By Cheryl Smith
Another year is rapidly coming to a close and I can’t help but to recap the past year and look forward with anticipation. 2019 was a very exciting year for me because there were so many exciting memories and milestones. I said hello to my newest grandchild, D-Square (actually his name is Davion); my girl (aka Surrogate) Amanda Fitzpatrick and hubby Yusuf welcomed Naomi; and I said farewell to some very special people including 100 year-old legend Garth Reeves; classmates; Sorors Michelle Raglon and Olivia Frazier Kerr; longtime friends Carolyn Davis and fellow Rattler Juanita Benson; as well as the loved ones of many I love. There have been some disappointments and many causes for celebration over the past year. Everyone can’t handle the emotional roller-coaster. Sometimes help is needed.
Which brings me to my truth. December has always been challenging for me since 1969. I remember opening gifts that Christmas morning and hearing the phone ring. Next thing I knew, the joy had gone out of the day because the news from the phone call was that my 93-year-old grandfather, Remer Smith, had died. Christmas Day was never the same. Then over the years, I’ve suffered other losses that have sent me into deep thought; like the death of my father on December 8, 2004, and my Godmother, Liz on December 22, 2008.
Most who really know me knew of my fondness for the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. You see, growing up Mr. Brown was there for me in times when I really felt alone. He could put a smile on my face and a song in my heart. And that in itself is very telling. As a 10-year-old; I remember going to a concert with relatives in Florida. After the concert, we were escorted backstage and given the choice of meeting five nappy-headed, smelly boys, or the Godfather and the songbird, Lyn Collins. I chose the Godfather. After we met and said a few words, he kissed me on my cheek. I was overjoyed! In fact, I then said I would never wash my cheek again, but I forgot which one it was.
I also met Ms. Collins and I was told that I met the boys also, but if I did I don’t recall the boys. Can you guess who those boys were? Well anyway, decades later, I had a phone interview with Mr. Brown. It was wonderful. I told him about that meeting and we talked about family and life. When I told Mr. Brown that my father lived about an hour and a half away from his home in Augusta, GA, he invited me to visit the next time I was in town. Oh, how I looked forward to that visit! As our interview came to a close, he asked me if I was coming to his concert in Grand Prairie. I told him “no” but he asked me again. Unfortunately, I had already given my tickets to super writer Vincent Hall, but Mr. Brown said no worries, he had me covered.
I went to the concert alone and had a great time. When I visited him in his dressing room, we had a great time talking. Before I departed Mr. Brown kissed me on both cheeks so I wouldn’t forget this time! I had such a good feeling and that feeling was with me a few years later when I received word of his passing. So many people called to see how I was doing. That year prior my dad had passed, just added to the feeling I was experiencing. While some would never understand the connection, it doesn’t take understanding to show concern, and sometimes in our busy world, we don’t take time to be concerned about others and what they are going through.
That is why we should all be open to counseling. There is so much going on in the world that it is sometimes hard to navigate effectively. Also, when you consider all the chemicals that enter our bodies and how many young people are coming here filled with mind-altering chemicals; well, the need for psychological intervention is important. For that and other reasons, mental health is a component of the Realizing the Dream Healthy Living Expo at the African American Museum on January 20, 2020. We need to address the issues effecting, our families and communities. Mental illness is real. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. And sometimes you need someone to talk you through the challenging times in life. Sure every month can be challenging but even the Center for Disease Control reports that December is not the month when most suicides occur. Still, the holiday cheer does make one reflect on those not there to share the times, which could lead to depression. There is help. Let’s get it and give it! Plan your schedule to join us right after the Dr. King Parade. You’ll be glad you did.