Mama Rose passed early on July 5th, 2015. She was in frail health for a long time and after this latest bout, she was put in hospice. Her family had time to say goodbye and for that, I am deeply thankful.
My connection to Mama Rose was through my son-in-law Donald. Donald passed away on February 4th (What My Son-in-Law Taught Me), dying peacefully in his sleep. This is the way most of us would like to go. He had been adamant about not dying in a hospital; he wanted to be home among family. His prayer was answered.
Mama Rose and Donald were not your typical family. Donald, a Southern white man with strong opinions and Mama Rose, a refined elderly black woman with kind, gentle words for everyone.
Their relationship started over the kidney disease with which they were both afflicted. For a long time, Donald and Mama Rose rode together to the Statesboro Davita center for dialysis. As years went by, Donald and his family became part of Mama Rose’s large family.
He was as concerned for her as he was for me, his mother-in-law/Ma. Sometimes, Donald would call and talk to me as he waited for Mama Rose to finish her dialysis. Many times he expressed concern for her other health problems. Several times after dialysis he took her to the hospital, knowing something very wrong was happening with his Mama Rose.
When things went well after dialysis, they would stop at a store or drive-thru and share meals and snacks before making their way home. I only know what they talked about through what Donald told me, but the subjects ranged from gardening to government, from the minuscule to the grandiose.
Even as his own health rapidly declined and he transferred to a different dialysis center, he kept up with Mama Rose. She was family, after all. She called Donald her “white son.”
At Donald’s funeral, I sat for awhile on the pew in front of Mama Rose. Surrounded by her blood family, she held my hand and kept crying, “My boy, my boy,” and my heart was as heavy for her grief as it was for my own.
Mama Rose was love. The times I talked to her, she was full of concern for others even as she battled her own serious health conditions. She worried about her loved ones. She was always concerned for Donald in the way a mother is fretful over the health of her child.
Mama Rose leaves a legacy with her blood children and her choice children. Donald’s family is still a part of her family. But, what is family?
We have the family we were born into, the family we birth, the family we choose. But, there is a larger scale for family.
Go back eons in time and you see we are all connected. We started out from two, a man and a woman. From there, people spread across the world.
The entire world is family. I may have a seventh cousin in Pakistan or a fifth cousin in Nigeria or a ninth cousin in Mongolia. Go back through the lines of time and you can see how we are all related, despite the color of our skin, our geographic location and the religion with which we associate.
I think Mama Rose recognized this. I won’t presume to read her mind, but her declaration of a white man as her son was more progressive and powerful than most leaders for racial equality.
All they need to do is look at Mama Rose. She made my son-in-law equal. She raised him to her status. She promoted the connection of all people in the world to each other by loving Donald as a son. And he reciprocated by loving her in return.
Your presence is missed, Mama Rose. I weep as I write this tribute and I wish I had lived closer so I could have really known you. I regret the missed opportunity because Mama Rose was a unique lady, a supportive mother and wonderful example for everyone.
On Sunday, July 5th, 2015, Mama Rose left our earthly world. Waiting, Donald opened the door for her one last time and walked her across the threshold to Heaven. Together, they are dining at the Table of God.