Please READ this beautiful tribute written by daughter Jewel Mideau. Jewel pays tribute to her mom Vernelda Harris who earned her wings and is now resting in heaven. I was blessed to reconnect with this beautiful and talented young lady. Jewel is a member of the Saints Unified Voices, directed by Gladys Knight.
(Picture- Mom Vernelda Harris, daughter sitting in chair)
Jewel credits her success to her mom. She has a Bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University (ECU) in Hospitality Management and Business, a Masters in Human Resource Management from American InterContinental University (AIU) and will confer her Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership & Management in the next couple of years. While pursuing her Doctorate, she is the Academic Dean of Hospitality at Pima Community College in Tucson, AZ, with the goal of becoming Provost of a college.
How did your mom’s life and example contribute to your accomplishments and successes?
My mother was fearless in every way. I am certain she had challenges and things that terrified her at times, but she lived a life of a superhero, never taking “no” for an answer. She taught us that the answer was always YES…now how we figured out the details to that yes would be another story, but that there was always a way. She was my modern day Moses; I watched her part seas and move mountains. She did things that were impossible and always taught us to stand up straight, look them in the eyes, and get it done. Oh, the joy she still gives me as I sit here and write this. She wore an “S” on her chest. She could fight the biggest wars, and calm the most raging of seas, and yet she was gentle and meek at the very same time. I swear she had multiple personalities and to this day, those multiple personalities live on in me. Her examples of professionalism, poise, confidence, love, respect, and esteem for herself as a woman were all some of the most profound virtues that she instilled in us.
How did your mom inspire you to live out your dreams?
My mother inspired me to live out my dreams in so many ways. We watched her struggle as we grew up. She became a single mother of 4 very young children under the age of 8 when my father passed away at the age of only 34 years old due to complications of cardiomyopathy. She was devastated and left shattered, but even as a small child I watched her serve others instead of wallowing in complete pity and sorrow. As we got older and she remarried, while she had a tumultuous marriage at times, she taught us the true definition of unconditional love for someone or something other than yourself. Through all of this she inspired me to strive to live a life of happiness, as well as success. She passed away when I was 30 years old and she was only a very young age of 50. However, in the year and a half prior to her passing, we had one of the most amazing gifts, and that was time…time to create memories, time to love, time to grieve, time to share, time to learn, and time to remember. She inspired us to live NOW, not the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas.”
What are some of your mom’s famous sayings when you were growing up?
My mother would always say to me, “If you have to ask, expect to be told no.” So now, I never ask for anything I want or need, I do it and apologize later. Of course in the most respectful way.
Tell us about some of your mother daughter moments when you were younger?
My mother was laid back but was so loud all of the time. Everywhere we went, the only person’s voice who you could hear would be hers. I used to hate it, but as I became an adult, I learned how to argue and speak to her in a way that I could only as an adult (I would NEVER have gotten away with it as a teen or even a very young adult). I had the best times with her when I could say, “mom, what the hell, why are you always SO loud?” We would laugh and she would always say she was not loud and simply speaking in her normal voice. I loved it. We had some of the most tender moments, specifically, when I was involved in a horrific car accident while away at school in NC. It happened on her birthday, so to get a call at the end of the night on your birthday that your daughter was in ICU and told nothing else had to be the most frightening and life shattering thing any parent could receive. But for my mother, she said she simply went in her closet, got on her knees, and prayed. She flew down to NC the very next earliest morning flight, and while on the plane she said Heavenly Father told her and showed her that everything was going to be awful for a while, but alright in the end. When she arrived at the hospital, she was briefed on my condition, that my neck was broken in half and that they did not yet know how they were going to be able to treat me. She told them that although they were the doctors, her Heavenly Father said it was going to be alright. In all of my life, that experience next to her passing was something I will NEVER forget. She stayed with me in ICU against hospital policy because Heavenly Father revealed to her the “spiritual warfare” that was taking place in the ICU around me. Satan was literally fighting to try to claim my life (hence the doctors telling her they didn’t know how to treat my broken neck due to the type of break it was and the swelling on my brain. I was 21 years old and she brushed my teeth, washed my face, helped me use the bathroom and then wiped me, she bathed me and made sure I had lotion on my body and chapstick on my lips because I could not move. She told me stories of the spiritual battles that were taking place around me and the demons that sought so heavy after me. I didn’t think it was a joke but I certainly thought she was just delusional because I was her child. Little did I know I’d find out just how real it was each night as night fell. It’s eerie even talking about this now but it is also so beautiful.
What advice would you give to those women young and old women who want to improve their relationships with their mom while she is still living?
To those women, no matter the age who have a desire of any kind to improve/strengthen/change the relationship they have with their mom, I say to you, I would give ANYTHING in this entire world to have my mother here in an earthly state. Yes, there were times I absolutely loathe her opinions and feedback, but her love for me surpassed everything. To every woman who still has their mother living, I get it, something may have happened, great or small to cause dissension and contention and driven you all apart. However, this life is but a speckle in time and can and will be gone in the blink of an eye. I see so many people say “I wish I would have just had a chance to say goodbye”…do not live this way. Live everyday with your mother as if it were you last. Every human being is special and priceless, but your mother…she holds a place and a space that is unlike anything in this entire world. She carried you, birthed you, nurtured you, raised you, and that is so precious. And maybe your mother did not do some of these things or did not do them well, but as long as you are alive, find out why, when you cross over that veil one day to meet your God, be able to say, “Yes Lord, I honored my MOTHER and my FATHER.” Love your mothers, learn from your mothers, teach your mothers, uplift your mothers because remember, some of us would give our lives to have our mothers back. I would give anything to be able to pick up the phone and call my mom about the things this stupid man of mine has done, or to ask about some old home remedy for her grandchild’s cold, or cry to her because I’m so tired and do not feel like I can go on being a wife, mother to small children, and boss at work. I’d give anything to call and vent about my dumb and inconsiderate siblings, and the mean old lady at the store. Do not continue to take for granted what others so desperately want and do not have…our MOTHERS. I would give anything if Heavenly Father would allow me one opportunity to just sit and talk with her for 30 minutes.