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‘Til we meet again

A setting sun provided a breath-taking view of Mother Nature on Oct. 11.

Slowly fading into the western horizon, the sun was kissed by a thin layer of mid-to-high level clouds, painting a picture swirled with warm pinks, soft lavenders and burnt orange.

Blanche Bryant, a woman who truly enjoyed a visual gift such as this from the heavens, never got to see this amazing display of color. She passed from this life at 4:30 p.m. on that sun-splashed Columbus Day. She’s my mother.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, losing the woman who gave me life. The only thing left to do is to carry out exactly one of the numerous things my mom taught me – despite its rocky roads, life goes on.

My mom was never one to place a burden on anyone else. When my sister, brother and I were growing up, mom could have easily come home after a tough day at work, plopped down on the couch and relaxed until bedtime. But that wasn’t Blanche Bryant’s style.

Born into a family that tilled the soil for a living, she learned at a very early age that hard work and life go hand-in-hand. There was no job, big or small, she was afraid to tackle. She met each and every challenge to same way – with a smile on her face, one boasting of a sure satisfaction to come of a job well done.

Neither my mom or dad were blessed with riches. Raising three children had to be a tough chore on meager incomes. But our family was blessed with wealth far beyond financial riches. We shared a true love…a kindred spirit. We were taught respect for our fellow man; showed the difference between right and wrong – and when we kids were wrong, we knew there were consequences to pay for our misgivings.

That love of family and friends remains alive and well. Mom and pop (who passed away in June of this year) made sure the torch was passed. It now lies in the hands of their children.

Honestly, the children of Ray and Blanche Bryant have no clue on how we could have pulled through the trying times of 2004 without the love and support of family and friends. Losing pop was tough, but at least we had some sort of notion that the final day was drawing near. Mom’s death was totally different. No one, perhaps not even her, knew that less than four months after pop passed away that mom would be gone as well. We weren’t prepared. It took us all by complete surprise.

To make matters worse, the rock of our family, our foundation, was gone. We had mom to lean on when pop passed away. She was a strong woman through that ordeal, one that included nine months of being pop’s main caregiver during his illness.

Little did we know on that sad day (June 21) that the rock would crumble less than 120 days later. The rock did indeed shatter into tiny bits on Oct. 11, but the foundation never cracked.

Despite every thing that was going wrong inside her body; despite the fact that cancer was opening death’s door, Blanche Bryant, with the blessings of her Lord and Savior, was still in charge right to the very end. My sister, brother and I twice came face-to-face with having to make some very tough medical decisions on mom’s quality of life. On both occasions, she and her Lord took it upon themselves to make those choices.

It’s like I mentioned near the start of this column – mom never burdened anyone else with her problems. She took that characteristic with her right down to her final breath.

It was tough to let go. It’s still tough to think that mom, and pop, are no longer there. Their voices are silent. No more phone calls to check on how their day went or to solicit advice. No more short drives over to the Ashley’s Grove community to look them in the face…to feel their warm, comforting embrace. No more surprise visits to my office here in Ahoskie where we’d go out and enjoy each other’s company over lunch.

Those days are gone. All I have now are memories, but those are priceless. No matter what happens to me from this point forward until I draw my final breath, I can live with the comfort of knowing I was raised by the best set of parents in the entire world. A piece of me died on June 21 and Oct. 11, but a lot of Ray and Blanche Bryant still lives on inside of me as well as so many others whose lives were touched by this special couple.

I know where you both are; it’s up to me to make sure I can join you there. I hope you enjoy those beautiful sunsets, and each other’s company, until we meet again.