The Other Silent Killer

by Danielle N. Hall

03/17/2018

I don’t watch much television and I’ve missed many movies, but I’m not all the way green…I have seen a few. One that comes to mind is Madea’s Big Happy Family. As with any other Tyler Perry movie, there were many things going on once. However, there’s a particular scene that I recall. “Mr. Brown loses a lot of blood during his surgery and the doctor asks Cora to donate some. When she does, she finds out that she doesn’t have the same blood type as him, implying that he may not be her real, biological father. At dinner later on that night, Tammy and Kimberly have a vicious argument that leads to Tammy revealing that Kimberly is Byron’s birth mother, having had him when she was 13 years old. Byron storms out of the house, angry that this secret was kept from him.”

They say that art imitates life. The truth is that Mr. Brown and Kimberly aren’t the only ones with family secrets: the other silent killer. More often than is acknowledged, families perpetuate lies and deception: choking the life out of the truth in order to spare the image of one. How many children grew up thinking that someone was their older sister only for the actual truth to be that said “sister” was actually their biological mother and who they had been thinking was their mother was actually their grandmother? How many Mr. Brown scenarios are there where people have assigned someone the title of “Daddy” that has no trace of the man’s DNA? The truth is this saving of an image has done more harm than good.

When I had barely entered adulthood, I gave birth to my first child. I was 21 years old and her biological father was 22. We weren’t fresh out of high school, but we were young. Things did not work out and we went our separate ways when our daughter was still an infant. Time progressed and I later married my husband. Now, my daughter’s father has always been active in her life, so she has been blessed with two dads. When she was about 4 years old I explained the difference between her biological father and her stepfather. Some may argue that she was too young, but you’d have to know my children to understand my decision to divulge when I did. She understood and I was never posed with any questions about it because I was straightforward with her. One time, our household had gone to the movies and we saw my daughter’s biological dad outside. When she saw him, she excitedly said: “My other daddy!”. I must admit that was a bit embarrassing, but it was her truth: she has two dads.

Sometimes our truths can be embarrassing or humiliating, but hiding it can be devastating. Suppose one begins dating someone and things get serious and marriage becomes a goal…and then a reality. Then, you through some very unusual way discover that you two are actually blood relatives…close ones at that. Do you see how problematic and destructive perpetuating a lie can be: all for the sake of keeping secrets and saving images?

Let’s not ignore the other proverbial elephant in the room. How about the sexual violation by a family member? This is certainly not foreign or unusual. It’s a sad truth that I am unfortunately very familiar with…more familiar than I want to be. It is common for survivors to not speak of what has happened because they are often muzzled by fear of other’s opinions. In some cases when the survivor does come forward, the common response is “What happens in this house stays in this house.” If you have a perverted individual who obviously lacks self control, why would you not make it known to spare others enduring the same offense? Is it because he’s the bread winner or because he’s everyone’s “favorite uncle”? The image of the perpetrator is salvaged, but there is a wreck in the internal environment of the survivor: her/his voice is suffocated and identity is often lost.

Maybe the family secret doesn’t involve any offense. Maybe a mom or dad didn’t graduate from high school and yet they keep it a secret for fear of others labeling her/him as a failure. Now let me be clear, experience is a great teacher and we can learn a lot in life from experience. High school graduation does not mean that you have arrived. The point I’m making is that in many areas in our lives we fall short and then we play the pretend game because we worry about other’s opinions. When I drafted my father’s obituary in December last year, I was adamant about telling his truth. He spent a lot of years of his life concerned about what others thought, though he often said he didn’t. My dad graduated high school at the age of 21 and even MY existence is a result of one of dad’s unfavorable choices. However, it was his truth and he suffered silently being concerned about his image. In his last couple of months, a family member visited him in the hospital and essentially cursed him. I was livid and it was obvious that it affected how he felt about himself. I discerned what he wasn’t speaking, but was yet communicating. In a rare type of discussion I had with him while I was heading to work one day, I told him that unforgiveness was a sin even when don’t forgive ourselves. He said he never thought of it that way and his voice became more lively.

