This year Thanksgiving took on a new meaning for me. What it means to be thankful in the full sense of the word.
For those of you who receive my newsletters, you know I often talk about giving thanks in all things no matter what. Well, I am giving thanks and paying homage to one of my shero’s.
On yesterday, Thanksgiving 2012, the Lord saw fit to change the residency of one, Teresa Cooper-Jackson, and escorted her to a fabulous mansion that was designed just for her in Heaven.
I remember the first time I saw Teresa, she was not only beautiful, but she had a huge smile and an inviting personality. I watched her for the longest from afar until a chance encounter one night after church service.
I was in high school at the time and was going through something very personal and very painful. Teresa could see it all over my face. I remember her asking me what was wrong with such concern and I felt so comfortable with her that I easily began to tell her what I could not bring myself to tell anyone else at the time. Once I started explaining it to her she took extra measures to ensure nobody could hear what I was saying and afterwards I never heard my secret repeated again. From that day on, she was like a second mother to me and I knew I could trust her with my life.
No matter how many times I moved in and out of state, she would find me. She was never intrusive but always had a quiet and sweet way of letting me know she was there and I was on her mind. I would get cards, letters, pictures and phone calls out of the blue but always at the right time. It was as if she knew I needed encouragement without asking her for it.
I remember the birth of my daughter and I was living out of state at the time, she was there in spirit and by way of the phone, encouraging me and making sure I had everything I needed.
When I had my son, she and Danyelle, her daughter and partner in ministry, were at my doorstep the day I was released from the hospital with groceries in hand. I did not ask her to come although I needed her to, she just showed up. It was as if she heard my unspoken requests and felt my sense of loneliness for motherly support at the time. She not only took care of me but she took care of my newborn and my daughter with such love and care.
When my grandmother passed, Teresa was there. She quietly encouraged me and made sure I was okay. She made her presence known with out making a fuss about it. I called it silent but loving.
I remember when Sharon died, Teresa asked me why was I sitting in the back of the church and why did not have anything to say about Sharon. I told her I did not like to sit in the front at funerals and it’s hard to get up and talk about someone at their funeral. She then said to me in her “Teresa tone”, I hope that when the Lord calls me home you guys don’t sit in the back and I hope you would have something to say about me in. I told her I would not sit in the back and of course I would have something to say along with many others. She said okay, I hope so, in a way that only Teresa could say with that joking but serious tone she had.
When I started writing my books she was there to motivated and encourage me. Teresa was so excited each time I had a new book idea or release coming up. She would often tell me to write what was on my heart and never to smother my gift just because someone else did not understand it. I told her that I appreciated her love and support and that I would always have a special message for her in my books under acknowledgements and it would be titled God Mommy. She was tickled pink about that.
I remember when Mother Jackson died there was no way my emotions would allow me to see her laying in that casket. Teresa was there and she did not just tell me I could handle it but also walked along side of me, hand in hand up to the casket. As we walked, to break the ice, Teresa said “and she even has on make up”, this caused a slight chuckle between the two of us. While standing there she talked to me and said how beautiful Mother Jackson looked and pointed out how wonderful Mother Jackson was and the positive instrument she had been in my life. Teresa made the difference in that moment. She always had a way of making a heavy situation seem lighter.
When Pastor Franklin died she was there. She knew that was a very difficult time and she wanted to do whatever she could to make it easier. Her encouraging words made the difference during that season in my life.
I will never forget Friday, January 28th, 2011, the day she told me the news concerning her health. I had never heard of Leiomyosarcoma until then. After she went into details she said that all she wanted was to pray and touch and agree that all would be well. She was so calm, no worry in her voice, just peaceful. After I told her I could not imagine life without her in it and that I would do better with making more time to communicate with her and thanked her for all the ways she had blessed my life and never giving up on me, and cried my eyes out she spoke the most calming words to me. “No matter what God does, it is a win/win sweetie” was all Teresa said. It silent me and to this day I can’t even explain how calming it made me feel.
For the longest I just knew she would be healed. I prayed along with countless others and continually said, victory was her only option. I wanted to do something that would honor Teresa. To really show her that she was my/our modern day Coretta Scott King. A strong woman who found herself single while facing many challenges but kept on working for the good regardless of her situation.
