There’s something about allowing yourself to be open to meet and know new people. It’s thrilling to gain insight into the lives of others and learn from their experiences and overall, gain new friends. For me… who ALWAYS things about 30 years ahead… there’s a frightening aspect to it as well. The more people you come to care for… the more you add to the list of people that you will lose in life. Nothing is forever… and no one gets to stay. It’s all just a matter of where or when. And even after having reconciled that with yourself in your own heart, it doesn’t make the loss of that loved one any less painful or you any less grieving.
I joined my current chapter (Epsilon Pi Omega) in April 2001. Our calendar year in AKA goes from September to June and we have 2 months off. In my chapter they assign you “Heart Sisters”. One woman in the chapter who you will attempt to get to know over the course of the AKA calendar year – someone who can mentor you – or who you can mentor (pending on how long you’ve been in the chapter) – and generally attempt to form a bond. My first heart sister wasn’t active in the chapter and never came to meeting, nor did she reach out during the April – June months of that year. In August, my grandmother passed away. A woman who I loved dearly… and was the first real CLOSE family member I’d lost in my life at that time. In January they assigned me a new Heart Sister. The woman they assigned to me… looked like she may have been my grandmother’s twin. It scared the hell out of me. I knew she wasn’t … but it was too soon. In the meantime, I shunned my Heart Sister duties – calling her, sending letters, acknowledging her birthday, holidays, etc., while she went about doing ALL of the above. On Easter, she brought me some chocolate easter bunnies and a card along with some AKA socks. She said to me as she handed it over “This is what sisters do for each other…” but it was with such defeat… like she felt that she was handed a dud Heart Sister… I really had to go home and assess. I could keep myself busy in chapter and keep my heart to myself… Or I could GIVE my heart to these women and love them fully like a Sister should – despite my reservations. I chose the latter and Myrna Pickens became my official FIRST and FAVORITEST Heart sister.
This note is not about her – THANK GOD… But… I opened up my heart going forward… and let so many of these women into my heart. Women who could have been old enough to BE my grandmother… my mother… my aunt… with great experiences and love beyond compare to share with me. But as the years went by I was slowly reminded about the whole “getting close and losing” part of life… I let several women into my life and got to know them well… depend on their friendship, look forward to seeing them at committee meetings and chapter meetings and hearing their input. Emma Bradford, Gloria Black, Mildred Cooper, Juliette Burnett, Vivian DeLuze, Fannie Dunson, Jerolyn Minter… to name a few. Who were the movers and shakers in my chapter as I reactivated wide eyed and new to the chapter experience. The led the way… they held up the light and showed me what being a dedicated, compassionate sincere AKA REALLY meant.
Then… one by one… they all made this… journey… down a road of unwellness. We’d come to a random chapter meeting and hear that we needed to keep Soror ______________ in our prayers as she was recovering / in the hospital / not well / in need of our support. And then they’d make a final trip to the chapter. Be it at a meeting or a retreat or a founders’ day… whatever they chose – they tried to pick a location where as many sorors they knew could be there… So they could see us all one last time. Hug us. Hold us. Capture that memory of our faces one more time before they made THAT final journey. And when the news would hit about their passing, your mind flashes back to that meeting, where it was the last time you saw them… and your heart aches… because THEY knew… but you didn’t. You thought them coming out and being with you mean that they were on the come up and getting better and would be back in the fray in NO time.
Last chapter meeting, My Soror Delores came to chapter after being away from the chapter for a number of months. She’d been out and everyone knew she was battling something difficult. Without getting into all her business, we just knew she needed our prayers. So when I saw her at chapter meeting, the old failsafe kicked in – She must be getting better I thought… I walked over to her with open arms and ready to compliment her fabulousness as always when she stopped me mid sentence… “You mustn’t even recognize me…” And at that point I tilted my head and looked her… she was gaunt. She was frail. Whatever she’d been fighting had put up a GOOD fight, but she must’ve won…. right?! So I said, “OF COURSE I know who your are… you are my FABULOUS Soror Delores!!!” and I hugged her then thin frame with love and sisterliness and welcomed her home.
She passed away this past Thursday and we’re now going through the process of making sure that she’s properly remembered as per the Sorority with our rituals and what not. And the minute I heard of her passing, I couldn’t HELP but think of the last time I saw her. Spoke to her… told her how much I admired and looked up to her.
It’s such a risk we take to open our hearts to knowing and loving new people…. I wouldn’t change a thing… these women have vastly improved on the quality of my life. I learn as I go along to cherish every moment and let them know how deeply I appreciate them.
Fare thee well, Soror Delores. You will be missed by us all.
Always with sisterly love…