Friday, November 15, 2013

One year.

November 15, 2012

I took this photograph on the evening of November 15, 2012. I know I did because I remember it but also because the date and time were captured right along with the image. I was heading out of the hospital to my car and, on this particular day, had arrived too late to snag a lower level parking space. That was okay, though, because I got to partake in this view of the Atlanta skyline.

I remember thinking that it was just so. . . peaceful-looking. Like. . .something about the way the clouds seemed to be scattered across that cool blue sky and how the sun had receded just enough to signal to the night life to come alive . . . just drew me into it. I don't know. Whatever it was, it was enough to make me pull out my cell phone and snap a picture. And you know? That isn't so unusual for me to pull out my camera and grab an image. But usually? That's where I stop. For whatever reason, on this day, I didn't though.

Why? I'm not sure.  I turned my camera onto the hospital from that top floor view.

And lastly, something compelled me to take this one of myself. 

It's so weird that I did, too. Like. . . I study my expression and wonder. . .what was I thinking when I took that picture? Because at the time that this photo was taken, it was still an ordinary day. Like not yet awful like it was going to be later on, you know? Yeah. Something about this selfie is haunting to me. The look on my face seems knowing even though I know for certain that I had no idea that this would be the day that my life would change forever.

And ever. 

Yeah. So that evening and even that day was beautiful. I mean, sure, it was partly cloudy, but still, it was crisp and autumnal in the very best way. I'd taken the morning off to take Isaiah to see his pediatrician for a checkup and the rest of the afternoon I'd spent taking care of office work at Grady. I was scheduled to pick up a ward team on November 16, so I knew I needed to jump on all of my other duties beforehand. So that's what I did.

People always say that those awful, awful days are memorable for their stunning beauty and remarkable ordinariness. Who could forget how blue the sky was when those planes went crashing into the side of the World Trade Center? Or that initial calm before the levies broke after Hurricane Katrina? This day was no different.

I'd called her a few times from my office. Straight to voicemail each time which, after the third or fourth time, seemed a little weird. Next I shot a text.

"Dude. Call me when you get this."

That was my simple text to my sister Deanna. And at that point, nothing really was different. I just assumed that maybe her phone had died? Or that she was just in an area without a good signal? I wasn't sure. But I also wasn't worried.

I started driving home and pulled out my phone once again. By this point it was after 5:30 PM so I knew that Deanna would already have the kids by then. And since the after school care center is just a few blocks away, she'd be in my house by then. I punched her name on speed dial. . . .again--straight to voice mail. That's when I said it out loud:

"That's odd."

And that's the first moment that I felt worried. See, because Deanna always gave me a hard time for the days I let my kids be the last to get picked up from daycare or after school care. She made a point of getting to the boys long before the bell tolled and wagged her finger at those parents who came tearing in one minute before the late charge set in. So this really was odd that Deanna wasn't answering her phone since, by now, she should have been in my home where she could have easily plugged it back in if it were out of charge.

By now, it was about 5:40 PM.  That's when I remembered that Deanna was supposed to meet Harry at the barber shop with the boys at 6:30 PM.  I tried to convince myself that this is where she was but it wasn't working. I felt worried.

I decided to try her at our home.The phone rang and rang. I hung up and tried once more since everyone knows that we never answer the home phone. I figured that after a few attempts she'd eventually pick up. And so. I called. And I called some more. Then, on like the fourth attempt, the phone finally was answered. The voice was exasperated which made sense since I'd just rang four times in a row.

"Hello? What is going on? Damn!"

"Hello? What are you doing there?"

"Uhh, hello? I live here, remember?"  It was Harry. Harry wasn't supposed to be home at 5:43 PM. He was supposed to be rushing from his office to the barber shop about fifteen minutes from now.

"Has Deanna been there?" I asked. And when I asked, for some reason, I already knew the answer.

"I've been trying to call her but her phone must be dead. I was going to let her know that I'd get the boys for the haircuts. Where is she?"

"I can't reach her, Harry." My voice was serious and I tried to make it not sound that way. I cleared my throat and tried to think for a minute. Where could she be? Had something happened? And if it did was she already with the children when it did? I didn't want to panic. "Babe? Run up the street to after care to see if she scooped the boys already, okay?"  I used that word "scooped" because it sounded less panicky. Even though I felt the opposite of that.

