The End Of A Thing

Mindy stood up with Charlotte, and Summer who was already standing, as she finally heard the words leave the pastors lips.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. From dust we have come and to dust we shall return.”

She was better now at the cemetery and thankful it was all coming to a close. Everyone was now standing. Devoted relatives drew closer to the grave with white roses in hand that were to be placed on the casket.

If I had anything to do with the arrangements, they would all be holding hibiscuses, Charlotte thought to herself. Her grandmother loved those. She had a garden filled with them. The garden had become Charlotte’s responsibility to groom and maintain since she was 5 years old. The girl would tend to the garden each morning before she got ready for school. Plucking the wilted flowers and sweeping up dead leaves was a part of the chore. She actually loved it. There was pleasure in watching the new, pink flowers open with the sun as she tended to them.

The pastor carried on, “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; 
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; 
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”

The mourners began walking to the casket, dropping their roses in one after the other. The theatrics started up again, making it all reminiscent of the church scene earlier. Cousin Donna was among them, throwing her head back and hollering like someone had murdered her first born. Charlotte had nothing. Then again she had more than nothing. She had peace.

“I know that my Redeemer liveth, 
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; 
and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God; 
whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, 
and not as a stranger.” The Pastor was now shouting his lines above the weeping.

It was Charlotte’s turn. She did not linger, but released the lone flower and continued on. Walking away, she glimpsed her mother and stepfather who were seated at the front. Her mother seemed to be in a trance, eyes red with sorrow. Her stepfather was…well he was her stepfather. With his arms wrapped around her mother’s shoulders, he appeared to be a pillar of strength as he consoled her.

If only he supported her that well behind closed doors, one wouldn’t have to dream of waking up in a different house each morning. Charlotte communicated with her soul.

Her stepfather had a way of making outsiders envy their marriage. Charlotte learned quickly after moving in that the grass isn’t always greener. Everyone just needs to water his or her own lawn.

Now coming to a close, the Pastor continued, “For none of us liveth to himself, 
and no man dieth to himself. 
For if we live, we live unto the Lord, 
and if we die, we die unto the Lord. 
Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Charlotte stood off to the side of the tent. Someone released a flock of white doves. They took off in flight, each one on it’s own air path it seemed. Charlotte envied their freedom and wished she could ascend into the skies with them.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; 
even so saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors. The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit.” The pastor concluded.

There was a resounding Amen from everyone in attendance as the casket made its final descent into the earth. Char was both doleful and thankful for the end of a thing.

The Church

Charlotte landed heavily in the pew, thankful for it’s support as she was certain, had she been on her feet any longer she would have passed out from the events of the journey there. These events, all of which are bits and pieces of movie clips in her head, had all happened in slow motion. Now seated amongst her family, that scene had ended and another sure to begin. It was inevitable. With her family there was always no telling what would transpire but you could bet your last dollar that someone would not disappoint.

Charlotte felt amazingly at peace now. It was as if all the pain and emptiness from her loss and been loosen up by her tears from where they had been stuck to her chest like mold, poisoning her without knowledge. Then they were washed away in the downpour with every sob and heaving of her chest as she tried to catch a breath between each release. Now she felt weightless and fully cognizant in the moment.

The building was a traditional cathedral with stained glass windows with a mosaic of a white man’s Jesus sporting a long blue rob and a sunny halo. It was one of those holy edifice where one look of it’s towering steeple with a hoisted cross on top and statues of angels guarding every gate, you were sure to find a holier-than-thou pastor inside spewing condemnation. She had attended a service there with her mom on one occasion and was certain by the end of praise and worship that she would never return. She hadn’t, until now. Her grandmother wouldn’t have liked tis place either. Marie Bond had spoken of churches like this where people were quick to point out the splinter in another’s eye and ignore the two by four in their own eye.

“It’s those kind of God forsaken folks that give Christians elsewhere a bad name. All they do is go up on that pulpit and throw jeers at their neighbors when God himself helped thief and watchman.” Her grandma once retorted in response to a claim that the pastor had preached one Sunday how people can get up and go on the farm everyday, but cannot find their way to church. She had been certain it was a direct hit made on her.