People can be so brutal sometimes. What I have come to live most about my life, is that I discovered the liberty that Jesus avails to us to walk in. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. So many are bound by the guilt and shame of life choices that they die a slow death inside. This is not the intent of God. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom].” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (AMP)

I implore you on today to be free and I pray that the spirit of liberty will reign in your family so that there will be no more death of the truth as lies are nurtured to save images!

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A Hug From Heaven

by Danielle N. Hall

2/4/2018

I find myself having life experiences that often have me saying: “I can’t make this stuff up!”. I have not had a full week go by without me saying these words or having an experience that would provoke me to say those words. I’ve decided to share one of such experiences that I had about a month ago.

The Christmas season is pretty busy for us at work. There are a few different celebrations that take place. Usually kicking off the festivities is a brunch hosted by our admin department for the anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists. There always a variety of food and one of favorite things about this brunch is that I usually have smoothie duty…and I’m reeeeeal serious about my stuff. Each year I choose a different feature ingredient…last year’s was passion fruit. My “special ingredients” are under this table.

Anyhow, the other celebrations we have are an evening gathering at a hotel or a country club, another gathering at the department which is usually catered, and the last celebration is when our administrator takes the admin staff out for a time away from the office. On December 22,2017…two days after my dad transitioned…we had the lunch with our administrator. One of the activities planned was the White Elephant Gift Exchange. I signed up to participate, but in light of my father’s unexpected passing, I hadn’t yet secured a gift.

The morning of the lunch, I stopped at the CVS near my home to grab a gift card and some candy. I first went to look for a gift card holder and these small, plastic, gift bags caught my attention. I picked one up and placed it on my wrist so I wouldn’t forget. I gathered the other items I needed and, as I was shopping, I took note of the employee I observed that he was wearing a white shirt, American Flag print pants & a tie with the same print…during the Christmas season. I thought it to be a bit strange, but proceeded to complete the task at hand.

It is custom for me to view the name tag of the cashier when I approach a register, however, I hadn’t done so in this case. I placed my items and the counter and the gentleman scanned them and rung them up. He gave me my total and I paid for my items with my card. I realized after the fact that I hadn’t added the small, plastic gift bag to the items I was purchasing and I said: “Awww shoot! I forgot to put this on there. Oh well…it’s too late so never mind.” My receipt came out and the cashier said: “Wait! You’ve got something coming to you here. You’ve got $4. I don’t know how much this costs, but it’s a good thing you waited. You can actually now get it.” I told him that it was $1.99 and he excitedly told me I could go get another one. I really appreciated his spirit, but I was a bit hesitant because the line of people waiting was quite lengthy. He reassured me so I got another one.

The total of my items was $4.26. I didn’t have cash, so I took my card out again. He told me not to worry about it because he would take care of it. He got a quarter and a penny and added it to my $4. I told him he really made my day and he was going to make me cry. I shared with him that my father has just transitioned and that these little things really make my heart smile. He told me I was gonna make him cry and he asked sincerely about my mother and her well being. I thought it strange, yet comforting. I was overwhelmed by his compassion. He then told me he was going to come from behind the register to give me a hug. It was such a comforting embrace. I was nervous because the line of customers wasn’t growing any shorter. Nonetheless, it was as if time stood still for me in that moment. He told me to let my mom know he asked about her and he said he’d keep us in his thoughts and prayers. It was at this time that I asked him his name. I was blown away: He and my father shared the same name!!! His name was Robert! I was certain that this guy was an angel. I frequent that CVS and I never saw him before, neither have I seen him since. Just a few days ago as I was thinking about creating this blogpost, I thought again about the attire of the gentleman. The angel wasn’t confused about the holidays. I was SURE that “Robert” was my Dad paying me a visit checking on mom and looking out for me.

