Wednesday, November 21, 2012

More glad than sad.

 Cause you were my sister
my strength, and my pride
Only God may know why
still I will get by 

~ from the soundtrack "Set It Off"


This morning, me and reality had a brawl. He grabbed me by my neck and tried as hard as he could to wrestle me to the ground. I was almost down for the count, but then I did one of those moves where you roll on your back, push up into a handstand with your extended arms until your arched body flies up into the air and lands on its feet again. I landed in a Karate Kid stance, for real.

Ready to fight. At least as much as I could.

Yesterday was mostly good. In fact, it was more than mostly good. Our family had dinner together at one of Deanna's favorite restaurants. We hugged and laughed and a few times we cried. But it was okay. Yeah. Mostly it was okay.

We went into her home yesterday. Some part of me was conflicted about that. I struggled with this idea of looking through things and for things and kept trying not to feel like I was invading her privacy. Then a peace washed over me, telling me: She was your sister. She trusted you all. You must do this. And so we did. Me and Will and JoLai and Daddy. We did.

That was hard. And no, it wasn't like we went and tried to do a big cleaning/clearing job but just going in there and seeing so many signs of her life was hard. Crocheted projects that weren't quite done. The DELTA journal lying on a table. Photographs of all of us and all of her friends and nieces and nephews and. . . yeah. It felt like we'd interrupted her mid-sentence. That part hurt.

One day, a few years ago, Deanna and I were sitting in my sunroom talking. A sorority sister had passed away and Deanna said, "I wonder who got all of her Delta items? Like the secret things like official books and her sorority pin? And even her Delta t-shirts?"

"Good question," I replied. "I'm sure she had someone she trusted to do that. Don't you think?"

"Well, I hope so. Because one time someone sent me a picture of some old dude mowing a lawn with a Delta Sigma Theta t-shirt on!"

"Maybe he was a Delta," I laughed.

"Uuuhh, no." We cackled a bit and then she said, "Hey. Look, if something ever happens to me, make sure you go in and get my books and my sorority pin, okay? I'm for real."

"I'll be senile by then but I'll see what I can remember."

"I'm not joking."

"I know! But okay. I promise, I will. And you get mine, okay?"

"It's a deal."

And I swear to you that just as sure as I sit at this table typing this, we had that conversation. And I'm glad we did because it felt like marching orders. Which I kind of needed.

The problem is, Deanna wasn't prepared for me to need to find those things. So she hadn't left me a map. They weren't in the obvious places. Her jewelry box didn't have her pin. Her Delta tote bags didn't have her confidential sorority books. So I looked. And looked. I checked dresses to see if the pin had been left affixed. I scouted out boxes and her car.

No such luck.

I was digging through what felt like the umpteenth jewelry case and still not seeing her official pin. And since I hadn't found the books either, all of it welled up in me like some kind of vicious tsunami of grief. I fought back, scouring, picking, sifting with even more tenacity. I was talking to myself. Coaching myself to think and find what my marching orders told me to find. This was my duty. I had to find those things. So I kept chanting to myself until my voice started becoming a pleading whimper in her closet. Saying over and over, "Pin. Where are you? Pin. Where would you be? Please God. Where. Where?"

And thank God JoLai was there and overheard me in the closet. She came and put her hands on my shoulders and rested her head on my back. "Stop. It's okay, Kimberly," she said quietly. "It's okay."

I stopped then and just wept. I wept and wept over her elephant necklaces and African violet corsages. Over lapel pins with rhinestone-encrusted Greek symbols all reminding me of her love and commitment to her sorority. To our sorority. And  I just let myself have that moment.

Delta was something Deanna and I shared. Just us. We're the only ones in our immediate family who pledged Delta, so we have many, many memories not just as blood sisters but as Delta sisters, too.

