Swimming Through These Murky Waters

Trease Shine Hinton
Coffee House Writers
4 min readJan 8, 2018

On December 9, my nephew passed away in his sleep. I was only nine years older than he was, and since my mom and dad raised him, we were brought up as brother and sister. He didn’t know I wasn’t his sister until he got in a fight one day in elementary school and the school secretary told him that she was going to call his aunt. He told her he didn’t have an aunt. She told him that I was his aunt. He became livid and started screaming, “she’s my sister!” Looking back, I guess I never told him any different because in my mind, he was my little brother.

Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

I’m lost. I suspect I will be for a long, long time to come. You see, I know he died. I know there was a funeral — I was there. I wrote his obituary. I know we buried him. I just don’t feel separated from him yet. Let me explain.

The Loss of my Mother

On October 24, 2015, my mother died. She was 85 and had been sick for a very long time. Rheumatoid arthritis had mangled her joints and rendered her nearly immobile. Dementia had destroyed her mind. The truth is I lost my mother a long time before she actually died. Dementia is a mean, nasty evil that takes the heart of those who witness a loved one enduring it, along with all those sweet memories.

Just like most folks, my mother was my lifeline. She had lived a very hard life herself, having been married and widowed by the time she was 15. She gave birth to my oldest brother shortly after his father died. She quit school in 9th grade in order to work, and no, it wasn’t maid’s work or anything like that. She cut railroad ties. If you don’t know what those are, look them up and then imagine a teenage girl doing that kind of work. Her own mother died at age 38, from complications of diabetes and heart failure. Mama was 18 and took it upon herself to raise all the other children, who were 10 and under. There were three of them. Mama was one of 15 children (there had been 16, but one died shortly after birth). Y’all, my grandmother was 38 when she died. She was only 38. Mama raised us to be extremely independent, and for that I am eternally grateful. That’s why I’m the woman I am today.

When she passed, I was able to release her almost immediately because I knew her work here was done. I also knew there would be no more pain for her. The doctors allowed us to see her shortly after she slipped into eternal sleep, and I bent down and whispered to her, “it’s okay for you to fly now, Mama. We’re going to be okay.”

I really was okay until December 9, 2017.

The Loss of my Nephew

I received word of his passing as I was driving home from Dallas. My sister’s screams over the phone will haunt me forever. I’ll never get them out of my head. I pulled over and physically shook for about 10 minutes, and deep down inside I’m still quivering. I’m still shaking. The weird thing is I have no problems looking at pictures of him. I have no problem seeing videos of him dancing and acting a fool.

Photo credit: Trease Shine Hinton

The issues arise when I’m quiet or am by myself. The one-hour drive to work drags me. The shortest route for me to get to work takes me past his house. That’s where he died. For the first few days, I couldn’t look over at it. Then when I could, I would instantly become numb. The drive home brings me right past it again. By the time I make it there, I’ve cried at least 30 minutes, so I’m exhausted.

I half-expect him to call, but I know without a doubt that he never will. I know that makes no sense, but I just haven’t released him yet. I still half-expect him to text me and ask me to do his hair. That will never happen again and I know it. I just haven’t let him go. It’s like I’m swimming in the murkiest of waters, and I have no clue how to make it to the surface.

Pushing On and Pressing Forward

I have no choice but to press forward because my son still needs me. He took my nephew’s death harder than any of us did because, in the tangled love-knot that we are, he considered my nephew a father figure and a brother.

I still have my grand daughter to care for. My sisters and brothers need me. My other nephews and nieces need me.

I still have so much writing to do. I plan to publish my book before year-end. It’s just hard.

I’m treading under some very murky waters right now, and while I don’t feel like I’m drowning, I am stuck. One day, I know I’ll find my way to the surface, but for now, I can’t see.



Trease Shine Hinton
Coffee House Writers

Domestic Violence Prevention Advocate | Adjunct English Instructor | Editor | Proofreader | Writer | Speaker | M.A., English and Creative Writing