“Who the hell does he think he is?” she had spat out, near fuming. “Arthritis may keep me from trotting that long road to church but God knows the content of my heart.” Charlotte was waiting for her to get up, put on her best gown and march right up to the church to confront him.

Marie Bond wasn’t afraid of anybody.

“How bout he bring his damn congregation behind his close door and let them see how he beat his wife from sunrise to sundown! Poor woman would wipe his ass if she had to but nothing is ever enough to satisfy him. For heaven’s sake he goes under the gown tail of his own daughter! What manner of man of God is that?”

Charlotte and her cousin Trina had begged their grandma to let it be. Calming down eventually, Marie had decided that she was a woman plagued with hypertension and shouldn’t be getting her pressure up with such nonsense.

“I can’t study that man. He don’t wake me up in the morning and he sure as hell won’t be getting no tithes from me to give to his young sweetheart.”

Then just like that she was over it. Since then Charlotte was always wary of Pentecostal pastors ranting and raving, doing everything but sharing and teaching the word of God. So she went to church when it seemed fit. When she didn’t go, she made sure to spend time alone with the Lord. If one thing her grandma had made certain, there is a God and he deserve at least some of the time He gives us.

She took in the rows of pews with their varnished wood frame and padded seat covered in pink fabric. Each aisle, from the door all the way t the pulpit, was covered with brown carpeting. Ceramic tile flowed from under the carpets and covered every other space. Sitting just in front of Charlotte was her aunt Shirley whom her grandma never came to love as she was certain the rumors that she had cheated on my uncle, Marie’s favorite son, was the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

To the right of Charlotte was her cousin, Trina. The girls had grown up together with their grandmother. When Charlotte went to live with her mother they were both devastated. However, Trina was not one to show much emotion and had dealt with it better. Over the years they would spend the weekends with each other. Then Charlotte had made new friends from her new school and ended up spending more time with them instead. Before long they barely saw each other. However, their relationship was one where no matter how much time had passed, whenever they saw each other it was as if they hadn’t lost a day. The girl always had a way of making her laugh and in the worst way. When it came to making a sport out of people, anyone was fair game to Trina.

The moderator announced that there would be a musical rendition from Ms. Eva Dean.

Trina leaned over and whispered to Charlotte, “I bet you she’s going to sing, Oh What A Sunrise.

Aunt Shirley looked slightly over her shoulder indicating that she had heard Trina who could care less. Then as the woman opened her mouth, that’s exactly what came out. Charlotte tried to hold back a giggle and avoided looking at Trina, as she knew her cousin would be waiting with her mischievous, I-told-you-so look on her face. The woman had sang the same song at every funeral they had ever been to, whether family, or family friend.

Charlottes mind and eyes wandered around the church, waiting for the singing to be over. There were many familiar faces from where she lived with her grandma. There was Marvin the gossiper whom everyone swore would never grow up to take a woman, because he had to be one himself. In the very front left pew was Ms. Lauren, her grandma’s best friend who she never ate anything from. She would take the food whenever it was offered as to not offend her friend, and then feed it to the animals. The woman must have never heard that cleanliness was next to godliness because she treated her toilet and kitchen all the same. Ms. Lauren’s idea was that since her bladder couldn’t make it to the toilet on time, she would keep a bucket in her kitchen in case she needed a release while cooking.

Suddenly a commotion drew Charlottes mind from its travels. She looked ahead to see that the pallbearers were preparing to close the casket. This cued a performance from her cousin Donna, just a couple pews ahead. Donna made a spectacle everywhere she went. Whether church, wedding or party, something was going down.

“Leave my grandmother! Don’t take my granny!” The young woman was shouting and swinging her head from side to side. The only thing left was for it to spin all the way around like a scene from The Exorcist.

“Granny Marie don’t leave me, please don’t leave me!” Tap, tap, click, clack, clack pinged of the ceramic tile floor as the girl began stomping her feet and swaying her body from left to right. I looked at Trina who looked at me and shook her head in response to Donna’s antics. A few ushers rushed over, holding Donna and fanning her in hopes that she would not faint. Mourning and low weeping could be heard from other family members.

Charlotte looked on as the casket lid came down.

“Goodbye, Granny,” she whispered. There were no more tears. She was all emptied out.

