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Rudy, I was so sorry to hear about the death of your birth mother, who died so out of season on . . . 

Mother's Day. You must have spent the hours since her death reflecting on her life, your relationship

with her, your siblings, and your other mother, whose 97 years weigh heavily on the family now.



Rattlers and Other Acts of Love

An Obit Assembled by Rudolph Lewis



Mother’s Day Afterword

Dear Friends,

Mother's Day began with my observation of a Negro woman weeping at her mother's tombstone in the cemetery across the road. I had just come out to sit on the front porch. One always speaks of a "happy" mother's day. I wondered then what about all those who have a mother dead. How can one be happy with such a loss?

Another young woman brought a wreath for her mother's tomb. But it was the first woman, dressed in white, who lingered long at her mother's grave praying and sobbing that got to me. I told no one that story until now.

Blessed was I yesterday with two mothers. Today I am blessed with one. The one who raised me is in the room connected to mine. She will be 97 in August, God willing. The one who bore me at 17 passed away at St. Agnes Hospital, last evening, at 77. She's at a hospital morgue. She cuts away a path for me in her ascension.

We got the news this morning on the phone as I was preparing to go substitute at the county high school for an absent Spanish teacher. The phone rang and my aunt was questioning beyond belief. Then she began to wail that my mother Lucinda had died. In her tears, we embraced. My mother had gone up to Baltimore from Virginia Beach, where she had recently moved in with my brother. They were celebrating Mother's Day with her four daughters. She began to have pains in her chest. They took her to the hospital. She passed out. They were unable to revive her.

We have yet to tell Mama. Only two of five daughters now remain. We do not know how to break the news to her. Ignorance is bliss. She is already delusional, plagued by imaginary bugs. We have no idea what impact this sad news will have on her. But how can one avoid telling her?

My eyes are watered. No tears have yet fallen. So many sad thoughts pass through my mind. I have never lost a mother before. Two fathers have been gone for sometime. We now break new earth.

I have yet to speak to my siblings. I have no idea when the funeral will be. Pray for us.—Rudy

12 May 2008

*   *   *   *   *

Yes, prayer. 

    The angel of death intrudes, so we "hope" the ones who bear the burdens of the dying; 

    face the fact that we are the next generation.

    We noted our birth order every time a birthday rolled around, but did we note our death order?

    How did we ever get through the times when people died out of their death order?

    Yes, prayer.

    Sometimes with groans and sighs from grief beyond speaking

    in answer to a deity

    also sighing and groaning until

    joy returns on some tomorrow morning. 


*   *   *   *   *

Dear Rudy, Sorry for your loss.  May God give you folks strength. One love, KD

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I will indeed pray for you, Rudy.  You are a truly good son.  May God continue to comfort and be with you as you grieve your mother's transition. Sending warm wishes your way, Sandra Shannon 

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Rudy,  My most profound condolences. My prayers are with you and your family. As ever, Herbert

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Sorry to hear about the passing of your birth mother. Will pray for you and for the repose of her soul, Kam  

*   *   *   *   * sorry for your loss...Sending you a hug Rudy and keeping you and your family in prayer. Peace, Mary

*   *   *   *   *

Hi Rudy: I'm so sorry to hear about your mom's  passing.   I just don't know what else to say.   No one can take the place of your mother. You know I'll be praying for you all. Love you. Caroline

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Our Dear Rudy,

Just read about the passing of your birth mother, Lucinda.  Condolences from the Mezu family.  I can feel your pain, coming as it did on Mother's Day. But then you know, your mother is, we believe, happier still in the bosom of the Lord and His mother Mary where every day is the true Mother's Day - celestial Bliss.  Be consoled and peace to you and your siblings.

Indeed, my family also felt the poignancy of  Mother's Day since, but for the Lord's grace, they would have been spending their first Mother's Day without a mother - Me, Rose Ure.   

But your mum Lucinda at 77 years lived a full life, had You—scholar, poet, nationalist activist, a true friend always, and a man of veritable integrity—and  passed away while enjoying the company of beloved children.  To shed tears is mortal but she is in a happier place. 

Take heart, Rudy and you have writing as a medium of recapturing and enshrining for endless time those very precious memories.  It is a happy profession we have—for Writin' is also Lovin'.—Rose Ure Mezu

*   *   *   *   *

Rudy, your mother gifted to this universe you as a precious legacy.  Surely the beams from her lantern will light your future directives as you continue serving the universe and others.  Some lanterns never dim. Prayers & Strength go out to you !—bev jenai

*   *   *   *   *

"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb

And, when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance."  Kahlil Gibran

*   *   *   *   *

Rudy, my prayers are with you and your loved ones who remain behind, while your mother is enjoying the answer to the great mystery. Your heart at this time must be soft, sorrowful, yet sweet. Allow the remembrance of who she was and what she meant to you to fully form as you find ways to say goodbye. You are so fortunate to have had the love of two mothers in your life! God Bless . . . Andrea  

*   *   *   *   *

My condolences and whatever strength that can be sent.  All of us wish you well. Chuck Siler

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You are in our one heart, Rudy. May your mother’s memory be eternal. Mackie

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Dear Rudy, My prayers are with you. I lost my own mother after a long illness in 1974. I still tear up if I talk about her. She was brave and my truest friend. The last year has been a sad one. . . . Many of my good thoughts are coming your way. Water the flowers: Tears are a good thing. Love, Lee

*   *   *   *   *

Rudy, I was so sorry to hear about the death of your birth mother, who died so out of season on . . .  Mother's Day. You must have spent the hours since her death reflecting on her life, your relationship with her, your siblings, and your other mother, whose 97 years weigh heavily on the family now. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this time of loss. With deep sympathy, Miriam

*   *   *   *   *

Blood Rudy

I read the mail you send and your cousin, Angelo confirmed this, that your mother had  passed away. I am with you in your loss. But do not consider this a loss, just a passing. You will overcome the pain and have joy that you spend sometime with your mother. She had gone "home"!

Your mother has taken off the physical and put on the spiritual. No more suffering and no more pain. She has that smile you always wanted for her.

Not gone, not sleep, just relieved and free.

Your mother pray for you
Your mother pray for you
She had this on her mind
Took a little time to pray for Brother Rudy!

As the joy her and you shared, as her and you toiled to be free, none other had ever known.

Your pathway to glory may sometime be dread, Brother Rudolph, you be happy each step of the way.

As always, Your brother and friend always in the struggle! Peace, Power, and Uncompromising Love Austin L. Sydnor, Jr.

*   *   *   *   *

Sincerest sympathy‏

Dear Rudy, Please accept my deepest sympathy. Maureen and I shall keep you in our thoughts and our prayers. Wilson

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You have my sympathy.

I cannot add to the supplements that you will hear to those words as for me when my mother died, all of them seemed so unearthly. Words like 'loss' "a better place," and "her home-going" all left me with a greater sense of detachment. Such phrases rent the few fibers that held me together over those days, weeks, and now years as I've been told that it's easier as time goes by.

I made a mess of the Mother's day remembrance by stating that during the prayer that I had "no white corsage for my mother to smell so I will give her my words about the triumph I see over suffering and hurt." I think everyone preferred a Hallmark moment, though.

I'll pray for you, but I'll play some John Lee Hooker and Jimi, too. Be blessed Brother Rudy, Raymond B.

*   *   *   *   *

My prayers are with you and yours.—Vince

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I am so sorry. I really liked Lucinda. I am glad I had an opportunity to talk with her. We had good, rich conversations. I will call you tomorrow. I am so sorry. It is so unexpected. I thought Mama would go first. Love, Yvonne

*   *   *   *   *

The Passing of My Mother

Yesterday was dark, windy, and wet. Today, the birds sing. Mockingbird is on the wing. It's sunny and mild—a few patches of white clouds mark the blueness of the sky. The bush out in the yard has begun to bloom its white flowers. Up and down all night, I slept late.

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, after the sad morning news of my mother's passing,  I went to town gobbled down a burger at Wendy's, stopped by the ABC Store and picked up a pint of cheap gin, returned home. I'm not much of a drinker, but drowning one's sorrows seems the traditional thing to do in response to a family death. My cousin who had just gotten home from assembling refrigeration units for ten hours joined me for a few swigs. I stayed up late to see Boston lose another game in Cleveland.

