Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A.D. (After Deanna)

"The only advice I can give someone about when you lose someone like that is you won't ever get over it. And the more you know that and embrace it, the better off you are."

~ Billy Bob Thornton


The Day before Ides of November, Year 5

It's been five years since the day before she left us. For me, they all kind of run together but there's always something about November 14 that stands out. That was the day before things shifted. Now? I will always see my adult life as November 14, 2012 and before-- and then everything after that collectively as A.D. -- After Deanna.

A giant line was drawn in the sand of my life that day. All that was before that day seems like it was so simple, man. Even when it wasn't simple. See, what was simple was that you could trust the day to be what it was. Happy would be happy. Sad would be sad. Lumpy would be lumpy. But it was what it was, you know? I mean, you could walk into that day or that month or that week believing that this is what it will be. And trust it to be just that.

And up until then, I mostly felt that way. I did.

But then came November of 2012. It started off so seemingly normal. The sky bursting with this extraordinary blue and the leaves on the Japanese maple evolving into the most painstakingly beautiful shade of bright red that it seemed like they weren't even real. Just two weekends before the day she departed we sat together on the bleachers screaming and cheering at a pee wee football game. Deanna had painted a poster for Zachary's team by hand and he was so, so proud of that. So proud that he refused to let the team run through it because he didn't want it to tear.


My text exchanges the days before were about Thanksgiving week. I had to work for part of it. She had the week off. She offered to help me out with the kids but only up until Wednesday because she had plans to attend the Turkey Day Classic football game in Alabama that day. She loved our alma mater Tuskegee so her being unavailable to me so that she could be available to Tuskegee made sense to me. All of that was cool with me. Yeah, man. It was.

I have read those text messages no less than 1,000 times. I scroll back as far as I can and remember the innocence of that time. How my fear of bad things like sisters suddenly dying were mostly hypothetical and outlandish and not the kinds of things that could affect me in real life. That is, until they actually did affect me in real life.

So that November of 2012 was pivotal. It shifted my view on life and the world I live in and what is promised to me. What is sure is right now. Not even today but now. And so what happens after something like this is that you start to really, really look at your now with different eyes.

Does this even make sense?

For those who have lived through one of these moments, you already know. You know that you can start a Tuesday thinking it will be just the day after Monday and nothing else. But once you experience one of these knock the wind from your chest moments? You know not to fully and completely trust Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or any day completely. Negative sounding, I know. But that's not how I mean for it to sound. I'm just saying now I understand that there's always some piece of what will happen next in a day that is impossible to predict. So you learn to keep a tiny piece of yourself "woke" just in case that day pulls a fast one on you. And no. That doesn't mean live in fear or don't appreciate it. I guess, to me, it instead means savor the piece of it that is before you. The slice right in front of you sitting on your plate. Savor it. Dig into it with your fork and close your eyes when you take that bite. Yes. Taste every bit of it that you can. Because something could shift and make it where you can't.

Sigh. Rambling, I know.

I think what I am realizing is that every day could be the day before November 15. Which, in a way, makes me both happy and a bit scared at the same time. But mostly happy.

Here's why:

The day before Deanna died was just about as perfect as a day could get.  I had given a lecture that afternoon at Grady that she'd helped me with. It was something that called for courage because it was so different than most standard medical lectures. And, at first, we had some glitches in the AV equipment. But then it worked out and went wonderfully. So great that I have given that lecture several times and even in several different states. I called Deanna in the middle of that day and told her how great it was. How really, really great it was. And, like always, she said that she knew it would be. That was one piece of that day. Later on, she picked up our kids and when I came home she was doing crafts with them on the dining room table. There was glitter everywhere and everyone was so happy. I'd come in with a handful of groceries and started making some dinner. Spaghetti. 

"Join us for dinner?" I asked.

"Sure, why not?" she replied. 

And I cooked while they kept on sprinkling that glitter. She listened as I rehashed every single detail of my lecture and the kids screamed and made as much noise as possible. Harry came in and all of us just laughed and talked and ate and hugged until well after 9PM. And I remember thinking how awesome it all was. How happy I felt that we lived in the same city and how grateful I was that she was there to help me with my kids. I even recalled that moment just a few weeks before crying while telling her all of this. Sitting at the kitchen table weeping and saying how truly, truly, truly grateful I was that she was there to help me because I needed it. I needed her to help me raise my kids and to be brave. And she would just smile and say, "You do need me. You're a mess. But you got me so it's good." 

Then we'd just laugh and laugh. 