Living After Dying

This Happened…


How DO you live after dying? Especially when you’re not expected to return from death, generally. At least not in this age. Yet, this was a question that plagued me for weeks when this happened to me. You’d think one would know right away what to do, how to live. Of course, live life to the fullest, right? You see that would be all about me! How do I live like I’m suppose to after January 18th, 2014? Ok, so lets back up for a minute. And I promise I’ll give you the edited version to make this short.

On January 17th, I lay prepped and ready to go, for a surgery that should have been very simple. After all, I had one five years ago so I was totally prepared for this one. I had suffered for over a year and was ready for some relief and to live a “normal” life. At about 11 am after a series of questions and me pointing out where on my arm I wanted the IV and what vein should be used (I promise, I am not controlling), I was sedated and wheeled into the Operating Room. I expected to wake up groggy from a successful surgery and well on my way to recovery. However, I was awakened, groggy nonetheless, but with my doctor in squinted-eyes-view saying that they couldn’t perform the surgery because I had become very unstable. Their plan was to close me back up and try to stabilize me before attempting the surgery again. Realizing in my foggy mind that this was not turning out to be like my previous surgical experience, I gave him permission to remove the entire organ if necessary stating that I would be ok with that. I was once again put into that sweet sleep where nothing exists but rest. My next memory will be the most lasting of my life to date.

I opened my eyes. I am on my back propped up on my elbows under the glare of the most bright, pure, amazing light. I still cannot not find words accurate enough to describe this light. I’m alive and well, SO well. Two extremely happy people all dressed in white then captured my attention. Beaming down on me they said, “Charmaine, it’s time to go. Are you ready?!” There was nothing spoken of death but I just had this knowing of things. I knew that I was not where I used to be and that if I went with them, there was no coming back. Most of all I sensed that none of the people who I cared about most was there. So, in short, I told them that I could not go because I wanted to go back and encourage my friends and family to follow Jesus so that they could be with me again one day. To which they replied, “But you could’ve done that already.” Well I couldn’t argue with that statement so after what seemed like forever of me back and forth with them insisting I couldn’t go, I did what I do when nothing else works. I called on Jesus. Screamed more like it and fought with all of my might when they reached down to pick me up. During this struggle, I recall the two people and the light beginning to fade out. Actually more like being sucked in somewhere. As they went out, in came this impenetrable darkness that swallowed me up with it.

“Ms. Smith you’re awake!” Announced a nurse surprisingly amidst a lot of hustle and bustle around me and whispers of shock at my consciousness. A doctor rushed in and exclaimed, “ Charmaine you’re a miracle!! You died TWICE! You’re a real miracle and don’t let anyone tell you any different.” I’m also made aware that it is no longer January 18th (when I should have woke up from surgery) but rather Wednesday, January 22nd as I had been in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit. After they left the room, my mind immediately thought of The Light and my conversation with those two cheerful people and I thought to myself, “That really happened?”

Now I‘ll be honest. I have tried to discount this experience for a while but I cannot forget the realness of it and that LIGHT! I’ve had dreams that seemed so real. You know the ones where someone is chasing you and you actually fall out of the bed in reality? Well maybe it’s just me. This was not one of those dreams. I felt like I was there. I WAS there and I was different, felt more like the real me. I can’t fully explain but I wish I were skilled enough to vividly pen my feelings or the experience for you.

…But Why?

 For years, after I decided to commit my life to the path of Christianity, I prayed and asked God to use my life to glorify him. I just wanted to live a life worth living, one more purposeful and not all about what I want. Well, be careful what you ask for because I can say without a doubt that God was glorified in that hospital through my experience. The next few days in there I’ve had doctors and nurses come to my room day after day to tell me how amazed they were by what happened. Day after day they came in and told me they never expected to see me leave the OR let alone be in ICU and then walking around so quickly. They all exclaimed it was an act of God. Several nurses told of how when they saw the state that I was in, they went to the chapel and prayed for me. My own doctor, who is voted the best among his peers and was practicing since I was a baby, sat at the foot of my bed saying how afraid he was because he had never experienced that before. He sat there with his Buddhist pendant hanging from a chain around his neck and told how me being alive is an act of God. “A miracle…” he said. Yes, I believe God was most certainly glorified through my life (and death). This may not be a big deal for some persons and that’s ok. For weeks the gravity of the situation hadn’t struck me also until I sat at my friends dining table, my entire body tense and soaked from head to toe in sweat as I read my medical report. I had to know exactly what happened.