Early evening, my aunt waited until her niece, a nurse, stopped by to tell Mama of the passing of her "favorite" daughter. From the kitchen I heard her cry out, wail, sob, mourn. It's a terrific scene to see one's mama, old and feeble in a wheelchair, in tears. I kissed her on the cheek and my own tears warm on my cheek began to flow. It was too much. I turned on my heels and walked away from her sadness. After an hour or so they calmed her down. This afternoon she seems to be okay. The worse passed over.

All's that left now is the burial. Well not quite. There's the funeral. Three of my siblings, at least, prefer the more elaborate, sensational funerals, two hours or more with a long long emotional sermon of the faith. The last funeral I attended was about two years ago for my mother's second husband, Grover. The funeral home sermon was so long and the lies so thick about the man, it was just too much to sit still. I walked out onto the lawn and had a smoke with one of my cousins. The great feast after the funeral was held at my mother's house in Yale Heights. Her funeral will be held at the church of one of my nieces in Baltimore, Monday coming. I remain unaware of the particulars and other plans.

There are memories, as well. Many one would like to forget. Others rather dear. She visited us here at Jerusalem, about a month ago. She brought me gifts. Those you might bring a prisoner: towels, washcloths, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant. Mama was happy to see her, as always. But my mother, who had been suffering from high blood pressure for sometime, left after several days to return to Virginia Beach for doctor's care. One of my sister's, Theresa, drove her there. They both talked up their much support of Obama. It was my younger brother's house. He added a wing onto his house for her. It's a mini-mansion, which included rooms for his mother-in-law and his mother. Moving down from Baltimore and her own house, she was there less than two years.

My mother retired as a piece worker for a garment industry after 30 years. Before the piece work, she was a maid in  hotels in downtown Baltimore. She worked for a while in the same hotel, the Emerson (I think) in which Hattie Carroll was killed (You know the Dylan song, "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.") by an irate tobacco farmer.

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath'rin'.
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder.
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears,
Take the rag away from your face.
Now ain't the time for your tears.

My mother grew up during the Great Depression, a sharecropper's daughter, which meant most her childhood was spent in the fields or the garden. But for her and her four sisters there were also the chores of feeding pigs and chickens, carrying wood and pails of water into the house. In their wooded isolation there was only the radio as an extension to the outside world. Well, there were those who returned periodically, sporting their imitations of citified ways.

Unlike her parents, born at the turn of the 20th century, my mother did attend high school, 40 miles on the other side of the county. Maybe she finished the tenth grade. I am certain she never read a book from cover to cover. Unlike me, she was a great conversationalist and made friends easily. During my brother's stay in Japan, she made a visit and traveled quite a bit across the country. She might have gotten to see much more of America than I.

Anyhow, the harshness of Jim Crow country life was no place for a pretty young yellow girl and so she went to Baltimore pregnant to live with her aunt on Fremont Avenue in South Baltimore. That is where I was born and stayed for a couple of months until I was sent back to the countryside to be raised by her parents as their child. I grew up knowing my mother as my sister. My sisters, by her first husband, as my nieces. What emotional turmoil reconciling lies to truth! I sympathize greatly with Reginald Lockett's poem, "Bastard."

My mother had no great love of country side. After a week or so here at Jerusalem she was ready to return to the urban sounds of Baltimore. She will not lie finally with her father and two of her sisters in the family plots across the road. Three of her children said that she wanted to lie with her second husband at a military cemetery outside Baltimore. It's uncertain whether her two remaining sisters here at Jerusalem will be able to get to Baltimore for the funeral and the burial. Certainly, Mama at 97 will not be able to make that journey.

Life is filled with uncertainties. I did not expect Lucinda to pass before Mama. Both of their lives were filled with hard work and troubles, though they bore them often in the best of spirits. They added much that was worthwhile to our world. Both outlived their husbands. My mother leaves behind four daughters and two sons, grandchildren, and several great grandchildren. For certain, I will miss her dearly.

Thanks ever so much for your kind words and sympathy.Rudy

*   *   *   *   *

Rudy, that is such a sad-lovely testament to your mother who led such a difficult, complicated life. It is obvious, however, from your words that she lived a life of some beauty and grace in spite of all the challenges. She will be missed by you and the rest of her tribe. Miriam

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Rudy . . .

Many paintings could be composed from your literary visuals...your ability to paint with words remind me of Zora and Pearl Buck. 

You must now be in the throes of your sorrow...but you have seemingly many memories to hold on to.  Many visuals of yesterdays to put your arms around.

My visual here in Sedona the other day was of two huge snakes slithering across the red rocks in front of my patio...which has up to now been my refuge, my sanctuary, my front porch to the world.  One appeared to be a rattler...I have a feeling they had been mating but were taking off in different directions.  I use to go fishing with my grandmother every weekend in Michigan, so I was taught to not be afraid of nature, but, I dare these slithering reptiles invade my privacy (smiles).  In the almost 4 yrs of my being here...I've only had pleasant sights of roadrunners, rabbits (including jackrabbits), various species of birds, quails, and lizards, of course coyotes (whom I don't care for), and Javelinas (wild boars essentially). 

However, the snakes put me in a panic for a I was raised by overly Sanctified religious aunts who were for the most part also were healers ( I've watched many a sinful person collapse as they were freed of sin - smiles).  Snakes represented evil, the devil.  It was one of those times I missed having a man around (smiles) that I could have demurely moved into the comfort of my feminist ego while asking for assurance that I was safe, it certainly appeared to be an appealing departure from my need to always remain strong . 

I came to Sedona to re-kindle my creativity and heal of course from a dissolved marriage, and to take and learn as much as possible from the other almost 400 artist here within a 10 mile radius.  My mission now has almost been completed...and the snakes to me were just indicators that it's almost time to move on.  Where, I'm not sure yet, and of course I have to wait until the housing market improves.  

My roots include the Choctaw area of Mississippi (thus my mixture) and South Carolina where my grandmother and aunts on that side brought with them their "Daughter's of the Dust" mentalities.  All who ventured north however on both sides came north full of secrets and misrepresentations.  So, I relish  in the painted scenes of the south others describe...where somewhere my heritage lies dormant.

Thank you so much for sharing your memories. Sending strength & prayers!!—bev

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Rattlers and Other Acts of Love

Bev, I have never visited the Southwest. So I have no real sense of it—that Native American, Mexican world. Nor do I have a real sense of the architecture. Maybe I have seen some of it in Western films. Then there’s your photo. And maybe I have seen some paintings. But all that is primarily a visual experience, which excludes others senses like smell, touch, and sound.

My feelings are similar about snakes. There is much swamp land here, so there are moccasins, black, and king snakes. The last two are non-poisonous. Still I do not care for their presence. Usually, the black snake only is found around the house. One black snake, a year ago,  was overly-friendly, while I sat in a lawn chair under an oak reading Baraka’s Autobiography.  Bobo my cat, I think, had chased it as play out of the woods. As a child, we kids went back up into the swamps to fish; we had little fear of stepping on a snake. One was just careful how one walked along the footpaths. Children are fearless.

You probably would have been quite amused by my behavior, last evening. We have a screened front porch, with a metal door. I have been leaving it cracked for my cat to come in and out at his leisure. Now and again through the night, I go out and sit on the porch or walk onto the lawn and watch the stars and constellations migrate across the purple firmament. I also leave dishes of food and milk for my cat on the porch. I have been noting how clean the dishes have been of late. And I thought my cat Bobo had a pussy for a friend.

Last night, I went out on the porch, sat for a second or two, and I saw movement in the dark. That was not unusual. I usually put my hand out for Bobo to find and rub him across his back and along his tail. There was a little movement away from me, but it was a brown movement. It took me only seconds to respond. I went back inside the house and cut on the light. There sat a possum under the chair with his silly snouty grin and pink baby fingers. I have been told they are fierce fighters. I do not know it for the truth.

