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An Obituary For the Living: A Letter to My Mother and All the Black Women & Girls Society Forgot

Originally published March 24th, 2023.

Dear Mother,

I’ve started this letter a thousand times and still, the words escape me. I saw a video of a brother who wrote a poem for his father, it was relatable. I considered doing the same, working through the disconnect while making peace with the shattered pieces of who we are, and of who we could have been. As I sit and look over those late-night scribbles, they reflect the heart of a broken little girl who wanted to be held and nurtured. I won’t say that little girl is dead and gone, she’s not, but she’s learned to hold her own heart with the tenderness the world refused to show her. I’ve ridden the waves of trauma that come with being a Black girl, a Black woman, in a world that seeks to destroy us the moment we take our first breaths. I wish you had been there to lift me up when the world assaulted me physically, emotionally, spiritually, and sexually… the tears I’ve cried have always felt like little prayers, begging for anyone to hear and hold me close.

In the dark silence, I’ve learned no one comes when we cry out. I wish you had told me there would be no one to build me up and that the world would take every opportunity to tear me down. I wish you had provided me a tether to hold onto when I’m drowning under the weight of all this life requires of Black women. But, if I’m honest, we’re in this mess because no one told you either that our vessels are more like prisons in a world hellbent on our destruction. Who and what ground you down until there was nothing left? I wish I knew. I wish I could fix all that we’ve endured. To sew up our wounds with the ease I patch up a tattered blanket, but we can’t be patched as easily. The tears run deep, weaving into each generation and screaming to be rectified.

Life has taught me in your absence that there is no going back, there is only the painful motion of forward with the wounds bleeding like breadcrumbs to a past we can’t fix. If the world had told us we mattered and meant it would you have been able to battle your demons and love me the way I needed? Would those demons have even existed? Even in this moment all of this sounds like selfish cries from a lost little girl. I know these answers. Our trauma exists because to the world we were consumable and disposable. I wish I could tell you it’s changed, but it hasn’t. My heart is traced with stress lines from the fight to exist in this body freely and safely. I draw lines in the sand and people tell me those are walls.

I call them safety.

Did you ever feel safe? I remember the first time I truly felt safe. It was last year. Yeah, I know I’m almost 40 but time is funny in this body. I broke down on my bedroom floor and felt like the fight was over. They expect us to carry the world on our shoulders and smile through the death and destruction they unleash. I was tired of smiling when I wanted to cry and scream. My husband came in and kneeled in front of me, he spoke not a word but wrapped his arms tight around me and I wept from a place I didn’t even know existed. I clawed at his clothing. I screamed. I ached. The pain we’re expected to carry like crosses upon our backs is fucking unbearable. As I released decades of abuse the fog started to clear. It’s easy to blame ourselves when the trauma compounds, but nestled under the trauma was a light screaming for air. That was the first night in my life I slept without a nightlight… The first night I knew I didn’t need to fear the darkness, it needed to fear me.

I’ve been tending to that flame since. It’s been difficult, they really don’t want us to survive out here. I want more than survival for us, I want us to thrive. The world tried to blow out both our flames. I’m sorry no one sees the way they’ve tried to snuff out yours. I understand now that your rage and violence are the mechanisms you’ve developed to survive in a world that doesn’t want you to survive. They demonize us for the very skills they force us to develop to endure the violence they casually unleash on us daily. I understand you couldn’t protect me, it was work enough to protect yourself, the world fractured us and there was only so much you could do.

You deserved better. We both deserved better. All Black girls and women deserve better.

We deserve a world that values us.

A world that sees our pain and changes.

A world that lifts us up instead of tearing us down.

I can’t undo what’s been done, but I promise to do everything in my power to nurture my flame so it burns as a beacon to others so together we can burn down this world and build a world deserving of the magic we possess.

Until then, may this letter be a spark, and may you know peace one day.

All my love,


Copyright(c) 2023 Rayven Holmes

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