I knew why my step sister Antoinette called. I knew exactly what she would say.
Still, I had to brace myself for the inevitable.
Our mother - Antoinette’s birth mother, and my dad’s former girlfriend from decades past - battled breast cancer. The disease ravaged the body of one of the most loving woman I’ve ever met.
Brenda J. Moore smoked like a chimney, played the numbers and cursed like a sailor. But she had a heart of gold. I met her when I was around nine-years-old. My older brother was close to 11. Our dad introduced Brenda as his girlfriend. From the very first meeting it was evident she was much more than Pops’ latest conquest.
Brenda embraced us as her own. She was our stepmom. Antoinette and Bonita were our sisters, and my brother Antoine and I were sons and brothers.
Nothing changed. Ever. Not one aspect of the relationship wavered. Even after, as Brenda always claimed, she dumped our "no-good ass" dad. Her love for us never faded.
I can’t even begin to express the hurt and dejection I felt as Antoinette delivered the news.
“Tory, Brenda died today,” she said. “My mama is gone.”
That was a Saturday. Sept. 26, 2009, to be exact.
What a sad day. I'd learned a day or so earlier that she had took a turn for the worst, and the four- to five-year struggle would mercifully end.
Guilt often overcame me for being away from Brenda, Antoinette and Bonita and all my nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and great nephews back home in St. Louis. I had moved across the state to Kansas City just as Brenda received the breast cancer diagnosis.
They were on the frontlines with Brenda to fight the good fight while I was 230 miles or so away. Sometimes we get caught up with the daily rat race called life and forget about what’s ultimately important; the well-being of family, friends, and loved ones.
It ate at me I wasn’t hands on deck with the rest of the family. I took comfort once Antoinette told me Brenda was proud of me. In fact, days before she passed we spoke on the phone.
The gist of the less than 30-second long-distance conversation?
“I love you,” I said.
“I love you,” Brenda struggled in return.
I was heartbroken. But I knew she would soon be free from pain. The news still jolted the fabric of my being.
Brenda was my girl.
A prideful woman, she worked for more than 20 years for a telecommunications giant in St. Louis.
She owned homes, rented apartments, and provided for her family. She never drove. Or at least as far as I can remember. One would be hard-pressed to get her to ride in the front passenger seat. A previous accident had her all stirred up.
Regardless, I held her in high esteem. She loved her family and treated her loved ones like kings, queens, princes and princesses.
Some would say we were spoiled. Others called it love.
Either way, Brenda loved us all equally. Friends and strangers as well. Her and my Pops even ended up good friends after a while.
I try not to question why things happen. No one is exempt from heartache, pain or suffering. It’s a part of the experience of life. We live. We die. What we do in the interim determines much more.
Brenda J. Moore you proved you were one of the good ones. Your actions spoke just as loud as those menacing curse words, but I know it came from a place of love.
Thank you for taking the ‘titty’ out of my mouth and demand that I grow up and be a man. You just don’t know how much that tough love changed my outlook on life. Then again, you probably do.
You told Antoinette that I made you proud. That allows me to sleep easy at night. I love you, and I treasure every tongue lashing and reprimand you ever gave. Miss you girl. Love you to death.