Anyhow, I went around the house and opened the door wide so he could leave. With all kinds of coaxing including some rather violent episodes, he refused to budge. He remained stubbornly still and silent under the green plastic chair. I was seething, frustrated, murderous blue. Maybe I was blocking his way. So I went inside the house and slammed the front door several times. He walked slowly to the dish as if he was going to continue his meal. I opened the door and hollered and he finally made his exit. I followed throwing all kinds of missiles at him. He escaped into the darkness. If I owned a gun, I am certain he would have been a dead possum.

Of course, I won't be leaving any longer the porch door cracked for the sake of my cat's passage. Other cats have stopped coming around. And dogs are not a problem. This is a new development. I have been back here at Jerusalem two years and it has been only of late that I have seen a possum, except perhaps crossing the road or as road kill. But there has been harvesting of the forest of late; in some cases, thinning and in others, completely leveling the forest. This type of industrial activity, these monster kind of machines doing the work of fifty men (at least), has caused animals, like wild cats and bears, to migrate to where people live for food and shelter.

I hoped I sufficiently frightened the little fellow so he will not return. But the time before I chased him he just climbed a tree and when I stopped the chase, stared at me. They are nocturnal. So I must not leave food outside at night. Possums make delightful dishes, I’m told by older folks. Except for venison, squirrels, and rabbits, we have moved beyond a diet of forest animals, like possum and raccoon. We tried cooking a wild turkey (road kill) a year or so ago. That entirely funked up the house and we had to give it to the dogs, even Mama would not taste it. It was indeed interesting pulling its feathers and cutting him open to discover it had two “stomachs.”

I wouldn’t move if I were you because of snakes. There are chemicals one can buy to keep snakes away from the house. Those incidents are rare. Nature provides many more joys. All kinds of foliage and flowers. Have you ever seen young deer grazing in a graveyard? Their skittishness? What a sight!Rudy

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Those are lovely sketches of life in the wilderness by you and Bev. Snakes were very much a part of my growing-up, and I am scared to death of them. A huge rattler was hanging from the rafters as I lay in  bed reading Invisible Man, while working at a 4-H camp at age 15; I had to scare all the moccasins out of the water before I could teach swimming to the campers; I stepped over a hole just as a snake was coming out, while leading the campers on a nature walk; while riding a horse in Hancock County, GA, my mother's home, a rattler reared its ugly head and the horse leaped up; one day I found a copperhead in the little garden in front of our house on S. C. State College campus (and that ended my gardening); and we also found a deadly coral snake on campus. When I think of snakes in literature, though, I can just see that huge one at the beginning of Coming of Age in Mississippi—truly frightening.—Miriam

*   *   *   *  *

As you know, I'm not truly a lady of the West . . . but it's beautiful here . . . it's no wonder there was such a fight for the land.  Unlike the Georgia red clay . . . the views of the red mountains here take your breath away. It's not unusual to see folks jumping out of their cars in amazement with cameras in hand as they come around 89a off of 117 into town. 

And, yes many Westerns were made here . . . and the infamous John Wayne still has a  shrine maintained here somewhere near Sedona.  The story is the red mountains rose from the water ions ago . . . thus causing oxidation to formulate their intense red colors.   The cacti are getting ready to bloom, and this is another breathtaking sight . . . they usually bloom mid to the end of May. 

Just riding around the corner to Walgreens opens up a kaleidoscope of colors and massive views of red mountains for me . . . and the full spectrum of their pallets and intensity of their colors change and become more intense depending upon how the sun decides to rest on them.  There are no deer that I've seem roaming around . . . they're probably here, but I haven't seen them.  Now, in Ann Arbor, at U of M . . . I had a beautiful view from my office, and outside of my picture window deer were always coming down stream to feed . . . we would especially get excited when they brought their babies down.    

Well again you've managed to conjure up ancient memories.  By the way, what kind of fish do yall have down there (smiles)?  I would imagine bottom feeders for sure, the catfish and possibly carp. 

My grandmother from MS brought all of her down home menus with her to Detroit and the family tradition of leaving our family church Hartford Memorial (now Rev. Chas. Adam's church, one of Wright's best friends) and heading straight to her house for a southern spread of morsels was a southern tradition that was carried on as part of our religious experience.

Excerpt from one of my poems in my book...

Distant memories are of you

comfortably tattered in that French Provincial chair

dressed in the large faded oversized apron you'd sewn tons of pockets on

the one you lent your troubles to

the one that was gingham checkered and blue

the one that became your daily dress

seemingly allowing you to hold just about anything within your lap

include'n corn need'n to be shucked

string beans need'n to be snapped apples need'n to be peeled and cored

and those pecan shells from the pecans we both loved and shared

in preparation of Sunday desserts . . . the best on the block

a lil' sweetness for our insides

 from Kin'lin for the Soul: (For Those Who've Loved, and Dare to Love Again

Certain impoverished, I guess one could say, traditions continued in our family.  The men in the family still carried on the tradition of hunting in the MI backwoods, so yes, possum was served, rabbits full of buck shots, lots of pig feet, venison etc.  Essentially, everything, and anything that could be disguised under massive amounts of gravy (smiles).  It was never pleasant when chewing and suddenly finding yourself dodging buck shots.  I used to walk (a long walk) to Eastern Market with my grandmother, where we'd pick out the plumpish hen there, and walk it back home. 

My job . . . was to lay the newspaper down on the brightly tiled kitchen floor.  She then proceeded to take the screaming hen out of the sack . . . and wring its neck and then delight at watching my face as it ran around without a head.  Pluck'n those feathers was my job too . . . amiss the terrible smell it emitted from being dumped in boil'n water.  I didn't mind the pheasants because I collected their colorful feathers. 

I'm a Motown girl . . ..a survivor of Detroit . . . just reclusively hang'n out in the west for awhile.  It’s peaceful and it holds spectacular colors that hug me without fail . . . and family drama . . . this can be put aside for awhile.  But, my healing is almost completed and the real world still needs to be re-entered once again.

But until then . . . one of the last para. in the poetic say'n mentioned above . . . goes like this.

Now mix'n and blending them in well with

the proud African American woman that "I AM"

of patchwork quilted Underground Railroad descent

reminding me to always strive to keep the bitterness away

of bringing to myself only the very best

a lil' sweetness in this life

from Kin'lin for the Soul: (For Those Who've Loved, and Dare to Love Again

And . . . so it is!

I can be a rather loquacious lady . . . and I feel as if I've found a new playmate to pass notes to . . . you (smiles). Hopefully, and occasionally, I'm a welcome diversion during this sorrowful time for you . . . but, please don't feel you must answer if you're not up to it. I'll understand . . . Prayers & Strength, bev

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Damballah Is Part of Our Heritage


I've been gifted with a wealth of friends who are artistic spirits and full of great stories.  I've been reflecting on a lot of this as all of us do around natal days (or daze) and as my 65th was Tuesday, this reminded me of my time in the Southwest where I spent time in Albuquerque and had the opportunity (usually with a pack and sketchpad in hand) to explore, rock climb and overcome a lot of fears.  I, when more physically capable, had a habit of doing things to overcome fear of heights (rock climbing) and loved tramping through the outdoors. 

The art colony up near Santa Fe and around Taos was thriving and I tried to visit a few times with friends who made me an honorary  member of the Taos nation (I don't like the European "tribe").  I came out of the hill once and met this elderly lady who allowed me to refill my canteen and offered me refreshment and conversation.  I had a great conversation about art and saw her work which totally blew me away—I recognized the style and had the opportunity to tell my painting instructor from college that I'd had the opportunity to spend a few hours talking to Georgia O'Keefe.

I met Kalamu (He was still Val Ferdinand at the time) when I spent a month at Fort Bliss and always, with great affection, refer to him as my drummer (He can tell you that story and is one of the few folk in New Orleans that knows I really can carry a tune for a block or two).

Following that, I spent time at Fort Huachuca where I was able to indulge myself in the local fauna (and some of the flora) and learned a few things.

Tell your friend Bev, not to be afraid of the snakes.  Damballah is a part of our heritage and we only need to learn to respect them.  While in Arizona I had a pet King Snake that I saved from death by a group of soldiers whom, while working a detail, uncovered him.

