get good? Were we just supposed to get married, have some kids, get a good job, buy a home and then leave it all for someone else?
My heart hurt; I was afraid and confused. There had never been anyone in my life that I knew of who had beat those odds. No one had ever gone to college or had a job, (aside from working in the fields). I didn’t know who to cry for — my mother, myself, or my younger brothers and sisters.
My attention was drawn back to my mother. She was quiet but her breathing was ragged and labored. I would be with her until morning when my sister would come and sit with her. I found myself (to my surprise) wishing that she would not linger any longer. I just didn’t want to see her suffer anymore. I would stop being afraid and recognize that this time was precious. There were no one else there and this time belonged to Mom and me.
About the author: Anyone who has had the privilege of a conversation with Ray knows that he is a well of wisdom. A lifetime of sometimes unbelievable but always amazing experiences has served all who know him very well — family, friends and strangers, alike. Although he is retired from the field of college education — he ran the Industrial Technology Department at Allan Hancock College for almost thirty years and his time there is decorated with countless accolades — Ray continues to teach one class each semester in order to continue imparting his life and work experience on the next generation. He is currently writing his memoir.