One day I happened to be watching a program that was talking about how Susan G Komen had come about. It got me to thinking about Teresa and the rarity of her condition and while in the struggle she continued to be a blessing to others.
After praying about it I called Teresa to see if she would give me permission to start a charity in her honor. While explaining the vision I had for Writers For a Cure – TJ’s Story, the phone went silent. I thought maybe the phone hung up but I could hear a faint sound that sounded like someone crying. In all the years I had known Teresa I can’t really remember her crying.
I asked Teresa if she was okay and she said yes. I quickly apologized for upsetting her but she insisted she was not. She said she was overjoyed. That she had been praying and talking to God and replaying the life she had lived. Teresa said she had been wondering if she really made a difference with everything she had been through in her life. She went on to say she never viewed herself as worthy to be honored by just being herself. She felt like my request was God’s confirmation and that everything she endured and continued to endure was worth it and she knew how much of a blessing she had been to someone else.
I did not get Writers For a Cure going as fast as I wanted to. My plans were to have Teresa do an official interview; take pictures but most of all tell her story in her own words. The timing was always off, either she was in between treatment or I was not able to coordinate my schedule with hers.
The last time I saw Teresa was July 2012. I was in Kansas for my yearly visit and she had invited a friend of ours, my son and I over for dinner. I was a little nervous to see her because during my visit the year before she did not look very well. She looked very tired and worn but she still had her same beautiful smile and bubbly personality.
I was very concerned this time around because she had told me during our many conversations that her health had shifted and we had to keep praying. I was not sure if I could handle not seeing her healthy and full of life. To my surprise she was absolutely beautiful. She looked and acted like the Teresa I had always known. The only thing that was missing was her beautifully long hair. Also to my surprised, she had cooked dinner. She was excited, as she was getting ready for her nieces wedding and her up coming retirement. She was also excited about Danyelle’s upcoming wedding and how well she was doing in medical school. It was as if everything was full circle.
The three of us talked about everything, past, present and future while my son watched movies and played games in the living room. Our entire visit took place at her kitchen table while we laughed, we had serious moments and we fought back tears at times. I so enjoyed my time with her not knowing it would be the last one.
The following months our conversations seemed to have a silent urgency to them. I did my best to ignore it and kept saying she was going to be all right. I never allowed myself to think anything different. The last time I talked to Teresa I could tell something was wrong. She had given me the latest medical update and I asked her what that meant and what was the next step and insisted they had to do something quick. She told me they were not sure what the next steps were. I remember saying to her that I felt like there was something she was not telling me. Her words to me were “We just have to keep on praying sweetie and remember, it’s a win/win situation, either way”. I did not want to hear that, after all she had been telling me that for months and always telling me she wanted to prepare me just in case God wanted her on the other side of Heaven.
Thanksgiving 2012 started out great. I had a long conversation with an old friend while cooking and listening to the gospel channel. The song ‘I Won’t Complain’ came on and although I could hear the male voice singing I kept hearing Teresa’s voice instead, who by the way was an awesome singer. It somehow gave me a total peace. I thought about my last conversation with her again and I remember saying to God, that there is nothing too hard for Him. I still believed He could heal her. I pushed Teresa’s attempts to prepare me out of my thought process. I figured it would not be necessary.
No matter how hard Teresa tried, I was not prepared for the phone call I received later that day. When I was told she was gone, I did not want to believe it. I actually paused for a moment because it just did not feel real. After an hour or so of crying it dawned on me that Teresa would not be too happy with me at that moment and I needed to dry up the tears and start giving thanks.
Teresa heard Him whisper her name and she was ready to move into her new home to suffer no more. I can see her walking around Heaven smiling and laughing but most of all completely healed!
Teresa was a remarkable woman who blessed all she came in contact with. She had an amazing smile and an infectious laugh, both of which would light up a room. She loved unconditionally and would move mountains to help and support friends and family, she was a great example of 1Corinthians 13. Simply put, she was amazingly blessed and grateful and left a legacy that goes beyond words.
All nervousness aside, I want the world to know that I will always be thankful and blessed that Teresa was in my life and I will always love my God mommy!
RIL Momma Teresa, a blessed woman of God, you will truly be missed!