I might regress for a moment because the area where I grew up in Baton Rouge was once known as Moccasin Hole and my backyard and immediate neighborhood was one where a variety of snakes abounded.  To overcome my fear of snakes, over a period of years, I read every book on Reptiles that I could find, even getting a reptile studies merit badge as a boy scout (at that time one of the few in the state).

Back to Arizona.  When I saw the guys about to kill the king snake (thankfully, I had more stripes) I told them to back off.  I patted the ground and he came to me.  For about six weeks or so until I got orders for Viet Nam, "George" was my pet and lived in my room.  He ate the local rats and kept me from having to undergo inspections.  He was not my first pet snake but one of the largest that I'd ever had (He measured 7 feet when I released him up in the mountains).  I showed a picture of me with George draped over my shoulders to a friend who was unnerved by the photo but laughed and reminded me of a cartoon snake that I created in a freshman biology class named Irving. 

Tell Bev to stop at the nearby library, get a long staff, and learn a bit about the reptile life and she might find that they are very good neighbors who would prefer to eat vermin and stay to themselves than bite humans.  When she's out walking, use the staff to pound the ground and let them know you're in the area . . . they will usually go the other way.  Your female black snakes are more aggressive when they have babies or eggs (depending on whether your particular variety is viviparous or ovoviparous) because they are protective of their young).

I've known them all from the pygmy rattlers (which still live in my mothers' yard in Baton Rouge through the mean-assed Banded Krait of Southeast Asia and have handled a great many of them . . . overcoming more fear but learning things as I went along.

I might note, also, that when I dream of snakes they are usually there to warn me of treachery and or to tell me that things are alright.  For however these things might translate, I find that they are always on target. 

A week or so ago when I dreamt of a kind snake "Just checking in to let me know things were alright" I suddenly discovered money to buy the new tires that I needed so that I can continue to pursue this new post retirement career. Is there really such a thing as retirement?

Then again, one can't do our professions without a love of learning and a need to overcome our fears.I'm glad to see that you're putting out the words again and so soon.  It's a good indicator of your healing.

kindness, joy, love and happiness. And tell Bev that Damballah is okay for us. Chuck

 *   *   *   *  *

Lucinda Lewis Reid

25 January 1931 -- 12 May 2008

Wake (Sunday) May 18th 2pm-8pm

Vaughn Green Funeral Home

5151 Baltimore National Pike

Baltimore, MD 21229

410 233-2400


Funeral (Monday) May 19th 10 am

Calvary Baptist Church

3911 Garrison Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21229

*   *   *   *  *

Estate Executor: Duties and Liabilities

Duties of an Estate Executor

 The Executor is the person specifically appointed to administer the Will and to ensure your final wishes are respected. It is someone you consider trustworthy and responsible and of a similar mind with respect to the disposition of your estate. It can be a spouse, often a close friend or family member, however if the estate is complicated it may be a professional—a Lawyer, Chartered Accountant or Corporate Trustee. . . .

It is the duty of executor to ensure that funeral arrangements are followed according to the instructions in the Will but since the Will might not be read until after the funeral, it is important that these wishes be communicated to the executor, and to surviving family members, beforehand. These could include such matters as organ donation, place of burial, service preferences, disposition of remains, etc.

Upon the death of the testator, the executor will:…

1) Locate the last Will and testament of the deceased.

2) If necessary, make appropriate funeral arrangements. While this is a duty usually attended to by the immediate family, the executor should be aware of and be responsible for ensuring that particular instructions of the deceased regarding funeral, disposition of remains, organ donation etc. are followed.

3) Consult with a lawyer. This may be the lawyer who drew up the Will; otherwise it may be necessary for the executor to retain a lawyer.

4) Communicate with all persons (including charities and institutions) that are entitled to share in the proceeds of the estate. This includes notice of the estate trustee’s application for a certificate of appointment as estate trustee.

Discovery of estate assets and liabilities

1) Take steps to ensure continuance of operations of any ongoing business affairs of the deceased, arranging for interim management if necessary.

2) Prepare a detailed inventory of the deceased’s assets and liabilities, including cash, securities, jewelry, real estate and other valuables such as contents of safety deposit boxes.

3) Notify all relevant financial institutions about the death and obtain statements about cash balances on deposit and loans outstanding.

4) Locate all insurance policies and notify insurers about the death. . . .

Source: Professional Referrals

 *   *   *   *  *

Miss Lucinda’s Son


Your Mother’s

 birthing pain is our joy.

Through her you are Grandson,

Son, Rudy, Poet, B.A.M., Teacher,

Brother, Nephew, Rudolph, Historian, Editor, Uncle,

Journalist, Lewis, Author, ChickenBones, Gatekeeper, Friend.

Through your personal yet universal pain,

we offer ourselves as a shoulder.

We give thanks to Miss Lucinda for bringing you forth.

 Or perhaps it was her you picked through whom to come to us.

Either way - we thank her for you.

Through you the circle of her life will never be broken.



 Be Peace, Brother

We love you                 

J. Dafina & Elmore

Rahim—I was so struck by your loss on mother's day that I had no words. I have only found them now. Forgive me if you can. amin sharif


Another Poem for Lucinda

                                 By Amin Sharif
He said—
Love is a ripe plum
Growing on a purple tree
taste it once—
She held me
in her arms rocking away
my blues with a colored lullaby
my small fingers round around her own
her heart wound around my heart
sometimes memories are cradled in the arms
of love.
He said—
Love is a bright star
Growing in far Southern skies
look too hard
and its burning flame
Will hurt your eyes—
I have seen her
standing at the door
or in the kitchen weary with life
but still smiling at my spindly youth
admonishing me to stand up straight and
be a man
holding me in the image of her eye
asking where did my baby go?
He said—
is a high mountain
Stark in a windy sky.
If you
Would never lose your breath
do not climb too high
An old woman sat beside
her grace reminded me of
my own mother . . .
and yours.

30 May 2008

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A Grave Side Funeral

I saw a grave side funeral this afternoon, from the first gathering of family and friends. There was a red tent that had been set up over the grave, under which there were chairs for the closest kin. It was a little overcast. There was a slight breeze. The sun shined through the haze. It was a pretty day for a funeral. Last week, sitting on the front porch, I had seen the father "Spooky" making the arrangement with "Buster," Mama's 80 year old son-in-law, out in the cemetery. I was deep then in my own misery and had not thought what they were about then. So there have been three deaths within a short space. David up the road, his wife died last week, also.

A grave side funeral, I thought observing, has it advantages over the church funeral. Most have to stand in their funeral attire and so the dark formality has to be brief. It was fairly traditional. I overheard a sermon-prayer performed by a woman. I do not know whether she was a preacher or not. But she emotionally and spiritually spoke about how sorrows end and a new life begins beyond the troubles of this world. My cousin and his wife did a duo on the services Jesus does for us all. Then the officiating preacher picked up a handful of red dirt and sifted it onto the silver casket with the earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes trope. He made another passionate plea for the comfort of the family.

The casket was lowered and the gathering began to dissolve, slowly, as those present began to greet and embrace one another. My cousin suited up in black shirt and black tie came over and showed me the obituary notice. The deceased Michael, who had been living some place near Norfolk, had attended the county school and belonged to Jerusalem. Born in 1966, I thought he was much too young. There was a fuzzy color reproduction of him on the notice. I didn't know him but I know his father and probably a number of his kin folk. . . .

I stayed and watched the three funeral-home people pull down the tent, lower the vault top, shovel the remaining red dirt in by the vault, and dress the top with some kind of sealer. Then the three of them took their meal in the cemetery standing up by the truck that brought in the vault. I lost interest and the next I knew they had gone.

*   *   *   *  *

Another Look at My Mother’s Sacrificial Life

By Rudolph Lewis

My mother left an estate of probably over $135,000. That's my estimation from what I've seen: a corner rowhouse in Yale Heights, a suburban community in southwest Baltimore on Cedar Garden Road; a house on 2.5 acres of land near Jerusalem Mama deeded her that she inherited from her mother Laura Williams Jackson (born around 1870); car, jewelry, and money; and an insurance policy for her burial.

