CAE to CAF 6: Grief

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“Dealing with death is weird because someone you’ve known all of your life is suddenly gone and you’re left to deal with the fact that they’re never coming back.” Snagged from an old blog post, Remain In Peace.

This is more of a sequel to that piece, but before I really get into the meat of this one lemme get something off my chest.

Before Tyrone and I decided to get married, I never wanted to be married. I had considered it with an ex and when that was over, I was like yea… no. Married life isn’t for me.

And it’s important that I say that here because in my moments of grief as it relates to family members who have died, I would think “if only my Grandma could’ve seen me graduate college.” Or “my Granny would be so proud to see me raising all these kids just like she did.” And “My Auntie was an amazing Auntie. That’s why I have my babies call me ‘auntie’ because it’s a way of honoring her.” I’ve always known that degrees were part of my life plan. As well as working with and pouring into children. I really wanted to be an auntie of my village. So I allowed myself time to process the fact that they’d never see those moments. But I never imagined myself married. So with just a few days to go, I’m giving myself space to grieve over the notion that none of them will be there.

Grandma won’t get to “hit the high note.” Granny won’t be there to cheer when she sees these homegrown Clay hips in my dress. Auntie Teresa won’t get to steal the show with her jokes. Uncle Wayne won’t be there to heartily tell me how proud he is of the woman I’ve become.

But as a therapist who has a therapist and who started therapy because of my response to grief, I can’t let this moment pass without telling you a person doesn’t have to die for you to grieve her/his presence.

People read my posts about doing things alone for years and they’re inspired to try life on their own as well, but no one has ever stopped to ask me “where did everybody go?” Whenever I did indulge in conversations about hypothetical married life, there are some faces that I thought would be in the space on my hypothetical wedding day. But the way that life happens and the way free will is set up, many of them won’t be present for the real thing. While I’m ok, I’d be less than the authentic self I’m trying to be if I didn’t outwardly say they have been missed during this process.

Nevertheless, the last stage of grief is acceptance.

I accept that some people pass on.

I accept that some people move on.

And I affirm that I have everything and everyone that I need with me.

CAE to CAF 5: Lyrically Yours

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If you’ve ever asked how Tyrone and I met, you know this story.

Picture it. East Lansing, MI. Fall. 2006. *dream music*

I was invited to come to MSU Gospel Choir’s first rehearsal of the school year. Rehearsal starts and some stuff happens then we start the icebreaker.

Get with your class and create a song. Standing in a group of fellow freshpeople who were nervous, I was like “Listen y’all, I’ll say this and y’all repeat.” So we wrote our little jam and went to perform. I sang my line and they repeated, but somebody was harmonizing with me. I looked over like,

As if he knew I was looking for him, Tyrone looked back and made eye contact. He smiled and nodded like,

And we kept singing. Since then, we have been connected.

So I think it’s only appropriate to write one of these posts to share the lyrics I hear that reflect my feelings for him.

🎵I never knew I could be such happy. I never knew I’d be so secure. Because of your love, life has brand new meaning… 🎵 Brighter Day – Kirk Franklin

🎵Forever is a long time. That’s how long I’ll love you.🎵 Forever – Jonathan Nelson

🎵He heals me. He knows the real me. He accepts me. He never hurts me.🎵 He Heals Me – India.Arie

🎵In this crazy world, we all deserve a second chance.🎵 Second Chance T Pain

🎵When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change cuz you’re amazing just the way you are.🎵 The Way You Are -Bruno Mars

And millions more lyrics. Tyrone makes me feel like music. He is words to inexplicable feelings. He is the manifestation of the unfathomable.

CAE to CAF 3: Therapist

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My best friend has walked with me through so many seasons of my life.

He and I met when we were 18 and 17, respectively. We clicked instantly, but I had no idea he’d become such a major part of my life.

I remember one time in 2007 we were walking across campus (Go Green!) to praise team rehearsal and I just listened to him pour out his heart about the choir (MSU Gospel Choir) and his feelings about being assistant director.

Fast forward to 2010 when we became inseparable. It got easier and easier to talk to him about almost anything and I knew he’d listen without judgment and would help me see the bigger picture.

So in 2017, after seeing a licensed therapist for sometime (Daughter Status) she convinced me to apply to the counseling program at Ashland Theological Seminary. It took some time, but I eventually convinced Tyrone to apply as well. After all, he had been my therapist for years and I’d heard snippets of conversations he had with others when he’d walk with through difficult times with such grace.

It was during this season of our friendship when we realized that the strength of our relationship was built on our abilities to be honest with each, challenge each other, and give grace to each other.