In the OR, when they cut into one of the fibroid tumors they cut an artery and I bled out. They couldn’t get it to stop so I bled to death. The rapid response team came in, pumped 6 pints of blood into me and was able, after a while, to resuscitate me. My doctor decided to take another route and remove the entire organ. When they attempted this, I died again. After another resuscitation they decided to leave the organ in and proceed to remove the tumors. After surgery, I was taken to ICU where after hours of being there someone noticed my blood pressure was almost non-existent. They rushed me back to the OR, re-opened me to find that there was another severed artery. I had bled out again and was given another 6 pints of blood after catheterizing this artery. Now back in ICU I suffered from a damaged lung, liver, kidneys and upper digestive tract caused by the rapid blood transfusion. Your organs just can’t deal with all of that blood and anti-biotic coming at it so fast. There at the foot of my comatose body, my doctor told my family that I would be in the coma for at least a month and that I would most likely have extreme brain damage. Well, I was in the coma for four days, when I came out of it I could answer all of their questions that checked for brain damage and by the time I left the hospital that following Saturday (another shocker) all of my damaged organs had completely recovered and functioning normally. Glory be to God? Yes indeed!

How DO you live after dying?

 It’s embarrassing to reveal that I was a Christian for years and didn’t believe that God truly loved me. Despite the fact that he had shown me in so many ways over the years, too many to tell of here, I couldn’t accept it. And yes, I believe John 3: 16 but my wicked flesh would say, “but he did that for the WHOLE WORLD, He didn’t want his creation to be lost. It doesn’t mean he loves YOU.” Even with my death experience, I didn’t see Gods love. I know, it’s crazy. But what that showed me was GODs GRACE. I never understood grace until then. I didn’t deserve another chance. I had so many years to do what I asked to come back and do. Yet, he granted me His favor and gave me another chance. That’s grace, available to those who ask, even in death!

I was sitting in my friend’s living room one day going through all the details in my head. This was about 4 weeks post surgery. I thought of all the little things that happened. There are so many of them like family and friends near and far ( I’m from the Bahamas, surgery was in Florida ) dropping everything and going out of their way to be there and help me, the many people and even strangers praying for me, a few people who went the extra mile at the hospital during recovery, God answering my prayer to restore my sight when it started to go in one eye (another damage from surgery), countless ways where I saw things coming together to make the process bearable, there’s just SO many things that may not seem major but felt major to me. And as I pondered it all, the most AMAZING feeling in the world came over me. Every hair on my body stood up and my heart was never so filled as my lips whispered, “Wow, God loves me. He loves ME.” I cried. I had never felt love so strong and so sure. I vow never to doubt again.

So, how DO you live after dying? I struggled in so many ways post surgery but the spiritual struggle was worse than the physical. For weeks I felt morbid. I died! I hated that it happened but reminded myself that God was glorified through it. Then for weeks, even still occasionally, I wished I hadn’t come back. I mean what was I thinking? No more sickness, no more struggles, only peace! When those days rear up, I remind myself that I am more useful to God alive than dead. Therefore, I live like I should have been living before I died. I make every attempt to live without regrets and to the full. Even if some days are uneventful, I make it full by banishing any negative thoughts from my head. Everyone on this planet gets ONE life to live. I’ve known people who died and weren’t ready yet they didn’t get second chances. They got one. I got TWO. To whom much is given, much is required. I desire to live this life loving God, loving people and being kind to everyone.

I’ve had a tiresome journey with rugged terrain through life. The climb, most times steep. My body is achy and my soul weary but I still hear it say,

 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

(Oceans by Hillsong United)

At times I think I’m crazy and like suffering but that’s not so. I’ve just learned so much through them and desire to keep growing and learning. Honestly, I look forward to more highs than lows moving forward. The journey continues and I’ve been prepared to climb so GIVE ME MY MOUNTAIN!

Until next time…