Monika Jones was asked recently what has been the single, most underlying lesson her mother, Ida Stewart -Jackson, has ever taught her.
For Jones, one familiar, yet life-changing word came to mind.
“My mom has shown me the true meaning of perseverance and forgiveness and I use her teaching every day in my professional and personal life to impact the lives of others,” Jones said during a recent interview for MemphiSport’s Second Annual Salute To Mother’s Day Tributes.
To grasp a clear understanding of just how far Jones, a Memphis Booker T. Washington and Lane College graduate has come with regards to forgiveness, look no further than the devastating developments that sent shock waves throughout her family and the sports world some four years ago.
On March 3, 2011, Jones’ sister, Middle Tennessee State basketball standout Tina Stewart — a former Memphis Central High hoops star who was “chasing her dreams” according to her high school, Niki Bray — was found dead with several stab wounds in her apartment near the Murfreesboro, Tennessee campus.
Shanterrica Madden, Stewart’s then-18-year-old roommate, was charged with Stewart’s murder, news that ultimately generated national headlines and gave way to arguably the most horrific moment in Jones’ life.
Thirty-one years old at the time, Jones recalls like yesterday how her sister’s untimely, yet shocking death “ripped her mother’s heart out” unlike any other encounter in her life.
“No one send
s their child to college to be a murdered,” a teary-eyed Jones explained. “I literally saw mother heart ripped from her chest. Her health deteriorated. Her days became painful. It was a struggle just to wake up every day, but yet she praised God and held on to her faith without reservation…more than I can say for myself. We are still grieving to this day. Some days are better than others and this is a pain that will never go away.”
Still, in spite of her family’s shared pain of having to bury its beloved Stewart who, according to many, was destined to make a run at landing in the WNBA ranks, Jones doesn’t shy away from the notion that her sister’s death, coupled with the monumental faith her mother displays daily are what essentially prompted her to establish a close knit relationship with God.
Today, more than ever before, forgiving others who have wronged, betrayed, or mistreated her has become virtually a customary trend, of sorts, for Jones, the mother of three.
“My mother brought me back to Christ even though her heart has a hole so deep it’s inconceivable,” said Jones, a longtime employee for the State of Tennessee.
Like forgiving others, Jones acknowledges that mourning her sister’s brutal death often makes some days tougher to stomach. Conversely, because of her mother’s tireless guidance and her unyielding desire to observe the situation from God’s perspective, she routinely finds the strength to recall and cherish those assortment of fond memories about which she and Stewart established.
“The last card my sister Clantina sent my mother said: “I want you to be strong like you have always taught me,” said Jones, constantly wiping tears from her eyes. “Not knowing that this would be the last message she would receive form her baby girl. I am so blessed to have her as my mother. When I thank God, I thank Him twice for her. I thank him for allowing me to be just like her.”
Especially when it comes to learning the significance of forgiving or, in Jones’ case, letting go and letting God.
“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do,” Jones said. “It comes from overcoming the things you thought you couldn’t do. (My mother) is my best friend, my everything and I’m so proud to be just like her. ‘The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my Father God, and I will exalt him.’ Just as my mother has taught me and shown me test and trials, and she is my testimony.”
Jones said as her eyes began to flood with tears.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Whether your mother is living or deceased, if you would like to pay homage to your mom, grandmother, wife, girlfriend, etc., with a unique Mother’s Day tribute that will feature an in-depth story like this one, call Reporter Andre Johnson at 901-690-6587 or Facebook message him under “Andre T. Johnson” for details.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.