I Dreamed About Mama Last Night

I’m not sure how to begin this post. I can tell you that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write, but I think I finally need to do so.

The stuff about Biden’s loss is part of why I wrote this, but it’s a minor part of my motivation. I apologize to anyone who doesn’t want to read about personal issues, but, well, part of this platform is mine, and this is what I want to talk about today.

I’ll start like this: I can sing. Pretty well, so I’ve heard. But I don’t do much singing anymore.

Six years ago this week, my mother died. She’d been sick for a long, awful time. But she was just too tough and too stubborn to give up. So she fought a losing battle for over three years. And it was a hell of a thing to see the terrible, terrible toll it exacted. I took care of her during those horrible years. All I can say about that experience is this: Whatever godawful, rotten fucking things I’ve done in this life have been more than atoned for. 

While she was dying, she asked me to sing for her.

Sounds corny, I know. Well, it gets worse. 

My whole life, I called my mother “Mom.” 

Until the singing. I don’t know why, but I could tell that it made her happier if I called her “Mama.” So that’s what I switched to.

My mother was a sincerely, deeply religious person. I know it hurt her that I never gave a shit about church, but I just couldn’t fake it. However, because she wanted to raise me right, I did go to church a lot when I was a little kid. And I learned the songs. My mom loved those songs. Now, I don’t believe in the promises made in any of those songs. But they can have some beautiful images. Stories of redemption, forgiveness, and rest. A land that is fairer than day. Someone to take up your burden when it’s too heavy to bear. A home where joys will never end. Any fool could see the appeal in that. So, while she was sick, after I got done with classes and work, I’d sit by her bed, where she spent most of her time. And she’d ask me to sing. My mother had a sweet drawl in her voice. I can almost hear her talking still.

“Son, sing me ‘When the Roll Is Called up Yonder.'”

Yes, Mama.”

“Please sing me ‘I’ll Fly Away.'”

Of course, Mama.”

“Do you think you could sing me ‘Angel Band?'”

And here’s where the tears would start. “Yes, Mama.”

“Son, could you sing some more? I just want a few more. I know you’re tired. But I wanna hear ‘Just a Closer Walk with Thee.'”

I’d be choking at this point. “That’s one of my favorites, Mama.”

“That’s beautiful, son. Could you sing me ‘Precious Lord?'”

Of course I can, Mama. Just give me a minute. I need to get a drink of water”

“Son, you know my favorite. Sing me my favorite, and then I’ll go to sleep for a while. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I’ll always sing this one for you, Mama. Good night.”

And then she’d fall asleep. And I’d stumble out of the room, trying to find the doorknob, blinking through the tears.

For some reason, I just can’t bring myself to sing much anymore.

I still miss you, Mama. I wish I could’ve done more.

20 thoughts on “I Dreamed About Mama Last Night

  1. Thanks for posting this – it takes a lot of strength but that strength came through how much love you have for her.
    Peace, she’s gotta be very proud of you, wherever her energy has gone to. So many people in this world could learn greatly from your caring for her. As someone who once was able to help bathe my rapidly declining grandfather, as well as track down the morphine the shitty ‘home hospice’ (that particular company shall remain nameless unless someone wants to e-mail me) company misdelivered, and mashed up pain meds that he couldn’t swallow in pill form into baby food for him – crap I am gonna lose it I need to wrap this up – when he used to be the one to care for me as the first grandbaby, I have experienced some of what you may have in one form or another and I know how it still affects me, 13+ years later.
    Huge hug,

  2. Jesus, Jude. I’m so sorry. I understand why you have a hard time singing now, but I want to say something. Those who sing have a gift they can always give other people. I hope someday you can muster the strength to give that gift again.
    One of the best things in my life is that I get to sing with my mama all the time. I don’t know what I’ll do when I don’t have her anymore, but I know that the singing has been equally important to her. I know it would make her sad if I didn’t do it anymore, especially if it were because of her. I hope I can manage to keep doing it.
    On a slightly lighter note, as an agnostic, there has always been a part of me that found those old religious songs a little weird. But that is really, really good music to sing, so I get over it. I have always loved I’ll Fly Away, but my favorite is It Is Well With My Soul. My chorus sings that, and when we do it right (which is most of the time), it really is a religious experience.

