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Heggins poses with a photo of her mother.

By Jazmine Heggins – Collegiate Staff

A piece of me broke inside. It was like a meteor hit my world and caused a massive gravitational shift. It sent me floating through some new time space continuum, never to return again. I was 17 and it was September 21, 2013 when it happened. I was living a typical routine day, in between classes and working at the Dollar Tree. My mom was having one of her “bad days”. As she shuffled through the living room, her walker moving faster than her swollen feet, she muttered, “I’m just going to lay down baby girl.” I walked past and told her to call me if she needed anything and assured her I would be downstairs watching TV.

About an hour passed and it was time for me to get to work. As I skipped upstairs to my room a quick tap at the door stopped me. It was my Aunt Francis stopping by as she often did to check in on my mom. I greeted her with a quick hug and hopped into my room to quickly throw on my wrinkled work shirt just when I heard a loud shriek from my mom’s bedroom. An erie feeling swept across me as I rushed to the open door way. My heart froze over when I saw my mom face down into her pillow. I couldn’t hear anything my aunt was saying but her lips read, “Jazzy, she won’t wake up.” I had recently finished my Certified Nursing Assistant classes so I immediately prepared for CPR. As I lifted her body to turn her face up she was noticeably purple and already cold with no pulse. I did CPR anyway.

As I juggled the phone with 911 on the line I moved back and forth between answering their questions and counting pumps to her chest. I knew from the beginning that there was no saving, but miracles could happen right? Wrong. She was gone, and I was still here. The ambulance came and the paramedics decided to perform CPR for their own reassurance.

I had the job of calling my siblings and informing them of our mother’s sudden death. My sister, at the time a senior at MSU, sped from class to the hospital and my brother, in Big Rapids, hit the highway. My stepfather was last to be informed because he was not answering the phone. I followed the ambulance in a trance, wondering if I was dreaming and pinching myself repeatedly to wake from my nightmare.

The worst part was seeing my niece’s face walking into the hospital, where my mother lay, cold and alone. That broke my heart more than anything. She was her hero. I became a zombie for the next coming months, only eating and moving to prove to myself that I was still alive. I dropped my classes from LCC and I only worked when I could build the strength to get out of bed.

Every night I wondered how I could let this happen. I was there. I was right there and she was still gone. Depression came like an eternal eclipse into my life. There was no more light and I waited until the day I would leave next. I tried to spend as much time with my grandmother as I could. She could not wrap her head around her oldest child not being on this Earth, not just her child but her best friend. That was true pain. I got a job through the home care agency that took care of my grandmother so I could work as her home care aide. I could see the rate at which my grandmother was declining, and every day she wanted to talk about her children that have passed on. My mother was not the first – this strong woman outlived two of my uncles, and twins at their birth, before this.

Soon after my mother’s death, my sister and I moved to our own apartment in Holt, Michigan. I was barely working so she
was carrying most of the weight. My dad would call us sometimes, make promises about how he would be there for us more, and how he felt the need to reconcile our relationship. Not much has changed on that end. Others, including family and friends, would make promises about how we could always call if we needed anything, how they would always be there to lean on if we needed it. My siblings and I quickly learned that it was us against the world. There was comfort in that because in my eyes that is how it always has been. I found a job at a factory that paid more money than I ever made working as a CNA and I stayed there for the two years we lived in that apartment. My sister graduated from Michigan State University with her bachelor’s degree and my brother moved to Grand Rapids. Not a day passed that I did not think about my mother. I wondered if she was still here, what she would say about who we have become … would she be proud?

Every decision I made I wanted to call and ask my mom for advice. It didn’t seem right that I had to keep growing older, moving on in different directions and she was stagnant. Cut off at 46 and stuck in the ground. Hiring a therapist crossed my mind multiple times, but there was no way I could have afforded that. I even went to interview at a therapist office, just to get a free session. Needless to say I did not get that job. After two years at that apartment in Holt with my sister, I had to gather my priorities and take care of business myself. I started working 12 and 16 hour workdays at my job to save up for a car and an apartment. I moved out on my own and the scales of my Libra sign were balanced for the first time in a while. I stayed in this dream state for almost a year, when depression came swooping in like a hawk, carrying me away once again.

I started missing work so much that I got behind on my bills and I lost my apartment. I didn’t have the courage to call my family for help. I felt like I was becoming a burden to them. They were always picking me up when I fell. This time I was going to dig myself out of the hole. I was in my first official relationship of my 20s at this time and we thought we were ready to move in together, so we did. Me, him and my puppy, Fudge. It was not everything I wanted. No way was it perfection but it was all I had at the time. The more we were around each other, the more we grew apart. I started to write more, searching for ways to start my career in journalism.

I met a woman by the name of Rina Risper, who runs a local paper called the Citizens Press. We talked about me interning for her and she invited me on her radio show. I read a few of my poems and we talked for a few hours about life. After I spilled my heart out on the floor, she gave me some advice that I still think about to this day. She said, “If you do not let go of what is holding you back here, no matter where you go, it will drag you down.”

I never ended up having the internship with Rina, but I am thankful for her energy coming into my life. I take that as a sign from my mom that I was moving in the right direction. As things for my boyfriend and I worsened, I decided to visit my sister in Georgia. We visited Martin Luther King, Jr’s memorial site and all of Georgia’s hidden cultural treasures. It was then I made up my mind. I would move there to study journalism, I just didn’t know how I would get to that point. If it were up to my sister, she would have had my dog and all of my belongings on the first plane there. I knew I had some things to take care of first back at home. That was May of 2016. From that point, I devised a plan. I would move to Grand Rapids with my brother and his family and go to Grand Rapids Community College in the fall to work toward my degree. I ended things with my boyfriend and I moved out of that apartment. My mom always told me if I speak things into existence, they will come to manifest. She was right.

I moved my things and my puppy to Grand Rapids in July 2016. Since I’ve been here my energy has changed. I started working full time and going to school part time. Sometimes I wonder what my mother would say if she saw me now. Would she be proud? When I was experiencing all of these unfortunate events I thought there was no way I could make it through, but I know now that all it takes is a change in mindset. If you believe that you can get through something, and speak it into existence, there will be nothing that can stop you. You are your biggest critic and you have to be your biggest fan. Take the good with the bad and keep climbing over those mountains on your path, no matter how long it takes, never stop moving. Now I am at the end of my second semester at GRCC and I am moving to Georgia at the end of April. It feels good to follow through with my plans and this is just the beginning.

I still can’t help but wonder what my mother would say if she saw me now. Would she be proud?

I am proud.

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