Episode 1 Javell’s “Acceptance Letter”
Hi, my name is Javell Jones. I was 18 years old preparing to graduate from high school in a month, and my mother was fighting for her life. It was Sunday, May 10, 2015. I’ll never forget that Mother’s day. The sound of the machine keeping my mother alive became the theme music for my life at that time.
There were times I would create songs to the sound of the machine pumping air into my mother’s lungs. Like birds chirping on a Spring morning or the sound of cars riding by I was used to the noise. June of 2013 the doctor diagnosed my mother with Acute myeloid leukemia which is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Cancer sucks!
This form of cancer is the same sports reporter Craig Sager succumb to in December 2016. My mother was all I had. A teen mother raising a boy on her own is heroic, supernatural or any other grand word you choose to use. She never finished school. She never went to the prom. She never had a childhood. My mother gave up all of her dreams and ambitions to be the greatest mother to ever live. She once told me she imagined being an elementary school teacher. Her lack of education made her feel she wasn’t smart enough to teach anyone anything. She would always say, “Graduate high school. Graduate College. Graduate as much as you can in life.” I was just weeks away from walking across that high school stage and receiving my diploma, and the doctor had given my mother days to live. I planned to take her as my prom date that June. She didn’t know. I could see us both dressed like we’re on the red carpet at the Oscars. I envisioned giving my mother the night she never had the chance to experience. That dance never happened. My estimation of the time we had left was wrong. Don’t feel sorry for my mother and me. Watching someone you love suffer in pain will have you eventually praying for death. All of the bone marrow transplants and chemotherapy became worse than cancer. I was ready to let her go. She became unresponsive two days after my last hospital visit with her. Our final conversation she asked me did my college acceptance letters come in the mail yet? They hadn’t arrived at the time. My mother didn’t care what college accepted me as long as I was accepted. It was sort of a victory lap for her. She raised a black boy into a black young man escaping prison or death to the streets. Two days later, I was holding an envelope from one of the colleges I applied to attend. I was standing at her bedside. I didn’t open the letter yet. I wanted us to share this moment together even if she couldn’t any longer respond. I opened the letter and placed it on my mother’s chest and began to read.
Dear Mr. Jones,
I am delighted to inform you that the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid has voted to offer you a place in the Harvard Class of 2019. Please accept my personal congratulations for your outstanding achievements….
I jumped up and ran around my mother’s hospital room yelling, “We did it, Momma! We did It! I got into Harvard University!” Nurses and doctors rushed into the room from all of the noise I was creating. I apologized to them for the scare but informed them that I was accepted into Harvard University. A nurse named Ellen who had cared for my mother since her hospitalization hugged me and said, “Your mother is so proud of you. Always Know that in your heart. Any mother would be blessed to have you as a son.” I’ll always remember those words from Nurse Ellen. I knew Mom was proud. I could feel her pride. She accomplished her dream which was to get her boy into college and to avoid prison. Where we are from prison or death is expected and college is a blessing. So many of my childhood friends were either buried next to my grandparents or in prison with their fathers. My mother refused to bury me or walk through metal detectors to visit me. She would often say, “Many people have thrown dirt on my name. They judged me for being a teen mother, But dirt helps flowers and people grow. My dream is for you to toss dirt on me when its time and not the opposite.” I’ll remember those words for the rest of my life.
I sat for an hour more as the machine pumped air into her lungs. I watched as her heart rate began to decline. The woman who gave me life was slowly losing her own. Kneeling next to her hospital bed I held her hand and began to remind her of the time I was scared of the dark as a child. I said to her…
“Ma, do you remember when I asked you why do people sleep with the lights off? I never understood why anyone would want to be in total darkness. As a boy, I was scared of the dark. There is a fear of not being able to see but only hear. I remember vividly what you told me. You said there is peace in darkness. No one can judge you, shame you, or make you feel worthless when they cannot see you. You said the cure for hate is closed eyes and opened ears. Do you remember that, Ma? I know you can’t see me right now but I’m sure you can hear me. I hope you are not afraid of the dark. Don’t be afraid to let go and embrace your eternal peace. I’m a man now. You’ve taught me all I’ve needed to know and though I can’t see what life looks like without you in the future, I’m no longer scared of things I can’t see.”
I felt her squeeze my hand one last time. I then heard the sound of the long beep. I knew what that sound indicated. Nurse Ellen and the Doctors rushed into the room but there was nothing they could do. She slipped away in peace with my college acceptance letter on her chest, and in my darkest hour, I found peace.
“Did you truly find peace, Javell? I ask because shortly after the passing of your mother is when the opioid addiction began, correct?” Said Mrs. Shaffers the Psychiatrist at the New York Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center. All I wanted was to feel accepted. I grew up where almost everyone in my neighborhood was either black or Hispanic. After my mother died May of 2015 and within three months I was on the Harvard University campus around preppy white boys and not a black person in site. I mean, there were a few black kids at the college but not enough to feel like home.
Mrs. Shaffers then asked, “Do you regret your experience at Harvard? The parties, the drugs, the rape allegations?” My biggest regret is letting my mother down. All of the work she put in to make sure I would be successful in life and I sit here a 21-year-old college dropout, Heroine addict who some call a rapist.
“Did you rape that girl, Javell?” Asked Mrs. Shaffers. I would do never force myself on any woman. I hate a rapist. My mother was… forget it. “Your mother was what, Javell?” asked Mrs. Shaffers. My biological father raped my mother when she was a teenager. She gave birth to me 9 months later. I never touched that girl. I was just the easiest one to blame. “Why do you feel you were easy to blame? asked Mrs. Shaffers. Because I wasn’t one of them. They were white, rich and privileged. I am black.
“Good session, Javell. We’ll pick up where we left off next week” said Mrs. Shaffers.
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