Tyrone had been my therapist for years. Ashland allowed us the opportunity to be more equipped to healthily engage others and one another. He learned how to be an even safer space for me. I didn’t know that it was possible. It opened up my mind to wonder how much more I didn’t know was available to us in our relationship.

Our time spent as seminarians was cleansing and refreshing. It was a beautiful experience to watch my best friend intentionally become a more mentally healthy person. I began to realize that I wanted to ensure that I get a closer seat in the audience of his life as God reveals more of His purpose for Tyrone. As I took my seat in the audience of his life, God ushered me to the stage with him.

Now, we get to be covenant partners and watch the Lord move in a whole new way in our relationship.

2 years later, we both have masters degrees in counseling and we found our forever partner.

Drink some water. Get a licensed therapist.

CAE to CAF 4: Entrepreneurship

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This series is called CAE to CAF to highlight my most obvious identity change, my name, but this season of my life has changed many of my identities.

Since I was 15, I have seen myself and identified as an educator. 15 years later, however, I know hold two advanced degrees in social science. I’m legitimately a counselor. I emphasize legitimately because many educators counsel their kids and I wouldn’t be who I am without their willingness to expand their roles as teachers.

Anywho… I’m a teacher. I’m a counselor. On weekends, I’m a waitress. I spend majority of my time finding out what people need and serving them. Servant leadership has been part of my identity since long before I knew the term. Its role increased tremendously when I took on my latest (and my prevalent) title: entrepreneur.

I co-own two businesses. Elevated Education Center, my childcare center and God Be Goddin’, my Christian apparel line.

I have years of classroom experience as an early childhood educator, but I never expected to be the boss. Yet, here I am. It has taken a new level of energy and commitment because now I serve my children, their parents, and my staff. I’m bombarded by questions, requests, and needs all day every day. All. Day. EVERY. Day.

This has been EXTREMELY difficult for me since the beginning. There is absolutely no way I could have made it through this first year without Tyrone. I needed to be able to come home to him. I needed him to be one person I can always count on to serve ME.

It is a blessing when he comes by the center when he leaves work and grabs the vacuum while I interact with my last couple kids. When he grabs the trash at the end of the school day, it translates as love to me. When he listens to my stories about the babies I feel heard. And the fact that he doesn’t pressure me into domestic roles has encouraged me to want to fill them even more. Working for people is hard and draining. I’m grateful to have someone who fills me.

CAE to CAF 1

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This is long, but go with it.

During this almost married season, I’ve had to repent to God.

Changing my name has REALLY done a number on me.

I love that people cleverly comment “OhCAE” on my posts cuz they recognize it from my hashtag. It’s cool when people ask my cash tag and assume it’s $OhCAE.

It’s a reminder that I have been diligently building something for years and at least in my social media world, it has become something.

So the thought of changing my name has been paradigm shifting.

Who am I if I’m no longer CAE? And how will I develop this new woman I’m becoming?

When I shared with my close friends, a few have said I have the option of keeping it. And while I know that it’s true, it doesn’t work because the woman I’ve become since getting engaged deserves a name of her own.

For the first time in my life, I’m for real deciding to submit to someone else and let him lead me.

***So here’s why I repent.***

I’m allowing someone to change my identity. Give me a new name. Allowing myself to be identified by his name first. I’m be possessed by someone. (Mrs. is short for Mister’s as in belonging to him.)

While pondering this, I realized this is the same process I went through when I gave my life to Christ except I never fully gave in to it. I’ve been trying to belong to myself and to God. And changing my last name has put into perspective how lightly I have taken being called a Christian.

I know the rhetoric we use in Christian related things. “He wants it all.” “You’re a new creation in Christ.”

We talk about all the literal name changes of people in the Bible, but because I’ve been able to continue to be Claricha, what I’ve been saying all along really didn’t hit me until I started preparing to become Claricha Foster.

I have given more time and space to changing my last name for the sake of my man than I ever gave to the Lord for changing my heart.

This process has made scripture come alive for me. I’m a new creature. I’m learning to submit to someone like I have the Lord and because of this, I’m learning to submit to the Lord for real.

There’s Something Growing There Now

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Harper and Bewick

Many memories were created on this corner where my childhood church used to stand.

I hadn’t come by in a while because the pile of rocks was too hard to look at.

Now, there’s stuff growing there.

It’s a visible metaphor.

Things that were once of utmost importance suddenly don’t exist. The devastation turns to anger then sadness when you look at what’s left.

Over time, though, something new starts to grow.

The structure is gone, but the memories stay for as long as you’re willing and able to keep them.