  3. Watched the same thing happen to my grandmother. She fought cancer for five years. It was ugly, ugly cancer. She always said she’s live long enough to see me get married. She made it through a long social dry spell and a long engagement to be there. A month later she died.
    Religious or no, there’s nothing wrong with salving the wounds of another who asks for it. I think that’s what faith and love are, more so than the ritual and knowing the responses to the prayers. Hurting is natural and regret is part of what we all do at one point or another. Release is a helpful thing, so I hope the post you wrote helped.
    To be honest, I like this post of yours best of all those I’ve read from you. It’s easy to be a ranting caustic asshole (I say this as a fellow sinner) but it’s a lot harder to be human.
    Hope you find solace,

  4. Oh, kiddo. Reading your post through, I kept flashing on that song Lucinda Williams wrote after her mom died, “Mama You Sweet.” Probably because I find comfort in that song when I’m in the depths recalling my own mother’s decline.
    That’s such a primal bond and it’s a huge rift when it’s fraying and unraveling and finally breaks.
    Some brave writing you did there.

  5. Even if it’s only poetry, there are far worse things than poetry. Worse things to live and die for.
    A month or so before my grandfather died, the last time he was really coherent, he pulled my arm as I left his hospital room. This was a man of few words, so when he spoke, you listened, it was gonna be important. “You were a good granddaughter,” was all he said. “We had fun.” I was far from a good granddaughter, but we remember things the way we want to remember them, and that’s the best gift you can give someone, a way to remember something well, after it’s over. Like you remember the songs.
    You were there when it mattered. All the rest of it is just … stuff. When it mattered, you were there, and you sang.

  6. I’m hitting another dry spell with my singing. I will get back to it again, I know, deep down. And so will you. You gave your mother something so beautiful with that gift, and your heart is too giving for that not to happen again with others in other ways. You’ll be ready when that time comes.

  7. Thanks for that, Jude.
    I became an atheist at 11 or 12, but still love the Episcopal liturgy, the beautiful language of the 1928 prayerbook. After my best friend died in 2004, I went back to church for the first time in more than a decade. K. died just before Ash Wednesday, so the lenten rites were particularly resonant for me. I didn’t get the peace that comes from believing in a pastoral heaven for K., but from immersing myself in a rite that has gotten people through their grief for generations. And somehow, in that church, I could mourn for K. more freely than I could in the wider world that had not lost her, because it never knew her.

  8. stunning post, Jude. Lost my dad to cancer, my father in law to massive organ failure, and both moms have been fighting cancer.
    I hope you start singing again… I think a lot of people could benefit from your gift… I’d buy a CD of you singing those songs — because I can’t, but would love to hear them.
    I still dream of my dad — we are always on vacation.

  9. yes, my grandpa a had the lung cancer i an i so hear you. a stroke taint much better. or parkinson’s.
    so the sudden heart attack that took my other grandpa? that was a good death. even tho is REALLY REALLY SUCKS, keith got a good death.
    may we have better deaths.

  10. Well done Jude. Lost my dad suddenly on Feb. 18th. And to echo Pansypoo. “May we have better deaths.”
    At one point I decided that I was just not going to die. Then I realized that meant I would have to see everyone I love die. Maybe immortality isn’t something to wish.

  11. Man oh man. A thousand hugs, Jude. And I know it’s tough, but there was music in you before, and there still is now. Remember that your songs, your voice, made things easier for her. It may not come when you call it, yet… but your music is in there, waiting for the right moment to come out again.

  12. I can’t begin to contemplate my life without mom and dad, so I am with you. I wish I can do more, wish I can move back into their house and wait on them hand and foot. Makes me want to punch myself for every fight I’ve had with them, every snide comment, any show of disrespect. Can’t take back being a kid and what made you you, perhaps. Such is life. I’m going to shut my office door and cry now.

  13. Jude, I’m so sorry. I really understand:
    My grandfather, who was my favourite relative, died about eight weeks ago. About eight weeks ago, I had been planning to go up and see the grandparents, but I wanted to take my guitar into the shop. As I came out of the shop carrying my guitar (there wasn’t anything wrong with it that they could fix), the bus that goes to my grandparents’ house came along, so I put my guitar on my back and got on the bus and went up there. I played my guitar for my grandpa and we chatted for a while, and then we said goodbye.
    He died the next day.
    Last night, I played my guitar for the first time since then. I still can’t play, but at least I don’tquite think of my grandpa every time I so much as even see my guitar…

  14. Beautiful post Jude. Yeah, I used to sing a lot once upon a time too. Not so much anymore. I used to sing in church choir and at school. My Mom and I went together, it was one of the few things we shared. I lost my love for singing when my 12 year old son died a few years ago, could have been yesterday. I hummed a lullaby to him as he left this world, just as I did when he was a baby. Funny, singing used to bring me such joy, maybe someday I’ll find the grace to enjoy singing again.

  15. What a lovely post. Your mama sounds like quite a lady. Your words do her honor. You’re a good son, Jude. I pray you sing again. It is a gift to share – if you can. Or just sing to yourself.

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