One year ago today I lost my mentor. It’s so silly because all of my life I always thought of her as my aunt and eventually my Godmother, but for the first time, today, I realize yet another thing she was to me. She was my mentor.
Her name is Anjanelle Carter. It’s 4am here in New York and I’m up thinking about her. She is pretty amazing on so many levels so it only makes sense that she would be my mentor.
The list of things my aunt taught me are somewhat endless. As she neared the end of her battle with breast cancer I started to retrace our steps together and I couldn’t help but see how much she shaped me, and my growth.
Anjanelle taught me how to sew. We sewed clothes for my Barbies! She taught me how to use a computer before there were Macs and Windows and you had to write DOS commands for everything (some of you all may have no idea what I’m even talking about!). She let me have her Atari 2400 back when that was the first home video game console and every kid was dying to have one! In school I wrote reports saying she was the person I most admired. When I was young, she and I were even in fashion shows together.
My aunt booked me my first appearance on television, doing a fashion segment on the local news in Cleveland. She worked as an engineer at the NBC affiliate WKYC in Cleveland and as a child she was the first person to take me into a television studio and introduce me to the people I watched on TV. She showed me how television worked from behind the scenes in master control and whenever she took me to work with her, everyone said how much we looked alike☺.
When I got baptized in junior high school I asked her to be my Godmother—she had been doing that job anyway so it only seemed appropriate! She sent me care packages when I was in college filled with treats. She was also a cosmetologist (two careers!) and when I was a broke graduate student she did my hair for free. Her house was one of those open-door type of places where you were always welcome and you could always get a good meal! I stayed in Cleveland for a short time before I went to Yale and I think I ate at her house every day!
Anjanelle has a huge spirit! She was a connector. She held our entire family together. She was everyone’s “light” and friend. We all leaned on and confided in her. She held us together like someone beyond her years in a matriarchal way, especially after my Granny passed. She kept us all informed of what everyone else was doing and she stayed in touch with all of those long lost relatives that no one else called but her. Her house was the gathering place and everyone wanted to be around her.
My aunt Anjanelle was the sweetest, friendliest, nicest person I’ve ever known. I feel a profound sense of loss without her in my life. I am celebrating wonderful things in my career and she’s the person I want to call to say “Guess what?!” She’s the person I called when I needed advice or to just tell a joke.
When she got breast cancer I just assumed we could beat it. Anjanelle tried everything medically possible. The cancer metastasized and she even had brain surgery to remove cancer. Until her final days she was cheery and bright. She faced cancer and her passing with great dignity and despite her understanding that cancer was taking her life, she literally fought until the very end to remain with us. We were as much to her as she was to us. She NEVER gave up or gave in. That made us love her even more.
So she’s why I’m up in the middle of the night writing. She had that affect on people. I miss her tremendously. In addition to being a great aunt, she was also a wonderful mom and wife (she’s been with my uncle over 30 years). She didn’t start having children until I was ten years old so she always called me her “first child” and my cousin “her first born.” That always made me proud☺
I feel incapable of accurately describing who and what she was to me. I can’t put it into words. At her memorial service I was at a loss for words (unusual!!) so instead I read Nikki Giovanni’s “Ego Tripping.” It was not how my aunt would describe herself—it was how I would describe her. As AMAZING! She is a big part of why I am here today and I am eternally grateful for her love and mentoring.
I miss her everyday and I still talk with her spirit to spirit. I know that she is around me and I’m glad. She keeps telling me not to be sad, which makes me sad, as she continues to mother me from the other side. It’s so like her to still worry about how I’m doing!
If you have an Anjanelle or an Angel (as some called her), in your life, enjoy the time that you have together while you can. Show them you love and appreciate them, while you can for tomorrow isn’t promised. Live and love today!