She was thrifty: she neither smoked nor drank. Somewhat mystical, Lucinda used dream books to interpret her nightly soaring away from the harshness of her world, and to translate her dreams into numbers into cash money. She and her girlfriend Rose were fairly lucky at winning  lottery numbers. She also sold ointments (e.g., Tiger Balm) and other little items out of her house for extra money. She kept a clean house. She was a compulsive cleaner, keeping herself busy until she lay down at night. A wonderful cook.  She had a green thumb, as well: she had plants, and some that flowered, in the front and back yards at Cedar Garden.

Brought to me the day after the funeral by my bother Ronald (next to the last child Lucinda birthed), the obituary notice stated, she started a “new career” and became a “daycare provider” in 1996 after her retirement. Let me translate this obituary that my brother Ronald placed in my hands. First, my mother had no “career.” She was a wage slave and in the worst way, which she bore patiently and in the best of spirits. She worked by the piece in a garment industry folding clothes. Second, she sacrificed and baby sat grandchildren and two great grandchildren until she left for Virginia Beach.

It is quite a site observing a 70-year-old woman who had suffered from high blood pressure for decades running after a frisky one or two year old. The last several years of her life were especially tough, “daycare providing,” while taking care of a husband, Grover Reid, with failing health and afflicted with Alzheimer’s, a man who could be extremely abusive, especially after he had taken medication for erectile dysfunction.

The extent of Lucinda’s estate is quite extraordinary for a woman who started out less than dirt poor, as daughter of a sharecropper living on the Creath farm, just up from Sansi Swamp, within two miles of Jerusalem. I passed that house when I walked with other young scholars two miles to Creath  Elementary School (No.5), a school once attended by Lucinda’s mother (Mama) and her four sisters (Virginia, Susie, Edith, and Ann). Daddy claimed he went to school only one day and was proud of it because he could read write and figure—a builder of houses, a bricklayer, as well as a farmer.

It was a delightful surprise when my first teacher, Margaret Trisvan, who became Mrs. Richards (teaching French and Government at the new Central High School) and then Mrs. Law (wife of the principal of central High), called me to offer her condolences about my mother.

Their Christmases at the Creath farm were very thin. Before she dropped out, Lucinda got to about the ninth grade at Sussex Training School for the Colored. Back then children at the high school level, here in the environs of Jarratt, were not allowed to attend the white high school in Jarratt Town and thus had to travel forty miles by bus to Waverly at the other end of the county. They had chores before and after school, sometimes leaving in the dark and returning in the dark, at a time when most homes in the county were not electrified.

She was anxious to leave the country life and the first chance she got to leave she left, though occasionally she out of necessity returned to Jerusalem. Daddy finally built his own ten-room house. So his children would have a place to return if the city became too harsh and dangerous.

The pretty Lucinda at sixteen was anxious to leave the country and she left pregnant. How she became pregnant (I mean with whom) was denied at his funeral in 1991 by the sisters of the man (Edler “Whitey” Wyche) she claimed as my father.  None of the Wyches stood up for me in that dark moment. I told Lucinda about it, for I do not like such embarrassments. His eldest sister Ruth said she had forgotten about me. I probably should have gone to his funeral as a mere spectator, or not at all. I expected too much.

When Lucinda left here in 1947 or 1948, she lived with her Uncle Richard in Richmond and then arrived later at Aunt Sally's in old South Baltimore, 301 South Freemont Avenue, where I lived for a couple of months. Bitten by a rat, I was sent back south to Jerusalem to be raised by her mother and father as their child. Only Ann nine years old was living with them then. Lucinda’s other sisters also dropped out of high school, and married. She was the second of Mama’s daughter to bear a child, as a teenager.

Mama and Daddy and their son-in-law Samuel "Busta" Rivers

A sister of mine also went through the experience of a questionable father. Lucinda bore a daughter by Ashburn "Pip" Stith, one of the many sons of Joe Dick Stith, who was a deacon at Jerusalem until he died in the mid-50s. Joe Dick was the first in the cemetery across the road to have a marble top on his vault. His children poor and pretentious wanted to show he was a man of some standing within the community. The center of Joe Dick's landed empire was called the Low Ground. All or most of that land, I think, has left family hands. The man died in debt. At this stage of my life, nearing sixty years old, I understand the situation of a young poor black woman alone in a great city.

Gender suppression was very real then. A woman needed a man to buy a car or a house and get ahead in life. Lucinda led Grover, who would become her husband much later on, to believe that her third daughter was his. Grover knew she was not his daughter (surely I knew) like he knew Ronald was not his son. Of course, Ronald became a stepson when Grover finally became Lucinda’s husband. But she lied to him and he settled for the lie because he had no better situation. For Lucinda was a traditional woman, cooking for her man, keeping his clothes washed and ironed, and a clean orderly house. She was far above those women on the street he whored.

Well, I don't know whether my estimate of Lucinda’s estate is a legal fact, at this stage. I never asked Lucinda about her business. I was never a burden to her. I never mixed my finances with hers. I never used her as a stepping stone to success, to buy houses or mini-mansions or to add wings to my house. In short, I never exploited her goodness. There may be reasons at this hour her estate has become blurred.

I spent “more quality time” with her since I've returned to Jerusalem. On one of those trips up from Virginia Beach, she brought Bobo a black plastic double bowl for his food and milk.  That was unexpected. I showed her one of my essays that had been published in an anthology on Africa. I don't think she really read it. But she showed an interest. She also showed an interest in my artwork. She had two pieces of them down at Virginia Beach. The last time she was here she got into a fit that my cousin when he moved out of “granny’s house,” the one deeded to her by Mama, that Pete’s woman had not moved all her things out and left the house in order. She called her on her job and threatened to take her to court.

Ronald claims, now months later, that she had given the house to him. Maybe that's truth, I have not been shown any evidence of that. I am uncertain I can take his word for truth. I have yet to be given an accounting and I have yet to hear a will read.

The last time I saw her I promised to take care of the junk left in granny's house. She left the keys with me before she returned to Virginia Beach. But my teaching duties at Sussex Central intervened and I have yet gotten in the mood to do what was Pete’s responsibility.  But since my brother Ronald says he owns the house I feel no more of a duty to deal with what he now says is his. To keep her company I rode  with my sister Theresa, who lives in Petersburg, when she took Lucinda back to Virginia Beach.

For the first time, I got to see my brother’s mini-mansion and her room in her son’s  house. My impression is that she restricted herself to her room, in a wing my brother had just added to accommodate her, a wing which also included his invalid mother in law, restricted to a hospital bed. From what I heard the wing cost as much as the house. Ronald’s wife and daughter are also there.

I thought it was odd that my mother would move from a situation of independence in Baltimore to one of dependency in Virginia Beach under her daughter-in-law. She lived only seven months in the new wing before she died Mother’s Day 2008 in Baltimore.

My life as activist, community organizer, union organizer, student, writer,  artist, librarian stood apart from working on a job, being a wage slave, for thirty years. She retired at 65. She also has three daughters who have worked as well thirty years on the same job, one as a French teacher for Baltimore schools and the other two workers for the phone company, presently Verizon. After working as a maid at Emerson Hotel and other such places on and around Baltimore Street and other odds jobs, like elevator operator, she finally settled as a piece worker for a garment industry, Katzenberg Manufacturing Company.

Lucinda, me (holding graduating MLS diploma, Mama, Theresa

That's dedication and sacrifice to the next generation to three or four children living under roof, for which you are primarily responsible. She was unlucky with men. They have a name for them today in our new feminist context, “deadbeat dads.” She married first to William Lee Carter. Lucinda and William Lee stayed together probably  a year at Herbert and Elsie Carter’s house before she was back with her folks. Celestine was born over there in the Carter’s house in Greensville and Deborah was born in Richmond while she was living with Uncle Richard. Elsie Carter was a Jordon (pronounced "Jerden"), the daughter of the fabled Jim Jordon, the root doctor. I wrote a story based on one of Mama's stories in which the man treated Daddy when he had been poisoned, titled Conjuring & Doctoring.