So losing that part of her is hard, too. Unbelievably so, because she was one of the most invested Delta women I've ever known. In fact, I just found this on my desktop from a nomination letter I wrote about her for a sorority award back in 2009. It started like this:

"I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the best Delta I know.  In my nearly 17 years in Delta, there is no soror who has had a greater impact on me.  This is interesting, considering I was made nearly six years earlier than she."

Pretty cool, huh? Aaaah. Such provisions.

She is still the best Delta I know. Not even kidding. 

Speaking of provisions--that just made me think of something. Isn't it a lovely provision that just last month, I would dedicate an entire post to our black college experience -- including an explanation behind African-American sorority/fraternity ties? And for those who would not have known of this world at all -- you understand now. You know what kind of lifelong commitments these organizations are for us and, perhaps, you just might have some insight on what I must have been feeling.

See? That was another provision. God knew that I'd need you to understand. Not just those of you who share cultural similarities and experiences with me, but every single one of you in this community. And I needed you to understand because I've needed your support.

So. . . .yeah.

Shortly before we left, JoLai lifted up some half-crocheted masterpiece and saw a notebook underneath. "What's this, Kimberly? Are these the books you were looking for?"

And I turned and looked. Squinting carefully and opening it quietly. The first thing I saw was her own calligraphy in the inside of the cover:

Deanna Draper
April 3, 1998

It was her name and her date of initiation. And it was exactly what I was looking for. I pulled it to my chest and cried tears of relief. I was so happy to have at least one of those items in my own two hands just as she'd requested. The whole room fell quiet as I hugged those books and released my ugly cry. Because I needed that moment. I needed to be my sister's keeper.

"Hey, check this out!"  JoLai handed me a picture.  It was a photo of a friend of Deanna's from way back in middle school--who was incarcerated at the time the photo was taken.

"What the hell?" I said.

"There's also a four page handwritten letter he sent with it." JoLai looked at me with a mischievous smirk. She tried not to laugh but the corner of her mouth kept twitching. Will looked over at it and then said the dude's name--which I won't say here.

"Seriously, Deanna?" Will chimed in.

"That was just Deanna. She always kept the light on for people," I said.

"In other words, she was friend hoarder, too." JoLai and I laughed.

"What in the world does that mean?" Will wanted to be in on the joke.

"It's when you don't get rid of any friends. You just collect and collect them without turning any of them loose. Even if they're a convicted felon."

We tried not to laugh at first but then erupted into a hearty laugh -- together. That made us feel a little better. It did. Because this idea of Deanna including people -- and even encouraging someone who was in a lonely place -- was so her.

That was her way. That was Dee.

We took a few special things. And then we left.

Check out this hat she'd completed. I bet it was inspired by Zachary's football games. Ha.

Only Deanna. (So gonna be wearing that next year.) She also made this poster for Zachary's last game. He reminded me of this yesterday and asked if I would paint him a poster next year.

Damn. I feel the same way, Zachary. Almost seems like he knew something, huh? Told you those kids have a sixth sense.


That championship game with her there is a fond memory. Man. She was cheering so loudly that she embarrassed the shit out of us. There was no shutting her up, y'all. She was in DOLBY STEREO, do you hear me? I'm talking LOUD. Which, now, I love because it makes me laugh out loud to think of it. And it also makes me realize that my sister always, always lived -- and loved -- OUT LOUD.

So with that in mind, my motto continues to be the one I've said since waking up on Friday morning:

"More glad than sad."

More glad that I knew her and had a close relationship with her than sad because of some missed opportunity. More glad that I found her Delta books than sad that I haven't yet found her Delta pin. And more glad that I can't think of a single thing I neglected to tell her that I wish I could now. . . .  than sad that I didn't. Because I didn't hold back. I told her constantly how much she meant to all of us.


It's okay. Provisions were made. I was being prepared for this moment even when I didn't know it was going to happen. That comforts me. It does.

And speaking of comfort. Now for more pictures, okay?

Deanna's line-number was three. So was Zachary's football number. Kind of special, huh?

