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  • Dedan K. Bruner

“The Days Are Long, But the Years Are Short”

Remembering Portia White

By Theresa S. Thames


I remember the phone call. Portia on the other end with her calm voice barely above a

whisper saying, “Girrrrl, I’m pregnant.” This baby announcement was done in Portia’s typical laid back fashion via a simple phone call. I could hear the excitement mixed with trepidation in her voice. This was understandable given that over the years she had desperately wanted to become a mother, even taking care of other people’s children, but she was never able to carry her own baby to full term. So we ended the phone call with laughter, hope and silent prayers.


Our years growing up together were full of laughter, hope, and prayers. Portia was the

cool older sister who was effortlessly fly. I desperately wanted to be like her and lived for her approval and fashion forward hand-me-downs. She was shy yet popular; mischievous and yet had a heart full of compassion. She was the trusted friend, the ride-or-die lover and the keeper of secrets. She made sure that no one went without a place to lay their head and believed that good food was a balm for the weary soul.


Portia was beautiful, but during her pregnancy she was glorious. Her face became round,

her hair bounced with every move and her skin was radiant. Besides having nine months of motion sickness, her pregnancy was uneventful and so was her delivery. When she went into labor, she continued her day as usual so that by the time she arrived at the hospital she was too far along for an epidural and delivered a healthy baby boy within a few short hours. It was just like Portia to gift a child to the world without a fuss.


As a mother, Portia was careful and timid with her baby boy. It was as if she feared that she would break him or that someone would come and take him away. She held him with every ounce of love she could muster in the midst of her struggle with postpartum depression. When we looked at him we saw her and she saw herself in him. He was all hers, forever.


She doted on him and as the old folks say, “she spoiled him rotten.” His clothes were

perfectly starched and color coordinated. His shoes were white white. Portia fed him, she

lotioned him up and even tied his shoes until he was nearly seven years old. She bought him whatever he wanted and gave him his every desire. She held him tight, often too tight. Looking back, it was as if she knew something that we did not know. Portia knew the truth of the saying, “the days are long, but the years are short.”


On his first day of third grade, her baby boy did not show up to school. Instead, he made

his way to his maternal grandmother’s front door crying because his mama was on the floor. On that August morning, Portia was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was diagnosed with cryptococcal meningitis. Over the next three months, we stood around Portia’s bedside as she loved on us by making us laugh, sharing beautiful memories and gripping our hands as we offered up countless prayers. Then one day before dawn on a November morning, without a fuss, Portia made peace with this world and drew her final breath.


The days were long, but the years were indeed too short.