Those two sisters are now exceedingly proud of the Carters, one of those yellow-looking families, except for the darker Clarence and Margaret, the two I loved the most. After killing one and wound another, Clarence was killed by cops in a shoot-out near Dew Drop Inn in Emporia in 1956, suspected of running moonshine. But William Lee abandoned his wife and his daughters and a stepson. Left with three children, Lucinda back on her own without a supporting husband, (by that time I was four or five) had only Mama and Daddy and their family to support her. And then another daughter came, Theresa, by Ashman "Pip" Stith. She saw her father before he passed. She led Grover to believe Theresa was his daughter. But I had seen her birth certificate in a drawer. Mama also had her named changed to Lewis.

The men Lucinda hooked up with always underperformed and there is probably some economic justification for their failures to meet their obligations as men and fathers. Such was the case with my purported father, Edler Wyche, who worked at Bethlehem Steel before he was forced to retire because of a skin disease. I was quite embarrassed when Lucinda took me over to his house at 1011 Darley Avenue. That was his oldest sister Ruth’s house, actually. She had several brothers living there, including Nat and James Lawrence. I forget her married name. For her husband Wesley was there as well. Lucinda took me over there when Sears and Roebuck was at the corner of North and Harford for Whitey to buy me clothes to begin high school. The fathers of her children were all scoundrels in one way or another.  Lucinda had at least three children outside of marriage. She divorced one husband and buried the other. With his new wife, William Lee, the father of Celestine and Deborah, attended Lucinda's funeral, I understand.

I "gave her away" in marriage to her last husband, Grover Reid. I had lived in their household as a teenager on Colborne Road in Edmondson Village, off of Wildwood Parkway when I first went to Baltimore in 1965 after graduating from high school at sixteen to attend Morgan State College. With her three daughters, she had just moved out of an apartment in Cherry Hill, the projects built for blacks just south of a decaying downtown. My mother was an ambitious woman who strived to improve life for herself and children. But back in those days a woman needed a man in order to buy anything, especially a car or a house. She and Grover remained there at Colborne at least until three of her daughters graduated from Edmondson High. Vigorous and fertile, she bore another son, Ronald, and her last daughter in her mid or late forties, clearly Grover’s daughter. We still have yet to discover who was Ronald's natural father. There is no mark of Grover on him.

She needed Grover in order to buy a house in Edmondson Village. Though black and handsome, he was a trifling man folks called "Cigar." Lucinda provided a stability for his life he would not otherwise had. He had another family and he could not take care of  and did not take care those children. He used to hang out at The Avenue pool halls and at one time was down at Jessup Cut, the Maryland penitentiary. He was at the Cut for knifing Eggy Epps. But he had also been arrested for shooting craps on the streets. Grover was a knife man and once threaten to draw on me while I was living at Colborne.

Summers, I worked with Grover at odd jobs like pouring cement for pools, raking the mud into place, and other such odd construction jobs. He was Lucinda's boyfriend and not my father, though he helped to pay her bills. But he had a lot of mouth and a lot of sway over her. He was a Georgia boy, a player with two families. Goldberg or Goldstein was selling houses to blacks with small print stipulations, like if a missed payment occurred the buyer reverts to a renter and she later discovered she was not buying but actually renting. Parren Mitchell and other rising black politicians led a big demonstration which included me down St. Paul Avenue to protest this real estate heist.

After an exchange of words about a raised window, one evening, on my return from Morgan, Lucinda had packed my bags and left them at the foot of the steps. I was about eighteen. That was part of Grover’s influence over her. I was a country boy and proud of it and I knew how to work and so I was ready to go back to Jerusalem. My aunt Ann who was living in the same house with her kids, in the basement, talked to Mama and so I ended up living with my aunt about a year in the basement and then latter on Allendale off of Edmondson Avenue.

And then I hit the streets, joined Baltimore SNCC, and Walter Hall Lively’s U-JOIN. With Bob Moore sometimes I was staying in abandoned buildings, with rats and a .45. There were times I slept at the Trailways Bus Station on Fayette. Other times I was sleeping at the SNCC Office (later Liberation Press) at 432 E. North Avenue. Then for a time I stayed at Whitey’s house. I left Darley Avenue because Whitey was so weak-minded he thought his woman wanted me more than him.  After she put me out in 1967, one exceptional case in 1980-81 I slept in my mother's house. That was when I was working on my master’s at University of Maryland. My landlord, Fred Mason, Jr. (also weak-minded for women), his third wife Yvonne put me out in the street after midnight after I arrived by bus from College Park. Yvonne, one of those long-legged high yellow gals from northern Virginia (exceedingly proud of her slavemaster origins and a sex freak to boot) had thrown all my school papers including my thesis out in the backyard. Only recently, several times while I was in transit by train to New York, did I stay at her house and then it was in the basement.

My life has always been modest. Unlike three of my sisters and my mother I chose not to work the same job thirty years. I have had numerous jobs from driving a cab to taking care of retarded men (washing shit off them) to teaching writing and composition at the University of New Orleans. I've studied at three universities (including on two types of doctoral degree, neither finished) and received three degrees (including two master's) from the University of Maryland, College Park. My education has never produced me wealth though I think it has made me a better man than my brother. I had faith that God would stand by my choices, hold me up as I fall,  and make a way for me.

My mother was much more materialistic and practical than I, though the quality of my life I believe was far greater than hers or those of my sisters and brother. Their material wealth far exceeds my own, even my married youngest sister, Aisha, Grover and Lucinda’s only daughter (my youngest sister), to whom my mother was planning to sell her house and leasing it when she died.

From my mother's eyes my younger brother was far more financially secure than I (and trustworthy), especially after he returned from Japan after a decade or more, then married the mother of his daughter (then almost a teenager), a wedding I attended but did not participate. Lucinda, my mother, I learned through sources, gave my younger brother Ronald power of attorney. That is she trusted him to handle her business as she would. Did he do that? Well, at this point, it has yet to be determined. I asked him for an accounting of her estate. He wanted to know why I wanted to know that. It is regrettable he's turned out to be a scoundrel, for he's much too soft for that game.

So standing with him there in the dark by his car in the backyard, I asked him, as he was about to get in his car to return to his mini-mansion in Virginia Beach, with the new wing, was he the executor of her estate. He said, yes, that Lucinda had left a will and that I was in it. I told him I would like to see it and he asked why. So he tells me she had no money left, and that it was his intent to give the Cedar Garden house to our youngest sister. So I left it at that, hugged him, shook hands, and went and took a pee.

My friend Miriam told me that it was her experience that distance grows in a family when a parent or parents die. I suppose that is especially true when there is an estate involved. Or when a sibling thinks he or she is more deserving of the love or wealth left behind. Or maybe he or she thinks the parent received more from her or his pocket than others and so that at the death of the parent, it's time to cash in and receive recompense. I do not know that this distancing will be the case with my younger brother.

But there have been movies made about such situations, which questioned what son is more worthy: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There is a “Big Daddy” character played by Burl Ives; his younger son Brick played by Paul Newman and Brick’s wife played by Elizabeth Taylor. Before her death,  my mother told me she owned her house and she made out that granny’s house was still hers when she came here the last time, complaining about junk left in it by the former tenant, and threatening to take the woman to court.. How does one give away what one does not own? My brother Ronald told me I would be receiving a letter from a probate officer. It was then I shook his hand and took my pee.

I was cool. I did not want a confrontation with “Sir Ronald,” the moniker he used to use when he was in Japan.  I stayed up all night, walking the floor, taking strolls out under the stars, talking to God. My mother was dead. I felt somewhat miserable I did not go to the funeral that my brother and two sisters arranged for our mother. Well, if they wanted her body, and wanted her body to stay up there away from her family, it was just a corpse! I possessed the real spirit of my mother in my heart. So I decided to let them make their show and I would do what I thought necessary in telling the truth about my mother’s life. Through my writings and my friends,  I would provide her a more honorable rendering of her struggles and sacrifices.

