The legacy of Mary Ray

26 Feb

Last Monday, when I found myself having trouble getting out of bed, I just assumed it was the winter pall, or maybe the martinis I had consumed over the President’s Day weekend. But as much as I was inclined to, as Jamie Foxx sings, “blame it on the alcohol,” (By the way, did anyone see the Glee take on that song last week?) It was something more profound.
On Thursday, while I was visiting the local Family History Center searching for more pieces of the Ray family puzzle, I came upon my mother’s death record. Yep. Feb. 21, 2002. Nine years ago last Monday.
I thought about waiting until next year to pay tribute. It will be the 10th anniversary of her death, a milestone of sorts. But the future  is not promised, as we all know, so I’m going to do it now. After all, there is no end to the gifts my mother poured into me. I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say next year.
I dug out an article I wrote for Essence in 1986 titled “How to get out of that rut and make life an adventure.” I used my mother as an example of someone who did that every day.
“My mother has always had a positive, energetic spirit and a sense of adventure unmatched in anyone else I’ve ever known,” I wrote in that Essence article. “A firm believer in going for the gusto, she ran track without the benefit of Wilma Rudolph as a role model. She was the first in her immediate family to earn a college degree. And while many of her peers were settling down with their own families, she was relocating to a strange city to take a new job. When she did marry and had my sisters and me, her world and her adventurous spirit simply grew. ‘There is no excuse for boredom,’ she’d say as she dragged us (and any other neighborhood child who happened to be within her reach) to dance classes, music lessons, museums, concerts, libraries and amusement parks  — all on public transportation. And as my sisters and I came of age and began moving around to new jobs, new cities, new countries and new adventures, she was always there with her motherly caution, ‘Please be careful,’ and ‘Get some rest,’  — all the while saying ‘Go head, girl!’”
And I know she’s saying it now: To her daughter Malaya, who is still dancing, teaching and storytelling with a passion; To her granddaughter, M’Balia, who is about to get her degree all while working full time and raising three children and getting them through school and college. She’d say it to my daughter, Zuri, who is getting her acting on in London and will be an intern at  the Cannes Film Festival in May. She’d say it to her granddaughter Kamaya, who has taken her big brother Jeremy, under her wing as he has determined to turn his life around. And, of course, she would say “well done” to her  famous nephew Lamman, not just for his accomplishments as an actor, but for being a man with such a good, good heart.
My mom died on February 21, 2002 at 82. The weekend before, she had attended an AKA luncheon and the symphony. She was so active that when her friends didn’t hear from her in one 36-hour period, they knew something was up. They found her sitting in a comfy chair with her feet up, a cup of tea within reach.
She lived life fully to the end. That’s the best legacy she could leave.

About these ads

5 Responses to “The legacy of Mary Ray”

  1. Barbara Palmer February 27, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    Elaine, I loved reading your tribute to your wonderful mama. See so much of how you describe her in you.

  2. LaShan February 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    This is such a beautiful tribute…my Granny passed away February 15, 2002 and I continue to celebrate her legacy. What a blessing to see others do the same!

    Peace & Blessings to you all…

  3. quanita February 26, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    This was a beautiful post. I too lost my mother in Jan 2006 and reading your story enlightens the ever burning candle that we hold for them. I believe that she instilled the best in u and your family. Love & prayers through all eternity. Nita

  4. Lamman Rucker February 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Yo, Auntie, this one almost made me cry – For Real!!! Man, I miss her!!! I’m so incredibly proud of our entire family and the legacy we inherited from phenomenal people like my Grandma – your Mother – our Queen. I try to make her proud of me everyday. May her light continue to shine thru us all.

    I Love You.

    -LR-

  5. Catherine O'Brien February 26, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    I loved this entry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 619 other followers

%d bloggers like this: