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Feb. 1, 2010

Seasons of JUMOKE

Jumoke"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

Grab something wet to drink and a few tissues if your heart rains down tears when you think about Jumoke Hayward Horton. My sweet, sweet son Jumoke blessed unto me June 23rd, 1974, was taken back unto the spirit from whence he came on November 18th 2009. Bitter sweetness fills my every waking hour when I think of him – wrestling with my joy, happiness, grief, and relief knowing that my child is at peace. But my knowing that my child is at peace does not mean I am at peace with his death. There is a daily unrelenting, gut wrenching, teeth gnashing pain starting at my toes and transcending and morphing into long, low screams or uncontrollable weeping. My husband and the dogs are starting to recognize the warning signs and they prepare to console me. Usually it comes with the muffled crying from a bathroom or shower stall as the sadness and longing for Jumoke seeps under doors and from under blankets. Sometimes I think I have it all together thinking "he's in God's hands, he's at peace, he's closer to you now then he has ever been…". The truth is that those thoughts are head truth but not my heart truth. I want Jumoke back. I want a do over to recognize all the signs I missed, to be able to say all of the things I didn't, to make everything all right, and I want to know WHY? Why now? Why Jumoke? Why, why, why? Was he mentally ill, depressed, and pushed to the limit of all hope? No notes, speculation or opinions ring true. No rationale or justification explains why all the wonderful people, besides me, who loved and cherished him were not enough for him to stay. That really makes me sad. To think that he was alone or felt alone is something no mother wants for her children. His name, Jumoke, means "everyone loves the child". How could he forget that? Some days the sorrow threatens to swallow me whole. I crazily pray for God to give me relief and spirit shows up and comforts me. The following scriptures; Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8, Psalms 23rd, and Psalms 34:1-9 promise me that one day I will reconcile my pain and be at peace knowing that my Jumoke is at peace too.

When I shared about the estrangement of my son Jumoke and myself on my May 2009 blog, my prayer was that we would be reconciled. In fact I played the happy scene over and over in my mind many mornings as I sat quietly in meditation but vocal in my prayers that he come home. It never crossed my mind on a conscious level that I would never hug him or hear his sweet voice again in this life. In fact, I was sure God would bring my prodigal son home to me.

Sometime between 3 and 4 a.m. November 18th 2009 that prayer would be denied. The shrill ring of the phone yanked me out of sleep. The first words I heard were, "Oh Ms. Roberts, Oh, Ms. Roberts I am so sorry." I heard Monica's words muffled by her weeping, as I screamed to block her words. My body jerking up out of the bed shaking my head to clear my brain, jumping, running towards the wall in one move, screaming, yelling and wailing out as her words snatched the joy out of my heart. "Ms. Roberts I'm so sorry Jumoke is DEAD!" NO——–, NO, NO——Oh my God please NO! Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby. Oh please tell me it's not true. Tell me it's not true. Please—-

But it was true.

It is true.

It is in this pain that I write words of love for my one and only child. Jumoke Hayward Horton.

SPRING

The spring of Jumoke's life started the day he was born, June 23, 1974. His birth father was Bennie Horton. The dad that raised him is Angelo Allen.

While clearing Jumoke's personal effects I came across this letter that Angelo had written him. It is the perfect beginning to share the spring of Jumoke's life. Angelo is an incredible dad who eloquently expresses the arrival of Jumoke.

What Happened to Me on June 23, 1974

I was not present in the room when you were born. Nor was I close by. I don't know what time it was, or what I was doing at the precise moment you slipped into the world. I don't know how many pounds you weighed, who the doctors were, or the tender words of love spoken by your mother at your emergence. I didn't have the honor of cutting your umbilical cord or giving you your first bath. At the time, I was 5000 miles away on the shores of a different ocean, completely unaware that this miraculous event was taking place. And yet today, I have absolutely no doubt that on some level that glorious day, I must have sensed an imperceptible shift in my life towards Infinite Goodness…

When I awoke that day, I'm sure I must have been at least vaguely aware of a general feeling of well being that I didn't normally have. Perhaps I was exiting one of those astonishingly beautiful dreams you can't remember (but you know that something extraordinary happened in your sleep!) No doubt, some blissful all-knowing awareness was receding from my memory. But before the partition closed, I'm sure I heard the echoes of angels and ancestors celebrating the great gift being delivered to me half a world away in Alaska…

When I left the house that day, I'm sure it must have registered somewhere on the periphery of my soul how sweet and wonderful that summer morning was; how my every breath was a warm and soothing gift for which I was deeply thankful. On a level beyond the acuity of my senses, my heart must have noticed how the blooms on my father's rose bushes glowed the most magnificent hues of red that day, and how every petal, every leaf, every thorn was absolutely perfect. Dappled drops of sunlight probably splashed delightfully on my head and shoulders as I walked under the sycamore and maple trees on Tyron Avenue. I'm sure that as I passed my neighbors, they seemed unusually good-looking and friendly that day…

Whatever my activities were that day: working, playing, walking the dog, hanging-out, getting laid, getting paid, or going broke, I probably had an inexplicable and unshakable feeling of absolute redemption! It undoubtedly felt like I was "on a roll"; that the celestial dice were coming up "sevens" no matter what I did, and a cosmic roulette wheel was stopping on my bet with every turn! Of course, back then, I probably chalked all the blessings that day up to "luck"- never dreaming that on a cellular level, in a Spiritual reality, my entire being was reverberating with profound joy due to the birth of a son that I didn't know, to a mother who was still an absolute stranger to me, in a far-off land I had never once visited. Whoodathunkit?

And when I went to bed on that warm and perfect summer night, I'm sure the sky was strewn with interwoven flocks of stars and luminescent fireflies gently pulsed over the silhouetted landscape of my father's yard. The moon slowly steered its course overhead while love-struck crickets chirped songs of eternal peace in the Uni-versal orchestra. No doubt, I drifted off into the deepest and most peaceful sleep I have ever known that night. And once asleep, I am certain the partition opened again, and I was welcomed back among the angels and ancestors to receive wisdom that I wouldn't understand or appreciate for decades. I have no doubt that on that very night, June 23, 1974; Absolute Spirit spoke to my soul in the timeless realm of God's perfect garden. And It said:

"Congratulations! Jumoke is born! In two short years, you and he will finally meet. And from that point forward, your heart will be blessed beyond your wildest imaginings – simply by knowing him – and he will be the son you will eternally adore…"

How right Spirit was! How perfectly correct!

Thank you so much, Jumoke, for choosing to be born. Thank you for bestowing upon me the honor and privilege of being your dad. Thank you for being the gracious healing presence that you are in my life.

I love you dearly,

Dad

SUMMER

The summer of Jumoke's life was the goose's golden egg in my life. I watched him grow from an independent young boy to a smart, funny, successful man. The summer of Jumoke's life was the autumn of my own. It never occurred to me that I might reach the winter of my life before Jumoke. The following excerpts from his Eulogy will give you a glimpse of the accomplished, wonderful man he was.

"Early in his development, Jumoke exhibited a good mind for scholastics as well as a solid talent in sports. His interest in sports began with his participation on a peewee ice hockey team in Anchorage Alaska. Although he towered over the other six year olds, Jumoke was reluctant to use his size to intimidate the other players. From the very beginning, Jumoke seemed to be very aware of his exceptional size and strength, and he was always gentle, loving and patient with other children. These qualities formed the basic makeup of Jumoke's character and he retained them for the remainder of his life.

With the encouragement of the adults in his life, Jumoke began to excel in basketball at East Anchorage High School. While there, he was named the Gatorade Player of the Year during 1991 – 1992 season. His exceptional talent soon gained the attention of college scouts and Jumoke found himself the recipient of several basketball scholarships offers, including a four-year athletic scholarship at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California. During his tenure at St. Mary's from 1992 to 1996, Jumoke set a school record for highest career field goal percentage (61.6%). Before the end of his athletic career, Jumoke was invited to play at an international tournament in Beijing China. Naturally, his team won the tournament.

It was at college during the summers that Jumoke began working as a deck hand for the Blue and Gold Fleet ferry service. He soon discovered he had a real love of the sea. Working his way up from the bottom, Jumoke quickly advanced to the rank of Captain (one of the very few African-American ferry captains in the United States) and thereafter earned his living driving 100-ton ferry vessels all over the San Francisco Bay. His dad Angelo would later remark, "The greatest thrill and proudest moment I ever had in my life was sitting in the wheelhouse with my son while he piloted one of those big vessels"…

What the eulogy doesn't tell you is also during the summer of Jumoke's life; he called me 3-4 times a week just to say, "I love you mom", he sent loving, unexpected gifts out of the clear blue since he didn't believe in, or celebrate, designated holidays. He taught me that any day is a good day to celebrate. I had major surgeries on several occasions. Jumoke insisted on coming home to care for me even though his stepfather Morris is a pretty good nurse. While coming out of a pain med induced sleep due to my knee replacement surgery, I vaguely overheard Jumoke turning down an offer to play Pro-International Basketball. He told the guy that he had something more important to do. I couldn't wait for him to finish his call to ask why he would turn down such an opportunity? He told me "Mom you are the most important thing right now. Nothing comes before you. " That was my Jumoke. Can you feel him?

WINTER

I didn't realize that Jumoke would skip autumn and go right into the winter of his life. I was totally unprepared even though I had been receiving signs during the last couple years of his life. My May 2009 Blog posting is an insight into my last days with my son:

A Mother By Any Other Name Is Love

"The greatest misfortune of my life has come!" These words were written by a monk after the death of his mother, and reflect exactly how I felt when I lost my mother on March 28th 1992. The following poem echoes that loss;

"That year, although I was still very young

My mother left me.

And I realized

That I was an orphan.

Everyone around me was crying.