It was my Dad…still looking out for his family.

Thanks, Dad for sending me a hug from Heaven! Rest easy 🙂

“Do not neglect to extend hospitality to strangers [especially among the family of believers—being friendly, cordial, and gracious, sharing the comforts of your home and doing your part generously], for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2 (AMP)

A Night to Remember

by Danielle N. Hall

1/17/2018

This morning I was trying to dress according to the weather. I was looking for my gray sweater and I remembered where I had it. I got it and remembered why I had placed it there. I still have the visitor’s stickers from the night before my dad Robert Brock-Smith, Sr transitioned.

On Monday 12/18/17, Mom and I had visited Dad after work. For some reason I felt uneasy about leaving that night. Mom was ready to go, but I told her I needed to know he was ok. A nurse came in to tend to him and she began to sing “I’m trading my sorrows. I’m trading my shame. I’m laying them down for the joy of the Lord.” She also fervently prayed for him and asked God to have mercy on him. At this point, I was content with leaving. We had exceeded the visiting hours by 30 minutes. I took Mom to the store and then to her home. I remember being brought to tears as I watched my mom take gifts and boxes for gifts in her home. She was so excited about being a blessing, even while her husband’s health was failing. I watched in awe of this great woman and called my first grade teacher expressing to her how I endeavor to be at least half the woman that she is.

I snapped out of, pulled off, and headed home. I got home and laid across the bed just trying to rest my mind. Very shortly after, my cell phone rang. It was Mom and my heart started beating fast. She said: “Danielle, the hospital just called and they moved your dad to ICU. His heart has already stopped 3 times and they don’t think he’s gonna make it through the night.” I hopped up, put on the first shoes I could grab and heading back to pick Mom up to head to the hospital.

We arrived and were escorted to his room. Soon after we heard those dreadful words as we watched things unfold before our eyes: “Code Blue, ICU”. We were asked did we want them to revive Dad. Mom affirmed. We were initially asked to step out and then we were invited back in to observe the process. It was much labor, but they were successful. However, he depended on a ventilator 100% for breathing. We were joined by my sister and a couple of my nieces and we stayed overnight.

On the morning of 12/19, Mom and I went downstairs to the cafeteria and grabbed an omelette. It was highly recommended by one of the ICU nurses. After breakfast, we returned to the room. They checked Dad’s pupils and there was no reaction when they shined the light in his eyes. At this point, Mom was ready to go. I took her home and headed to my office…looking and smelling like the day before. Fortunately, I had some toiletries available at the office and could freshen up. I stayed a short while and decided to head back home to get more clean and change clothes.

On the way home, I received a call from my daughter telling me to call my husband because his van had broken down on the side of the road and then she informed me that my son had been jumped at school. By now, I’m a bit overwhelmed. I called my husband and he contacted my son and I asked him to wait at the school for me. I headed straight to the school and, unfortunately, the school day has ended and students had already been dismissed. I met with the head of security and filed a report.

We headed home to get my youngest son and then we stopped by to see my daughter at work so she could be reassured that all was well. Our next stop was the emergency room to be examined for head injuries. Fortunately, there is a Children’s Emergency Room connected to the hospital where Dad was. The boys and I went to visit Dad that evening and then headed to the ER for my eldest son to be examined. This is how the pictures sweater has two stickers from the same date with time stamps so close. Now one of the funny things about visiting Dad is that they almost always put the wrong name on my sticker and Mom’s. Clearly that was the case this night as well. Fortunately, my son had no serious head injuries…and fortunately we went to see Dad that evening…it was the last time the boys saw him alive. On the next morning, Dad peacefully transitioned. One thing I learned during the season of my father’s major health challenge was to maximize moments and make new memories. His legacy will forever live…memories of a life spent with him will be everlasting.

This post was written in loving memory of my father, Robert Henry Brock-Smith, Sr. 4/10/1937-12/20/2017

May He forever rest peacefully.