Sunday morning I arrived at church late only to be reminded that the first Sunday of the month is always the longest Sunday. We do baby dedications, baptisms, AND communion. Needless to say, I was relieved that even though I missed a good amount of service, it wasn’t as much as I originally thought. Never one to be extremely moved by baby dedications (or babies for that matter), I did something that some may consider to be sacrilege: I checked Twitter during church service. I will never, ever, do that again.
While scrolling Twitter I saw a tweet from a friend that said that Maurice, a mutual friend of ours, had been missing since Friday. The tweet had a link to a picture of him. I said Maurice’s name in my head about five times as if there was no way he was talking about the one I knew. When the link opened up and his familiar smiling face was revealed, my body froze immediately.
“Why is Maurice missing?!” I yelled as soon as Lici picked up when I called her. “I don’t know but I’m freaking out.” Lici sounded completely worn out. Maurice was a buddy of mine but he was a brother, a pastor, a mentor, and somewhat of a comedic nemesis to her. They were both notorious for their banter of fighting back and forth seeing who could zing the other the best. The last she had heard, he was last heard from on Friday. He was supposed to be at the airport to perform in a show on Sunday morning but never showed. This was completely against normal behavior. His car was later discovered but there was no trace of him. I really didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t sure if I should’ve been thinking anything at all. It was my first day to co-host a new radio podcast and I knew that if I didn’t just pray and try my best to let it go, I wasn’t going to make it.
The next few hours were a daze as I ran errands. I called the host and producer of the show and let him know that if I was to receive any unpleasant news prior to recording, I really wasn’t sure if I’d be able to record. I assured him that once I arrived at the studio that I was going to turn my phone completely off so that I could stay focused. He kindly let me know that no matter what happened I had everyone’s support. Then in true Toya fashion, I went and got myself a consolation cupcake and went for a drive. I remembered that just last week I was in the shower praying that every last one of my friends would do what they were created to do. In the bible it says "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed". My prayer was no longer for a long life but a purposeful one. I prayed for everyone's safety and direction. I prayed to no longer be worried that things like this would happen to the ones I love. “God if the worst has happened, I know that by sheer definition that you are good. But let me say this: if someone did something to him, how am I supposed to feel protected? I’m supposed to believe that we are safe; that grace and mercy follow us. Who would do something awful to Maurice? I’m not quite sure how we are going to be if this is what it sounds like. You owe me no explanation but things will be different.”
I went and recorded the show which went rather well but refused to check my phone. I got home and started reading in my bed when suddenly I felt a peace. A peace that said that I could handle what the truth turned out to be: Maurice was no longer with us. I checked Twitter to find that he had suffered a heart attack and was found deceased. I was more relieved at that moment than I had been the entire day knowing only that he was missing.
Maurice was a very kind man with an incredible sense of humor. He had a calming spirit about him that when you were around him and even after you left his presence, you just felt at peace. A gospel singer, he loved God with all his heart and worked as a backup singer for Wynona Judd for some time. He was known and loved by so many. Maurice was also a pastor at one point and had ministered to countless people. Knowing this, and this may sound really odd, my relief began to turn to happiness once I knew the truth. Maurice was, actually Maurice IS, just fine.
“I’m sorry about your friend, sweetie” my mom said when she called a few minutes after I texted her the outcome. “Oh he’s fine. He’s just not here is all. But at least he’s ok.” I said nonchalantly. I truly felt that. Clearly he’s not in danger. He’s more than fine. Everything he was concerned about the last time we talked is null and void now. He’s free. To me he was good and safe. Yeah, my stages of grief are a little odd to say the least. I watched his story on the news and thought to myself “Maurice, you are on the freaking news! Are you serious? YOU!”
Yet today, three days later, the sadness has started to set in. I can’t believe I will never see him on earth again. He was always around and now he’s not and never will be. It hurts and it’s hard. I accept it but it’s just hard to understand. And just when I start to get sad, I see his face and start to smile. I think about how happy he must have been when he got to heaven and while it's hard on the rest of us, it makes me happy for him. I know it’s something he anticipated and thought about because he wrote this song about it. This is him singing "Heaven".
If I could send a card to him in heaven it would say this: You lucky duck. LOL! Now trust I am not trying to join you soon but I am a little envious that where you are you have no more worries and no more fear. I hate that this is so final but it’s good to know that where you are, you are not laughing to keep from crying. You’re not smiling on the outside while you are struggling on the inside. You are truly free. I love you Maurice and I’m glad that we got to share our lives together.