Oprah: You say "I did." But do you still work at it?

Camille: Yes. Every day I work at it. This is not an easy thing. But it is becoming less painful as time goes on. Another thing I found out was that as a parent, you don't know everything about your children. When Ennis died, I had no idea he wrote poetry. He had written tons of poems that I found in his possessions and that other people sent me. I read one when I did a speech not long ago. And he was quite a poet.

Oprah: Didn't he write a poem about his sisters?

Camille: That's right. And then he wrote an article about a warrior woman; it was about me. He perceived me to be a warrior woman. I didn't know he looked at me like that. I guess he just saw me fighting for him, being his mother. I didn't know he had affected so many people's lives.

Oprah: Wasn't he creating a school for dyslexics and children with other learning differences?

Camille: He was. But I was looking at him as my son. He'd come in here and want some food, you know? "Mom this, Mom that." I was not really looking to see how much this person had been so generous and so developed in a way I never knew. I hadn't seen him as a man. It was interesting to learn so much about him, and I'm glad that I have, because it helps me a lot. It also helps me to think that Bill and I did a pretty good job. You know? That we didn't cheat him.

Oprah: I called Bill during that horrible time, trying to make him feel better, and he made me feel better. He said, "Our son lived a beautiful life. He had a full and wondrous life."

Camille: There were small children whom Ennis had spent time tutoring. He'd take them to basketball games because they were struggling in school. I didn't know he was giving so much of his time.

Oprah: I read that to get his degree, Ennis was required to work with a little boy for a year. But Ennis spent three years with the child.

Camille: That's right. That's the son we had. And that makes me feel good.

Oprah: Is that how you get through the pain? Because some people who read this will have lost a child, and they may think that they will never have another happy moment.

Camille: It is an individual thing. Not everyone can afford to take off six months. I know that. But it is important to deal with that pain. [Psychiatrist] Alvin Poussaint, a dear friend, once said to me, when my father was ill, "Camille, you are going to have to go through the pain. It is the only way you are going to heal. Go through the pain."

Oprah: When you say "deal with it," does that mean you take off six months and cry all the time?

Camille: No. It means not being afraid to think about the person. Not being afraid to even think about your mistakes relative to that person. Not being afraid to feel the loss. You know? Just let go of those fears, and whatever emotions come—yes, you're going to cry—let those emotions surface and just deal with them. Don't try to stuff them.


Next Story