 One of her closest friends in the sorority, Stacey, was also #3.  This image is for you, Stace.  And I just thought about something--I'm #33. So that counts, right?

Deanna and her fellow "#3s" always loved saying: "Three's Rule."

Yeah, man. Sisters pretty much rule.

I've said it before, but I will say it again. Thanks. For being here with me today and for reading and replying and holding my hand. This counts. It does. It is what I need at this moment and I believe in my heart of hearts that this blog was also a provision. And for that, I am so thankful.

Today. Now. Forever. Sure, I will always be a tiny bit sad. But that will get swallowed in my own tsunami of glad. Because me? I knew Deanna. And I'm forever changed for it. For that, my friends, I shall always be. . . . . . .more glad than sad.

Happy Wednesday. Thanks for all the "Go Wild" photos you've posted and emailed me, too. Stay tuned for that post. :)

Now playing on my mental iPod. A song that is a little sad, but it is helping me today. Thank you Ms. Gladys, Ms. Brandy, Ms. Chaka and Ms. Tamia for ministering to me today. Maybe they'll do the same for you even if it leads to an ugly cry.

One last "ah hah moment" that I just had:

This song was from the sound track of a movie called "Set it Off."  Guess what? That was Deanna's Linename--and her Big Sister Name--"Big Sister Set it Off."  So I guess this song isn't just for this  sister -- but all of her other ones, too. Provisions. . . . 


  1. I am here.
    I read - and reread - every post, and am comforted by the words, pictures, and love in every one. I am comforted as well, by the kind comments and heartfelt words of friends, real and virtual.
    I am holding on, surrounded by love and prayers. Of course there are tears, but there are so many happy and funny stories about Deanna that smiles and laughter always follow.
    I miss my first-born daughter and am sad in ways that any mother understands instinctively. My comfort comes in knowing that we had a wonderful relationship as mother/daughter/friend, and she was told often - and knew - that she was loved.
    While I will always be sad about losing her so soon - too soon - I consider myself blessed and privileged to have had her with me for 44 years.
    I am here, embraced by the love of so many who will always remember Deanna and keep a place reserved for her in their hearts. And I will be OK because of that.

    1. Shugsie, although I stalked (j/k) you on the Ave because of Kimberly's great blog lol, I instinctively thought of you and Poopdeck when I received the news. And I immediately called my Mother-in-Love to tell her and remind her we all talked at Homecoming, and in my ignorance I forgot that she would've received the same Alumni email that my husband did. The Love that your family has for each other that has been so eloquently displayed here through Kimberly's words, will be a great aid in helping you to cope with the loss of your daughter. It's an awesome testimony of what family is all about - Love! My thoughts, prayers and love are with you all!

      Kimberly, thank you for sharing your family with us! I'm happy to know you're more glad than sad, but I'm sure you know it's ok to have your moments, it helps. Blessings and Love!

      Sorry to confuse with the name, having issues commenting
      La'Shara aka Kurlylicious

    2. Dear Deanna's dear Mom,

      Words cannot describe how inspiring you are. I checked your Soliloquies blog last night, looking for a way to send you a message, I should have known that you would still be faithfully reading this blog and a comment here would reach your eyes. If I could have picked a family into which to be born, I would have picked yours. I really mean it.

      I am so glad that Deanna was lucky enough to be born into your loving family and had you as her mother, I am also sad that she got to be part of that family for only 44 short years. But as her sister so beautifully said - more glad than sad. I am sad that I only got to know her through her sister's blog, but I am so glad that I got to know her still.

      To say I can really imagine your pain would be a lie, I feel the blood freezing in my vessels as I try to fathom the unthinkable. Yet, there is one thing of which I am certain, the love and strength that you have planted in your children, the warmth and kindness that they have radiated into this world will envelope and protect you, will warm the blood in your vessels and will put the pieces of your heart back together. I send my most loving thoughts and heartfelt prayers to you and Mr. Draper.