"Cool," he quickly replied. Then as I heard him running down the stairs into the garage he paused and added, "Where do you think she'd be if she didn't make it?"

"Honestly? I don't know. But the only way she'd leave our kids at school without calling us would be over her dead body." And I froze when I said that. Because that? That was the first time I'd actually considered that as the reason why I couldn't get her on the phone.

Moments later I felt my phone buzzing on my lap. I looked down and saw that it was Harry and right then, I knew. I knew that something really awful had happened. I didn't even say hello when I answered. I just put the phone to my ear and listened.

"They're here," he said quietly. "They're the last ones here."

"Okay." My voice was anemic and my mounting emotions thread bare. "Just take them to the barber shop, okay?"

"What are you about to do?"

"Babe? I think something awful has happened. That's the only explanation for Deanna letting them get picked up last. I'm heading over to her house."

 He didn't protest.

My head was swirling like crazy. I wasn't sure who to call or what to do. I tried her one more time and still--straight to voicemail. And I was driving while all of this was happening so that made matters even worse. What I remember doing next is just pulling over on the side of the road. Literally. And I just sat there staring at my hands for a few seconds. I took a deep breath, parted my lips, and began to speak.

"Okay, God. So check it out. It seems like you're giving me some kind of discernment that something really bad is about to go down. And I need you to understand that if that's the case then I'm going to need you to show me specifically, exactly what to do. I'm for real, God. Like if my sister is like. . . .gone. . .I'm going to need you to give me blow by blow instructions and I'm going to need you to keep my wits about me. Because in our family that person is normally my dad. But if you've decided to take his child home it can't be him."

I sighed and just sat there.

"Look, God. All my family has ever known is favor. I'm really serious. I need exact directions. And I promise to do my best to be obedient."

I felt my pulse quickening. I closed my eyes for a few moments and then just waited. Then I just started driving again. I didn't even say "amen" or anything. That was my prayer. Nothing fancy or overly deferential. Just me in my regular voice talking. And honestly, I could dedicate an entire blog to what I learned from that moment. I could.

So you know how the rest of the evening went. It unfolded like some horrible origami as the evening went on. She'd never left her home. Her car was still there when Mom arrived and we agreed that nothing good would come from busting into the house. So 911 was called and Mom was standing in Deanna's driveway with Daddy on speaker when that awful confirmation came.

She was gone. Gone.

And I still can't believe it. Or understand it. Or get my brain around it. I can't. I still miss her every single day like it just happened and still want to speak to her with every single beautiful, funny or mundane moment I've lived ever since.

I used to wake up and feel fearful at the blue-blue sky days or perfectly normal moments. I'd wonder if it was what would make me remember some awful thing coming around the bend. Is it like that peaceful skyline that Thursday on the rooftop of the parking garage just waiting to open up into something tragic? I found myself thinking that way more times than I care to admit in the last year. But then I decided that I wouldn't live that way. And that I couldn't live that way.

Besides, Deanna would be the first to say how living in fear isn't leaving at all. So I hear her voice and live my life with the same kind of intention that she did. With unapologetic zeal and determination to use whatever gifts I have. . . . and to pay things forward as much as possible. She always did.

Today is November 15, 2013. One year to the day after I said goodbye to my sister. I'm proud of the 365 days I've spent honoring her through a more intentional life. I am because I know she'd be proud, too. But still, I miss her in ways that sometimes feel unbearable. I do. Despite that, I remain more glad than sad. Glad to have this life that included Deanna and glad to have this world that includes all of you. And if I haven't said it lately, let me tell you again. Thank you. For sustaining me through your patience and kindness and listening. Thank you for your prayers and thoughts and energy. For those who don't know me or who never commented but read faithfully and for those who do know me or who did comment or who just read only sometimes here--thank all of you, too.  I need you to know that it made a difference. For me, it did. For all of us, it did.


Happy Friday.

Got family? Call them and tell them you love them. Got gifts? Use them. Got life? Live it like you mean it.

Come back this afternoon for something lighter. . . .it's in my head still but coming out soon. . ..

The song that played on my mental iPod the morning after I woke up and many times ever since. Thank you,  Mr. Lenny Kravitz, for ministering to my soul.


  1. I keep thinking... Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes...

    Measure your life in love... Sissy's life was HUGE.

    I love you, Miz. And I spend every day trying to be the best sister I can be & know that I'm always a phone call away. Or even a flight if you need me.