I suffered in silence…

Allowing the tears to flow,

I felt my pain soften.

Evening enveloped Mother's tomb,

The pagoda bell rang sweetly.

I realized that to lose your mother

Is to lose the whole universe."

The poem is part of a Buddhism tradition outlined in the Rose Ceremony in the Plum Village Chanting Book. The entire reading evokes sweet memories of my mother. Her sweet, tender commitment to loving me from the inside out taught me to love myself. The fragrance of her love fills my soul with joy. She influenced my life in meaningful ways that included her wisdom, knowledge, strength, patience, love, generosity and kindness. Without my mother I could have never known how to love. It's because of her love for me that I learned to love all living beings. Compassion, understanding and forgiveness – all practiced by my mother and passed to me.

Mother, Mere, Maji, Urdu, Madre, Makuahine, Nanay, Anya, Ibu, and Matka. No matter what language, whoever has a mother has the most beautiful gift life has to offer.

Mother's Day dates back to the ancient Greeks, who held festivals to honor mother of the Gods, Rhea. Early Christians celebrated mother's festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent to honor Mary, the mother of Christ. That date evolved into Mothering Sunday. The colonist whom settled in American discontinued Mothering Sunday because of the lack of time. But a smart and probably tired woman by the name of Julia Ward Howe organized a day for mothers devoted to peace. In 1907 Anna M. Jarvis a Philadelphia teacher initiated a movement to set up a national Mother's Day in honor of her mother. Ms. Jarvis' tireless commitment to establish Mother's Day was realized in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the Second Sunday in May as a national holiday in honor of mothers.

The increasing practice of gift giving and commercialization of Mother's Day was not Ms. Jarvis intention but nonetheless has become an integral part of Mother's Day. The ritual of buying instead of showing love cheats mothers who need or desire nothing more than the acknowledgement that she is appreciated. In the Plum Village Chanting Book it is written eloquently, "If you love your mother, you don't have to do anything. You love her; that is enough."

This Mothers Day I suffer great pain. My one and only child, my son, has not spoken to me since September 2007. He called me on a Sunday afternoon and told me succinctly, clearly, and unemotionally that he no longer wanted me in his life. I was as shocked, hurt, and saddened then as I am now writing this. How could my only child that I love so intensely not want me in his life? His rationale and explanation were muddled and so unlike the loving boy-child I had loved all of his life and all of mine. I knew as he spoke there was no room for discussion – he had only called to inform me of his decision to cut me out of his life. What could I have done to hurt him so? What could I have done for him to sever me from his life? I don't know but I do know I would have, if I could have, changed his heart. I would have fought harder to keep him on the phone. I would have crawled across the miles to get near him and to hold him close to remind him how our hearts beat as one from the day I laid eyes on him. I would have moved heaven and earth and made a deal with God and become a mother stalker if I had known that Sunday afternoon the loss I feel now. My mother told me that children should not die before their parents, and now I know what she meant. The black hole in my heart is bottomless as I mourn the physical loss of my son. I remind myself that this challenge will make me stronger that it serves some higher purpose and has nothing to do with me. My son has separated from me but he cannot stop me from loving him. My love reaches across the miles and hugs him close every moment of everyday. I pray that he is happy and excelling in life. My mother's love was unconditional for me and so is my love for my son, though I miss him terribly.

I am ending this posting with an excerpt from Plum Village Chanting Book, "Tonight, when you return from school or work, or the next time you visit your mother, go to her room calmly, silently, with a smile, and sit down beside her. Without saying anything, make her stop working, and look at her for a long time. Look at her well, in order to see her well, in order to realize she is there, alive, sitting beside you. Then take her hand and ask her this short question, "Mother, do you know something?" She will be a little surprised, and will ask you, smiling, "What, dear?" Continuing to look into her eyes with a serene smile, tell her, "Do you know that I love you?" Ask her this question without waiting for an answer. Even if you are thirty, forty years old, or older, ask her simply, because you are the child of your mother. Your mother and you will both be happy, conscious of living in eternal love. And tomorrow when she leaves you, you will not have any regrets."

This Mother's Day wherever you may be, may you be loved.

From my heart to yours, Happy Mother's Day.


"A diverse man of many talents, Jumoke enjoyed martial arts, yoga, Vietnamese food, and window shopping to name a few. He was, and remains in many ways, larger than life: Tremendous stature. Tremendous heart. Tremendous compassion. Tremendous courage. When it was time for Jumoke to depart his life on November 18, 2009 he gracefully bade his friends and family farewell and stepped into eternal life."

God graced my life with the greatest gift – Jumoke. Jumoke was a Mariner, a lover of the sea. His wreath was set to sea and his ashes scattered at the latitude and longitude, 37.49.2313"N / 12230.4876' W.

There is also Captain Jumoke Hayward Horton Memorial Page on Facebook . Thank you for sharing this journey of grief and joy with me.

"Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles." Philippians 4:14


Crossing the Bar

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar,

When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crossed the bar.

Alfred Tennnyson


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