I called and asked my brother Ronald to bring her here to Jerusalem. He said he and two of our sisters could testify that she wanted to be buried up there in Baltimore County in a military cemetery by her second husband, Grover Reid, whom he thinks is his natural father. Or does he? Is he such a fool unable to recognize the striking dissimilarity. Did he ever look in the mirror with his fat face and ask, am I really this dark-skinned man's son? How can one fat boy be so blind? He prefers to live the lie, to deny the fact that he is only a stepson, like me. I had suggested it before when I published Mama’s Letters, in notes, in small print. He and a couple of my sisters got into a huff about it. Now he wants vindication by burying her in a military cemetery by Grover, as if he headed a bourgeois household.

She had not mentioned burial in Maryland to any of us here. Grover had been exceedingly hard on her in his last years and she even threatened to call the police on him for he had threatened to rape her. I told him on the phone it would be a bit awkward to have a funeral in which Lucinda’s two sisters and mother would not be present. So my brother the cold fish had his way. I stayed with Mama and Ann was driven to the Sunday Wake by two of her sons. Susie had a bout of congestive heart failure. She sent her three sons The Monday funeral was ten in the morning, the next day. And one of Ann's sons, Michael, had to be at work by seven that morning. They buried her a week after her death so that they could meet the cemetery scheduling to put her beside Grover.

The following Tuesday, Ronald stopped by and brought six-page obituary notices that included images of the family including artwork of Mama and Daddy painted by Kaki, a Baltimore artist. Those paintings were done about seven years ago. They remain in a plastic bag. I made cards of them and passed them out on Mama’s 90th birthday, organized my Ann and held at the Senior Citizen’s Center in Jarratt Town.. After he left, I finally read the obituary notice that they had put together. It was far beneath what I would have said, written and published. They did not consult me on the draft, filled with religious and sentimental claptrap, the standard for such notices.

In short, I did not care for the way my mother had been represented. My presence at the funeral would have attested to half truths and misrepresentations. But I had begun this online page far before the Wake and the Funeral. This page was my way of dealing personally with my mother's death and a way of representing the reality of her life as I knew it. For me, this process began more than a decade ago when I began to pull together Mama's stories and Mama's letters, our family histories.

No, it began when I was a little boy when I used to cry and ask, Mama aren’t you my mama? And she’d say, sure I am. This occurred in response to Mama’s oldest daughter, Virginia, who emphasized the truth that she was my aunt and not my sister. She would not go along with the lie that was concocted for whatever reason. I have yet gotten a clear answer of the rationale for the fantasy of my origins. I raised it with Lucinda and I raised it with Mama and they had different responses. Neither satisfactory, I will go to my grave not knowing the truth. It was not as if I was left on the door step. Yet, Lucinda placed me in good hands, her mother and father. When I came of age I was glad that she gave me to them. I would have indeed been a troubled man if I had to stand silent on the sidelines and allow trifling men, scoundrels abuse her. I might have grown to hate my mother, rather than feel the distance.

All these writings and accounts of family history  some may account as the "airing of dirty linen" or "opening a closet of skeletons." I see them as healing acts. Sir Ronald, as he tried to raise himself above his impoverished origins, my fellow bastard brother has belittled my mother. She was not a bourgeois matron with a husband to provide her needs. She slaved and found whatever means necessary to provide her children, including dating and sleeping with men she thought would be the One. The five men who fathered her children were not worthy of her, neither husband, William Lee nor Grover. It was through her own thrift, ingenuity, and imagination that she left a substantial estate.

For some reason Sir Ronald Lucinda’s sacrifice was just for him and Aisha, that her estate, her life’s work was theirs to inherit, that her life was left to him how she would be remembered. He is one of those who would place a plastic front on a billion dollar house and think he has done well. He’s a common man without true taste and discretion. He's a low middle-class pretender. I will not stand on the sideline and be silent. He has now gone to the judges and lawyers to determine, Lucinda, your last will and testament. The courts may agree with his version of your life. But I possess a pen to render true the actuality and spirit of your life.  

Lucinda, you were too trusting of Sir Ronald. It is difficult to recognize the hatred and bitterness in the hearts of men. It becomes too easy at times to overlook the secret lives of sons, hoping that they will become the men you never had. You ended your life by giving up your long-lived independence by paying $100, 000 for a room in Sir Ronald’s mini-mansion (his wife’s house), a room you lived in for only seven months. This realization, coming so late, broke your heart and you willingly gave up the ghost that had become your life. You know I could never participate in such a farce: a peasant woman, a working class slave woman, transformed finally into a pale mocking image of yourself.

Oh, Lucinda, how tragic, you bent the truth of your children’s faithless fathers to get ahead in life in order to care for your five children and provide a means for them to step up into a middle-class life. In the end, Sweet Lucinda, you were duped by a son you loved too much. As your first son, I won’t demean, I won’t falsify your life. You were magnificent as you were. My pen will cause you to rise up with all your faults and foibles, and be glorified in your stubborn motherly sacrifices, for eternity, in all your youthful beauty.

Goodbye, dear heart, I am loving you madly.

*   *   *   *  *

More Condolences

Brother . . . pleased to hear you've moved past constant grieving toward moving on—will read your piece and get back asap . . . have been writing (rarely stay up all night—sleep at drop of hat) for the last two days. Finished a more 1/2 scholarly/1/2 poetry for an Iowa Journal that asked me to revise a submission titled "Food for Thought: Empathy and the Imagination-Intellect" and wrote the first act of a play about AIDS titled She Said He Said, on the computer beginning the second act now. Blessings Rudy, Peace—Mary

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Hi Rudy,

You can say that I've been so out of the loop.  I did not know that your dear mother passed away. Wow!  One can never know that feeling until it's for real. There is no rehearsal and nothing that compares.  I know that you will make her memory live on forever in your writing; there's no doubt about that.  For when it comes down to it, our people and our experiences are really all that we have.  Keep on writing!

I've been up all night myself too.  Just took a bath and will probably begin getting the kids up in an hour. We go to church down in Boykins (Shiloh), so we need to leave here around 10 am to be on time.  It's youth Sunday, and my littlest boy sings in the choir. The other is a drummer, and really on edge with the fact the church doesn't need him (smile).  So he helps his grandpa with the videoing.

Anyway, here's a picture of my three sons (smile).  This last one, Kaleb Ezra, was born on March 17th, and he's the reason I've been so out of the loop. I never know when he's going to sleep through the night.  He's  mostly been sleeping through days.—Faison

 *   *   *   *  *

Nice page of tributes to your Mom.—Kam

  *   *   *   *  *

Dear Rudy:
I don't know where I was or what I was doing, but I did not know that your mother had passed. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. I am sad for your loss but happy for your recovery and hopefulness to "stay on with us". Your friend, Joyce

  *   *   *   *  *

Dear Rudy,

I am so sorry about the death of your mother on Mother's Day. I did not know that until now. May you find strength in her homegoing. I always believe that "after the sap is gone, then comes strength." God bless.Patricia Jabbeh Wesley

  *   *   *   *  *

I am sorry to hear about your mother loss. My prayers are with you—Sheila

 *   *   *   *  *

My dear Rudy . . .

I have just caught up with emails and your essays.  I was in Cancun for several days at the wedding of a friend's son. At the same time, my computer has been acting up . . . and I have missed several emails.

I am just learning of the death of your mother Lucinda.  I feel your grief , but am so grateful that you have expressed it all so eloquently and honestly in your writings. It can and has been a healing process for you.

Today, June 1st was the 22nd anniversary of the death of my mother. My daughter wanted to pat my shoulder and my hand, as if to console me. She is not trapped by the grave . . . but is in my heart and mind and mouth everyday of my life. I have no tears . . . because she is with me every day. I smile about her life . . . and "live" her teachings and "live" and breathe her thoughts and lessons . . . and share them with my own adult daughters.

Your writings of your mother and your family pose and present your own truths to the ears and eyes of others who might be afraid of their own truths.