    3. Shugsie,
      Even though we have never met, your family has definitely been in our thoughts these last few days. Through this blog, I have come to admire you so much as a mother, and can only hope and pray that my children will have the impact on others that Deanna, Kimberly, Jolai and Will have. Your daughters and son are all smart, accomplished and successful--but they have the far greater gift of knowing and living the truth that people are important and should be treated as such. And as a parent, I know that comes from you and PoopDeck. Praying for you.

  2. Dear Mother of The Draper 4,
    That your daughter Deanna has been the source of such an outpouring of love and joyful remembrances is a testament to the outstanding parenting of you and her father. I know you know this already, but as someone who is an outside observer -I wanted you to know that I SEE what you have accomplished. As always, I keep your family in thought and prayer.

    Maria -aka Fellow Meharrrian of Kim

  3. wow. provisions were made. just wow. i am thankful to be here, bearing witness to your beloved sister's life, to your love and sorrow, more glad than sad.


  4. Sooo many beautiful tributes from you for your sister. Absolutely magnificent! Even better? That she knew of your love while she was still physically here. I ran a mile for her on Saturday and I'm sure I'll do another for her this week. Ever since I read about people running a mile in honor of someone, I've wanted to do it but I was extra inspired by you guys. More glad than sad. Awesome.

  5. Soror Kim,

    So since I've heard of the news about your sister, my soror, Deanna, I've been reading your blogs (which I didnt know about until my sister Ashara told me to log on and read them) I've been wanting to send you some profound comment that I thought would comfort you, but every time I try I can't...I am in awe and speechless of how God has made you a comforter to those that personally knew and loved Deanna, and to those of us who knew her virtually.

    Your blog has charged me to make sure that my sister knows that I love her and how it is a blessing to have a twin in my life that I can share life with.

    So tomorrow, she and I will run the 5K Turkey trot tomorrow (my first one)...we will be sure to post a funnyface picture after the race in honor of Deanna, sisters everywhere, and sorors!!!

    My prayer for you is that God continues to allow you to be a comforter!!

    Love your Soror, your fellow Skegeeian :-), Your little sister, Ashara's sister :-)

  6. Dear Mrs. Draper and Kimberly,
    Your Deanna seems so awesome that I wish I had known her. More glad than sad is a beautiful sentiment and is a testament to Deanna's life. My heart hurts for you. I am praying for God's peace to cover your family.

  7. Wow, that 3 pillow at her favorite restaurant was yet another provision. He knows what you need when you need it.

  8. Dear Kim,

    I'm so grateful you are sharing your sister's light, your family and your journey with us. I was thinking while I was reading how glad I was for your earlier posts about your beloved Delta sisters, so I could understand, just a little, what this must be like, to have two families mourning the loss of someone they loved.

    I share your approach to loss, you have to remember the good and be grateful for the gift of having them as long as you did. You have your sister's wonderful scarves and hats, I have my dad's polished stones. We carry these things so we have something to touch in this world. I told my mom about your sister yesterday, when she got weepy missing Dad. He made it to 73, against so many odds. They had a lifetime together, he got to know and love his grandkids. It's never enough, and yet, all of it is/was a gift. I try to be more grateful than greedy. And they are never really gone, because the love lives on.

    I tell everyone who's lost someone they love to check out Kevin Young's The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing. It was a comfort to me, in small doses, to gain some perspective, some context and some sharing in the journey.

    hugs to you and yours. Your family's love will help carry you all through this together.

  9. Soror and family - Thank you for the privilege of knowing you - in person, through pictures, through experiences. Sad...but clutching your more glad than sad. Love...

  10. From the Deck oh the Poop,
    I'll simply say that this was as I expected, well done! My chest heaved and shook several times during my read but no snot bubbles. I got her urn yesterday, unpacked it and sat it on the mantle in the living room, gave it a kiss, smile and went back to my learning center. I sat there and waited on my first tutees. Deanna was there to help me through the rough spots.

    Much love,


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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