I am laughing and crying while typing this because she was so right. I was and am a mess. And I still need her. I do. The cool thing is that, while I know she isn't here in the flesh, I know I still have her. I can hear her when I close my eyes and sit very still. Her strong opinions, her unfiltered advice, her favorite pet name for people she loved "Pookie." And, as crazy as it might sound, the parts of me that are a mess without her are a price I'm willing to pay to honor her. 


Man, oh man. I had no idea that the day after the great glitter and spaghetti night that she'd be physically gone. Just like most people who live through such a thing feel, you know? But there is such a tremendous comfort in remembering how wonderful that November 14 was for us. That she would think to stay late on a school night even though she had to work and that we laughed out loud and did the most ordinary extraordinary things. I love that I was given the gift of discernment in that moment, too. Like, that I knew to think "this is a great day and a special moment" right then and there while it was happening. That was a gift, man. A real gift. Which is a very, very good thing to hold in my heart A.D.

It is.

And so. Now I'm really into trying to do that more. I want to  feel my life and experience it all in high definition. I want to see it and touch it and savor it. Each hug, each laugh, each kiss. Fill it all up with the people who bring me joy and not anxiety. And permit myself to be okay with not giving that precious space in time to those who don't. Because I'm never fully sure if this is the day before a day like November 15. And some piece of me is always praying that, since I never can know what is coming around the corner, that I will live with enough intention to have very few regrets. I'll know I loved hard and was wide awake for it all. 

And I get it that the intensity of it all probably sounds exhausting. And no. I'm assure you that I don't get it right a lot of the time. But you know what? Damn, do I try.

Damn, do I try as hard as I can.

I miss my sister every single day. And I hope that I always will. 


Be intentional with your days, okay?

This resonated with me. I get his melancholy and don't see it as a bad thing. Some piece of me will always be sad and I'm okay with that. It's okay.


  1. Sending strength and love from your faithful reader in CT South Africa xxx

    1. Knowing that you are sending love from South Africa lightens my heart and makes me smile. I love knowing this. I really appreciate you reading and commenting, CT.

    2. thank you for writing that. i will always have tears and always have nothing but happy memories. darruis' death was the great loss for me! no other loss will be greater. i am forever changed. i am also forever grateful! love you kimberly! i am thankful for your love and admiration of deanna. it reminds me of what i feel and what i felt! i love your bravery. our joys have left the building, but they left the light on. tangye

  2. Thanks, Dr. Manning.
    I get it. May 3 is my continental divide day.
    Thank you, as always.

    1. Wow, I didn't know that, sister. I will remember that. Early May is usually a joyous time for us since we married on May 1 and Isaiah was born on May 6. But, as you know, I like to share a piece of peoples' joy right along with their pain. I think it rounds us out and makes us more present. I will remember May 3 for you. I will.

  3. “So that day was pivotal. It shifted my view on life and the world I live in and what is promised to me. What is sure is now. Not even today but now.” Yes, ma’am. It took a while to get here but I live in the now more post-loss. It has also led to a fun thing I call “death math.” I remember my cat’s age based on how long we had her when my dad died. I remember how long ago I replaced the carbon monoxide detector because it was a year after my husband died. I didn’t know such things had to be replaced until then. Anyway, I sometimes wonder how living in the now will change with the next loss. I bet it will be broken for a while. And I’ll have a new death math date.

  4. Been thinking about you!! Wanted to do lunch with you on November 15th this year like last year. I love how you keep your sister’s memory alive, every day! And the pictures you share!! May God continue to bless you and keep you! Hugs!

  5. Keeping you and your family in my prayers today. So love that you have these memories of telling her exactly how much it meant to you to have her in your life and close by and of that wonderful happy family meal.

  6. My son passed away on September 19, 2012. The day was so beautiful, I remember every detail of its beauty until suddenly it was dark (but still light), everything around me moving and making sounds in slow motion. I too try to live and feel every moment, especially with my youngest son. Love and continued light to you Soror. You bless more people than you realize with your blogs. ❤��️��

  7. The part about death that hurts so much is that live just continues on. I remember when my dad died, we still needed to each lunch and I thought that we so strange because it seemed that everything should be different.

    You are blessed to have had such a wonderful relationship with your sister.

  8. You and your family are in my prayers.

  9. Season's greetings! I hope your family will have a joyous holiday season filled with exquisite memories of Deanna. <3


  10. You will always miss your sister. And she is richly worth missing. How blessed you were to have had her, even if the time was too short. She is with you still, though, her wisdom, her heart, still helping you. I sure do miss you in blog world, but I imagine you're dancing as fast as you can out there in the three-D world. I hope your boys are doing well, and you and that handsome man, too. I think of you all often, and I hope the new years brings to fruition all you dream. Amen.


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

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