It was a cloudy Tuesday morning on the first day of November 2022. The sun had not yet risen, but the sky above was awake and beginning to remind one of their own.
Yolanda Nichelle Curry, moaned slightly that morning as she lay in her living room on her hospice bed. She was given a dose of the liquid morphine medication she had been prescribed to keep her comfortable while she was at home waiting to die.
It eased his pain just enough, said his mother, Peggy Curry. Enough for Curry to breathe his last just over an hour later, shortly before sunrise.
“I told her, ‘Go to the light and don’t look back,'” her mother told the Detroit Free Press. “‘Drop your shield, you’ve fought the good fight,’ were my last words to her.”
Curry, 45, a Detroit artist known for her one-letter word, an Olde English D, signature earrings, took her last breath a day after Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Once surviving after a 2016 diagnosis, the cancer resurfaced in August 2021. But this time was different from the first, her mother said, and much more aggressive.
“Ultimately, it was in his bone marrow. It was in his liver. It was in his spine. It was in his pelvis (area). It was in his lungs. It was in his brain. It was everywhere,” Peggy Curry said.
Curry even wore an eye patch over his right eye due to the lesion that had developed behind his eye causing him to have double vision.
“I could see a digression since that last diagnosis, but I was far from prepared for it,” her mother said.
To the Detroit community and to the ears of those around the world to whom Curry’s D earrings hung, she was an artist, a creator, an innovator. But for Peggy Curry, Curry was a gift. His gift from God, she said.
“No mother wants to bury her child. No mother!” Peggy Curry, mother of four, said. “But I know she was a gift to me. …Not as long as I would have liked, but in that short time she gave me so much.
Among the gifts Peggy Curry says her daughter gave her were two grandchildren, Michaela Jenkins, 15, and Miguel Jenkins, 11. “They were his pride and his joy,” Peggy Curry said of Curry’s love for her children.
According to her mother, Yolanda – or Yo, as Peggy Curry often called her second born – even with everything she faced every day, including swallowing the “pharmacy of drugs” she was prescribed, was still a loving mother. .
Ahead of the 2022-23 school year, Curry’s mother said her daughter was still homeschooling her son, Miguel.
Peggy Curry said her daughter was determined that her children wouldn’t miss out because she was sick.
She drove as long as she could, taking the children’s seats. Once she was no longer able to drive, her mother says, she became her daughter’s “instant super driver”.
“She always helped with homework. There was no time for a pity party,” Peggy Curry said.
Peggy Curry said that before UM-grad Curry got sick, she and her daughter often traveled as a family. But once the cancer returned last summer – combined with the pandemic – travel took a back seat.
In August of this year, a year after being diagnosed with cancer for the second time, Curry took his final vacation with his mother and family.
“We took a trip to (Washington) DC with the kids and her sister,” Peggy Curry said.
Admittedly, Peggy Curry said she felt a little selfish about asking her daughter to go to DC, and she says she told her daughter until they got on the plane that if she wanted to stay home, that’s what they would do.
“The worst-case scenario, I told him, is that we would just lose money, and what is money, you know?” said Peggy Curry.
Nonetheless, Curry boarded the plane for Washington after being pushed to the gate in a wheelchair.
“At this point it (the cancer) was everywhere,” said Peggy Curry. “But she hung on.”
Curry used her rollator to get around during the trip, as she would at her home in Detroit. The tour group stopped at the Spy Museum, restaurants, the Wharf and other places they wanted to see while visiting the nation’s capital, making frequent stops for Curry along the way.
On the last day of the trip, Curry’s health began to take its toll. She was tired, her mother said, for most of the day, but she still left one last memory for her family in DC when she put on her bathing suit and entered the pool and hot tub with them.
“I just wanted to make those memories that we made, not even thinking the end was near,” Peggy Curry said.
The family returned home and, according to Peggy Curry, everything happened very quickly thereafter.
On October 17, Curry was taken to hospital by ambulance. She remained there until that Saturday, when she was released for hospice care and remained there until her death. His father, two brothers, younger sister and close family friends have all come with Curry in recent days. Her mum says she laughed and talked as much as she could, taking small bites of food with a friend as they reminisced about the good old days.
When she spent her last time with her children, her son, Miguel, wanted to spend time with his mother as well as the other family members. But her daughter, Michaela, has requested alone time with her mother.
“We gave him that,” Peggy Curry said. “I was talking to them from the start…and I told them I wasn’t a doctor, but we don’t know how much time your mother has.”
“So I said every time, every time you enter the house, every time you leave the house, you always come in, wash your hands, then greet your mother. Give her a hug and a kiss and tell her how your day went. Never say nothing happened. In fact, tell her something that happened and have that discussion with her.
Peggy Curry says she wanted to make sure everyone, especially Curry’s kids, could just reassure her “that we know she loves us and we love her”.
During Curry’s final days before his death, his mother said she knew the end was near.
“That Saturday before she died, I looked at her and I saw…I saw the change,” her mother said.
She says Curry has stopped eating and drinking fluids. Curry would frequently begin to sweat between his eyebrows from his pain. And on Saturdays in the future, Curry would sleep most of the day.
“I knew she was trying to transition,” her tearful mother said.
Shanise Tucker met Curry over a decade ago through a mutual friend, she said. The connection was instantaneous and the two remained close until his death.
“She was more than my friend,” Tucker said. “She was my sister, my prayer partner, my adventure friend, my inspiration and now my angel.”
On social media, Tucker shared a video of her and Curry, or “Yogi” as many of her friends called her. The video went through many different photos of the two hanging out and enjoying life, with some of their other friends. Maze’s song “Golden Time of Day” featuring Frankie Beverly played in the background with a heartfelt tribute written below the video.
Tucker, 47, says she’s been by Curry’s side since the first diagnosis.
“I remember the call,” she said. “I remember we sat by my pool and talked about what action she was going to take.”
On the day Curry died, many of his other friends all found themselves at the Detroit River unplanned. Her friend Jessica Moore said when she learned of her friend’s death she needed to go somewhere to meditate and pray. To her surprise, she said, more than a dozen other women through Espy Thomas, 41 — known as Etta FLYY in the arts community — and her band, Where do black women go to cry, were already on their way to the river for their routine group therapy session. Thus, they were all able to support each other in their grief.
“It was really beautiful,” Moore, 50, said. “We didn’t know it was happening in the band, but it was and it was beautiful.”
“I think she went through the normal ‘Why me?’ at first,” said Peggy Curry. “She was healthy. She ate healthy. She wasn’t vegan, but she ate organic. She didn’t eat red meat. She didn’t eat pork. she was cycling, she was walking and she was exercising.
Her mother said she told her daughter early on that God told her that “he had her in his arms.”
“He carried it all the way,” Peggy Curry said. “And now he’s brought her home.”