When I ask myself which do I prefer, being in attendance at Juanita’s celebration of life to tell others how much I cared for her or sharing those expressions with her while she could hear me, I feel better. And while I didn’t get the opportunity to say farewell, I take solace in knowing that every conversation ended with expressions of love, respect and appreciation, strengthened by prayers. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Cheryl Smith, Publisher, Texas Metro News

Have you ever experienced a sunken feeling, a feeling of despair, of hopelessness? You know the feeling you have or the moment you find yourself feeling regret after something has happened and you’re thinking, “If I coulda, woulda, shoulda.”

Well, you have to seize the moment, every moment! If you want to tell someone you love them, you need to do it. Don’t hesitate and don’t let anyone else make or take away your decision to express your feelings. If you want to tell someone you don’t like them, well, think again and also ask yourself “what do I hope to accomplish,” or “what is the end game?” We have to understand that there are consequences and repercussions for our actions and our inactions. We have to be accountable and also hold others accountable.

Years ago I went to a funeral and a young man stood up and said that he wished his loved one could hear all the accolades that were being shared that day because his relative took his last breaths thinking that he was unloved. What a tragedy.

Which brings me to my truth. I really like Caller I.D. This feature has kept me free from telemarketers, bill collectors, exes, and folks who only call when they want something.

Well recently, a number appeared on the caller id and while it was unfamiliar to me, I felt compelled to answer. And I’m glad I did. When the call was completed, I sat deep in thought. The caller informed me that they had come across my number and wanted to alert me of the passing of someone who was very special to me.

Juanita Benson

I met Juanita Benson when I moved to Dallas and attended my first FAMU alumni chapter meeting. Over the years we became close and at one point she served in my cabinet as my vice president.

We had long talks about life, our love for FAMU and our common interests. Juanita finished FAMU in the early 1960s, and me in 1980. What a difference time makes, but we bridged the gap and shared so many special moments.

When we were really active with the alumni chapter, we had active members from the 1940s – 1980s and we had events that appealed to all ages so everyone felt included.

Juanita’s love for FAMU was genuine and never-ending. Sometimes Juanita and I talked just twice a year, for my birthday and for hers. But they were good talks and I valued that time. In all of our conversations, Juanita never dwelled on her cancer diagnosis. She was always being supportive of others and especially her son, Bill, whom she was very proud of.

I am so glad that Bill reached out to me. Unfortunately, he was unable to contact me in time to share in the celebration of life for his mom and that saddens me because just one more moment with my friend, just one more… Juanita believed in me.

The thought of her passing brings back so many fond memories of her living. I am grateful for the time we shared together because there was no pretentiousness. Instead there was a sincerity and compassion that made Juanita so special. Juanita didn’t have to guess about the relationship we had. So I don’t have to ponder this thought at all.

When I ask myself which do I prefer, being in attendance at Juanita’s celebration of life to tell others how much I cared for her or sharing those expressions with her while she could hear me, I feel better. And while I didn’t get the opportunity to say farewell, I take solace in knowing that every conversation ended with expressions of love, respect and appreciation, strengthened by prayers.

Here is Juanita’s obituary:

Juanita Benson (July 1, 1939 – December 30, 2018)

Juanita was born to Samuel and Viola Nicholson Jackson in Dallas, Texas.

Juanita was a graduate of Booker T. Washington Technical High School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Dallas, TX. She was also a proud graduate of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, FL, and did post-graduate studies at several area universities. Juanita was employed by the Dallas Independent School District for over 35 years as a psychological counselor. She was also a part-time employee of American Airlines for over 10 years.

Juanita was a faithful member of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, and previously Epiphany Episcopal Church, both in South Dallas, where she served as a member of the Episcopal Church Women and in the choir. She loved to sing, dance, and travel. Juanita was married to the late William Taylor, Sr., and subsequently to the late Charles Benson.

She is survived by her son, William “Bill” Taylor, Jr., seven nieces and nephews and a host of other beloved family members, friends, and caregivers.

Farewell, dear Rattler…

COMMENTARY: My Truth — Celebrating Women

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