    Remember: WWDD?


  2. Saying prayers for you all today. And I will be calling my family just to say 'I love you' in her honor.

  3. Praying for you and your family.

  4. Keeping you and your family in prayer today

  5. Anniversaries are the hardest times. The very way the sun slants through the clouds and the way the air feels brings it all back to immediacy. I'll be thinking of you and your entire family today. I'll be holding you in my heart.

  6. Such a moving post. I'm literally crying over my oatmeal. Thinking of you at what must be a difficult time.

  7. I am in tears. I cannot imagine how awful that moment must have been for you when you knew your boys were still at after care and what it must mean. The tears started to flow at your prayer on the side if the highway, so lost and frightened, and yet so powerful and faith-filled too. Oh Kimberly, I am so very sorry Deanna is not physically with you but I know you love her and talk to her still. And maybe that peaceful sky that evening was her telling you that she was at peace, and how much she loves you. Still and always. You had her beautiful spirit. She was here with you in one way. Now she's with you in another. She will never forsake you. My love to your family. My best love.

  8. This. Right. Here. Here. I'm in TEARS! Lord help me. I pray for you and your siblings everyday. I LOVE Deanna as well and although we didn't speak daily, I miss her like crazy. She was a wonderful friend and Soror. Talented beyond her years. Never had a bad thing to say about anyone. Always willing to help a broke down girl like me with anything. And for that and people like Deanna, I pay it forward. I love you, Dr. Manning. I really do. I love your family. I love your words. I love your heart. I'll continue to pray for you. I thank you for sharing Deanna with me on a regular via your blogs. I never want to forget her spirit. I miss her too.

    Angela Fairwell

  9. Praying for you and family always! Thank you for the reminder to love, bless and live. Millicent

  10. I don't know what to say. I am so sorry. Your writing moves me and I am glad you can put your grief into words.

  11. You and your family are in my thoughts and heart. Sweet Jo

  12. My entire life, I had been having the hardest time trying to get my hair to stay in a curly style without it going poofy. In October of last year, right before my daughter's birthday, I sent Deanna an inbox message on Facebook, asking her how she always made hers look so good. She replied back with step by step instructions on what products I needed to use, and to make sure I "crunch" my hair up in my hands as I am doing it. Since then I have had nothing but the perfect, curly look, when I wanted it. A month later the awful news came and I just couldn't believe it. I remember our high school years so completely and how Deanna was always the life of everything we did on campus. I lost touch with her during our college years, but re-connected about 5 years ago because of FB. I am so glad we did. Deanna was one of the good ones. You and all of the Draper's will are in my prayers today and always.

  13. I too miss my girl Lady D...the way we would cut up in sorority meeting or functions. You and the family are in my continued prayers!!!

  14. Ohhhhhhhh Kimberly, lifting you up today with love and prayers. Your family too. Tough stuff, my friend, but you deal with it beautifully. <3

  15. I do not know you at all, but I know family and I have one sister. YOUR sister's life still inspires..through you, your words, and because of your love. That is a forever kind of thing, indeed. <3 and blessings...

  16. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you.


  17. Beautiful, heart-rending, honoring writing. Thinking of you and your family.

  18. I know you miss her so very much. I feel for your parents whose hearts must be so heavy today. And for the rest of your family and her friends. My regret is that I didn't know her, cuz I KNOW I would have loved her.

  19. Such beautiful words and thoughts. You have done your sister proud this year and your love for her and hers for all of you just shines out into the universe and reflects right back. It is a beautiful thing. There is nothing that makes such loss easier, and all I can hope for you is that time takes the sharpest edges off the pain, and that on those painful days, you can remember how fortunate you were to have her in your life.
    Hugs to you.

  20. Wow, this is some very powerful writing. I've just been catching up on your blog after a busy week...the post about the "ho" had me laughing so hard I was almost crying and then I got to this one. OMG. There is no "almost" crying on this one. You have so personally and completely conveyed the devastation of grief that it is just mindblowing. I have followed you on this journey and many times have wished I had known have made so many of us feel lilke we did know her. You and your family have survived a year now and have kept Deanna alive in so many beautiful ways. I pray for all of you as you enter another holiday season without her physical presence. I do know that her spirit is living in all of you. I thank you so much for sharing your profound love here.


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

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