My name is Yvonne and this is a portion of my story. Before I was born I shared the womb with my sister and although they knew about her I would surprise everyone. As my mom gave birth on the floor of my grandmother’s apartment in Brooklyn, fear gripped everyone when I came 20 minutes after my sister because I was unexpected and not breathing. My first breath would come from the mouth of a police officer who decided to take a different route home that day.
It was hard growing up as me because my complexion was so much darker than most and the kids would pick on me calling me horrible names. I felt like something was wrong with me. To hide my pain I became angry and a very good fighter. I fought so much that I got kicked out of elementary school. By the age of eight I had major surgery on both of my feet which caused me to have to learn how to walk all over again. The special shoes and child size walker did not do anything for my self-esteem. The kids were cruel and I felt like an outcast.
I hated everyone and vowed never to let them see me cry. Going to school for me felt like holding my breath and eagerly waiting for the chance to breathe. As a teenager I was very volatile. I had a bad attitude and would always respond to difficulty with abrasive language and violence. I rarely lost a fight but when I did that person had to fight me every day until I was satisfied. I had so much anger inside that my mom was the only person who would deal with me. She was able to calm me down in my many moments of rage.
At the age of 17, seven days after my high school graduation, I gave birth to my first son. Five years and five pregnancies later I would have 3 more children; 2 boys and a baby girl. Public assistance made it possible for me to get my own place and take care of my children.
My mom’s house was the designated place, every weekend, for my children to share in some culture and structure. It was also a time for me to relax and party. My drug of choice was marijuana.“There has got to be more to life than this,” I would quietly whisper as I indulged in another blunt. I believed marijuana helped me to relax so I vowed to always get high.
I was young and reckless, and now cancer had invaded the body of the one person I could count on; my mother. Life at this point seemed very unfair. My mom died in my arms. The smell was so awful that I had to hold my breath as I kissed her for the last time. We buried her 2 days before Christmas.
While I sat at the burial site trying to make sense of what I had lost, my eldest son was also trying to embrace in his heart what he struggled to comprehend in his mind. Grandma was gone and that was painfully clear to this seven-year-old child, as he laid his hands on the casket and whispered the words, “good-bye grandma”.
Witnessing his pain only accentuated my own. It felt as if someone had ripped my heart out. I was lost and had no clue what to do. I had promised her that I would get my life together but now she was gone. I felt like I had failed her and her death made it too late for me to make good on my promise so I settled in my hole.
Nine months after my mother died I got married. After two years of being married, I decided to fill the void, marriage could not satisfy, with crack cocaine. Crack had consumed me. I mastered the art of internalizing my issues and masking my pain. In the midst of this dark place that had become my life, my 3 year old daughter would march through the house singing, “Yes, Jesus loves me; for the Bible tells me so.” I would often sing to her while waiting for my husband to return with our cocaine supply.
It seemed as if the road was getting harder with no end in sight. My husband and I would fight quite often. This one particular time we had a bad fight that landed us both in jail.
Throughout all of this I had been an active participant in church (Sunday worship, bible study, choir, van driver, etc.), but it was in jail where God reached me. The prison Chaplain told me that he had been holding on to a book at God’s instructions, a precious moments bible, and that God would show him who it was for. For 2 years the Chaplain had been holding onto this book and a personal message from God and when he saw me he said he had been waiting for me………
(the conclusion of Yvonne’s story will be posted on Monday, 11/11)