“Anybody who goes through life with open mind and open heart will encounter these moments of revelation, moments that are saturated with meaning, but whose meaning cannot be put into words. These moments are precious to us. When they occur it is as though, on the winding, ill-lit stairway of our life, we suddenly come across a window, through which we catch sight of another and brighter world – a world to which we belong but which we cannot enter.” 

Roger Scruton

When climbing “the winding, ill-lit stairway of our life” our words may very well fail to fully capture the depths of meaning we can experience — from our most precious revelations to our most intense joys and deepest woes.  

Yet, though our words never quite suffice, they are sometimes all we have in the midst of our troubles, even after we pass from this world to the indescribable beyond.  

If I had to nominate one word most worthy of the task of saying what we can never say – the one word closest to expressing a grace from a world that always escapes our tongues – that word would be “Mama.”  

It’s the word cried most often from our cradles and at the doorstep of our graves.  

“Momma, momma, I've been shot. I'm going to die."  

Those are the words Frieda Owens heard over the phone on what had been a normal Friday afternoon in Montgomery. It was her daughter, Amy on the line. 

"Momma, I love you. I can't move. I love you. Take care of Ella.” 

Amy Dicks was shot by a stray bullet while simply waiting at a stoplight on the afternoon of April 12, 2024. Caught in the crossfire, she was struck by a bullet never intended for her, a bullet that ripped through her shoulder, hit her rib and lungs, and then severed her spinal cord. At the Montgomery City Council meeting following the shooting, members of the community, especially Amy’s friends and family, showed up in force to demand accountability and more police action by the city government to combat the rise in shootings. 

“Mama, get up. Put your clothes on. We’re at the hospital.”  

Those are the words Zelma Perkins heard from her daughter-in-law, the wife of her son Stephen.  

Once at the Huntsville hospital, Zelma saw her other son, Nick, waiting for her. Zelma knew something was wrong. 

 “Mama,” he said, “Stephen didn’t make it.” 

Stephen Perkins was shot and killed on his front lawn in the middle of the night on Sept. 29, 2023. Former Decatur Police Officer Mac Bailey Marquette is charged with his murder and has pleaded not guilty in the case. The officer-involved shooting occurred after an altercation between Perkins and a man who was trying to repossess his truck. Members of the community characterize the scene as a careless ambush by the Decatur Police, especially after officer body cam footage was leaked to the public. Six months after Perkins’ alleged murder, protests continue, as do calls for accountability from city leaders. 

Two different mothers, two different communities, two different tragedies that nonetheless remind us of how unspeakably fragile life can be.  

Though Amy Dicks survived her life-threatening injuries, her life will never be the same. A mother herself, she is now paralyzed from the breast line down. Yet, her spirit remains undaunted despite the unknown. 

“I don’t know what God has in store for me,” Dicks wrote in an update a few days after the shooting, “but I am thanking him for allowing me the ability to keep my mind, my voice and my arms to hug!” 

What remarkable gratitude and grace. What a lesson in humility that no matter how much is lost, there is still much left over which to rejoice.  

But what of those who have completely lost a life? What of a mother who has lost her child? What could ever provide solace when one’s son is so suddenly ripped from this world?  

“One day I was walking through the house since he’s been gone,” Zelma Perkins told WAAY 31, holding a card her son had given her in the past, “and I tell you when I picked it up it just kinda floored me. And the way he said it, he said, ‘I love you like no other Mama’ … It’s a treasure for me and how he gave thanks to the Lord.” 

Some moments are so saturated with meaning that they cannot be put into words. Our grief can especially consign us to silence. Yet, even after we are gone, sometimes a simple word left behind can offer a window to rejoice in another and brighter world — a world to which we belong but which we cannot enter.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email joeyclarklive@gmail.com. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

Don’t miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.