Bravo for TRUTH, HISTORY and LOVE!  Much love and care, Beverly

  *   *   *   *  *

Rudy, sorry to hear about your birth mother's death. At least she died celebrating, surrounded by loved ones, and you were clearly there in spirit.—David

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We should all be so honored as to have a life's story so worth telling and for it to be told by one so honorable—Namaskar

  *   *   *   *  *

Beloved . . . I have been so busy lately that I haven't had much of an opportunity to read emails.  My inboxes are stuffed to capacity therefore bouncing. But tonight when I read this email (out of the thousands cluttering my box, I always choose yours first) my heart went out to you.  I am so sorry about your loss.  I know that she'd been sick for awhile & you nearly lost her last year.  She was a strong lady that hung in there for the long haul... giving you time to make the adjustment.  An adjustment that is never easy no matter how many warnings that the day is near. I can't think of anything truly comforting to say that you haven't heard already so I'll just say that I love you & pray that time will ease your pain sooner than later. From my heart to yours, CC

  *   *   *   *  *

Exchange on the Legality  and Registering of Wills

29 December 2008

Kam, I have a question on wills that you may be able to clarify.:
Can a 1993 will, made 15 years ago, be valid in 2008.  That 1993 will stipulated specifically a single piece of property, namely, several acres of land. At that point that was the only real property owned. Would that 1993 will cover all real property subsequently acquired by the maker of the will to 2008?
This concern is about my birth mother's will. After she made the 1993 will she came into ownership of a house worth about a 100 thousand dollars. I ask for an accounting of her estate and all I received from my brother was this 1993 will and a deed of gift for the several acres of land.
According to the will only he and my youngest sister, who was then a minor, are beneficiaries. My other sisters and I each received a $1. Was that just not to contest the specified land and the property then owned, or everything subsequently acquired indefinitely.—Rudy

*   *   *   *   *


1) Yes, a will, made 15 years ago can be valid in 2008, provided it is the deceased's last will.
2) Yes, it will cover all real property subsequently acquired by the maker of the will provide it has a residue clause that says something like "all the rest and residue of my estate shall go to ______"
3) The $1 is to prevent you from challenging the will, and it will probably still succeed.
However, I am not a member of the Virginia bar, so you might want to consult a local lawyer—Kam

 *   *   *   *   *

Thanks, Kam. Your conclusion sounds right.
The will was filed in Baltimore, Maryland rather than Virginia. But I do not think the state makes any difference. It does have a residue clause. And the whole will seems rather tight based on what you have outlined.
But as I mentioned it was made during a time that my youngest sister was a minor in which my brother was appointed "Custodian" of our youngest sister. She is now a wife with a kid. So the 1993 will was geared to a specified situation.
None of these specified situations, I suspect, makes any difference because of the "rest and residue" clause.
If you have no more to add to what you have stated, that is okay. It is a personal difficulty I will have to come to grips with. I have been left out in other such instances. So I have become somewhat callous. 
I suppose what irks me more than anything is that my brother took eight months after the death of my mother to produce the will. Of course, I uttered exceedingly harsh words, which I do not altogether regret.Still I wonder what my birth mother was thinking. I will have to deal with it as a blessing, an odd one, yet a blessing to come. The greater the difficulty, the greater the glory.—Rudy

*   *   *   *   *

Question on wills and notarizing for legality‏

Sharif, I mentioned to you my mother's 1993 will and that it was brought to me by my brother, last weekend, eight months after our mother's death, after I made a request after her burial for a report on her estate. The 1993 will was all that I received from him and a $1.
This 1993 will has no notary stamp or date in which it might have been notarized. It has only the names of witnesses at the same address 347 North Charles Street. I do not know them. Clearly, by names in the margins, the will was drawn up by lawyers in BaltimoreKatzenberg & Katzenberg. But can the will be in legal standing without being notarized or having the name of the notary and the date of notarization.Rudy

*   *   *   *   * 

I don't know the law in MD. You should ask the lawyer if he witnessed them signing, when the will was or is being probated, and why you didn't get notice earlier.—Kam

*   *   *   *   *

Sorry I don't have better news.—Kam

I asked my brother the same question. Why has it taken seven months for you to bring me the will? He said it was because of what I wrote and published on ChickenBones: Rattlers and Other Acts of Love. From what I hear from the grapevine he believes I made our mother sound like a "whore." And for that he has now "forgiven" me and then he finally decided to show me a copy of the 1993 will. He said that he had shown it to our sisters and none of them had a problem with it. that none objected. I have not spoken to my sisters about the issue since the death of our mother and they have not raised it with me.

I just searched out (in response to your question) and found a letter I received from the Register of Wills in Baltimore city, a couple of months after the death of my mother, in a certified letter dated 16 June 2008. I just took note a few moments ago of a tiny newspaper publication reproduction (see below) included in the envelope apart from a large folded sheet of paper that there was a will and that I had until December 13 to contest the will. . . . Silly me! My lack of attention to business details will be the ruin of me. Or at least such casual response to business and legal papers will continually make me subject to be taken advantage by those near and far.

Now I understand why it was only now that my brother brought a copy of the will to my attention.  So it does not matter at this point whether the will is legal or not. Yet the state has certified it. But at least I feel better about my mother than I felt last night. I was up until dawn walking in the damp night air. I slept off and on during the day and finally showed the document (the "will') to my aunt.  My aunt concluded that the signature on the will was not my mother's, nor the content. My aunt and Mama contended my mother would have never written such a will. After which I queried you and others about its legality without notary and date. My blame has now shifted wholly from my mother to my brother, whom I told in anger that he was "self-serving" and a "weasel." And he dares to speak to me of "family"!

I am a poet, a writer, an editor, a teacher. That's what I do. I do not seek out ways to take advantage of others, whether family or not.. Money has never mattered to me very much. Of course it is necessary; but not by any means, not at any cost. I have sought independence, always. Even if I had been successful in contesting the will, the money probably would have been less than $15 thousand. That's a small amount of money, relatively. I can find that amount somewhere, someway. Maybe it is a good thing that my sister has gotten a leg up in life through my mother's estate. How it was gotten will always be questioned and the onus will lay on the head of my brother until his death. God will have justice in this matter, in some way. I have been naive and innocent, and thus bested in the contest.

Notice of Appointment

Notice to Creditor

Notice to Unknown Heirs




Notice is given that Ronald Reid, 5205 Quarry L, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23464 was on June 13, 2008, appointed personal representative of the estate of Lucinda Reid, who died May 12, 2008, with a will.

Further information can be obtained by reviewing the estate in the office of the Register of Wills or by contacting the personal representative or the attorney.

All persons having any objections to the appointment or to the probate of the decedent's will shall file their objections with the Register of Wills on or before the 13th day of December, 2008.

Any person having a claim against the decedent must present the claim to the undersigned personal representative or file it with the register of wills with a copy to the undersigned on or before the earlier of the following dates.

(1) Six months from the date of the deceased's death, except if the decedent died before October 1, 1992, nine month's from the date of the decedent's death, or

(2) Two months after the personal representative mails or otherwise delivers to the creditor a copy of this published notice or other written notice, notifying the creditor that the claim will be barred unless the creditor presents the claim within two months from the mailing or other delivery of the notice. A claim not presented or filed on or before that date, or any extension provided by law, is unenforceable thereafter. Claim forms may be obtained from the register of Wills.

Ronald Reid

Personal Representative(s)

Mary W. Conaway

Register of Wills

111 N. Calvert Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21202

My Brother Weasel will come to no good end because of the way he went about this whole matter of deciding rightful beneficiary and who is family. I cannot believe that such deceptions can come to any good. May the Lord have mercy!— Rudy (29 December 2008)

 *   *   *   *  *

Your mother, your mother, your mother . . . so unfeeling, so hurtful, but it seems that you have forgiven her or at least dismissed her. Your brother must be some kind of sadist. I don't understand people like that; how can they live with themselves? My brother was not a kind person and, as adults, we hardly spoke, so it was ironic that I had to bury him, arrange for his cremation, transport to Baltimore, and burial. For months, his urn was lodged in the bedroom where I slept when I visited Mother in Baltimore, and then I carried his ashes around in the trunk of my car for another few months. We cannot begin to understand this life that we lead, these experiences that we have, and these people who come into and out of our lives. All of those things shape who we are, we imperfect human beings. Like you, I look forward to the new year with hope and optimism, under the leadership of our new president. May your blessings be many in 2009. Love, Miriam

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Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

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W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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posted 16 May 2008




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