Three years ago tonight my sweet 56 year old Mama went to heaven.
The events that led up to her death were like a whirlwind. She started having issues in March of 2009. She was misdiagnosed as having Irritable Bowel Syndrome. She was rapidly losing weight but still managed to get up and go to work every day. She even hiked up to the Walker Sisters Cabin in June with me and my children even though she was not feeling well.
After seeing at least 3 different doctors and not finding any real answers, I remember getting a phone call from my Daddy, in late September telling me that one of the doctors mentioned that it might be Pancreatic Cancer. Pancreatic Cancer? I thought that was something that people who drank too much alcohol got. Cancer? Not in my family.
By the time she had surgery at the University of Tennessee on November 12, 2009. It was too late. She was eat up with it and it had spread to all of her internal organs. The worst part of it was, opening her up and messing with that cancer seemed to awaken it and made it angry. It was vile and evil and she never really got better or was the same after that.
I am jumping around here a bit so bear with me. The same day that my Mother was operated on at UT, my Father had a huge Heart Attack and had to go in and have a triple bypass. Thank the Lord we were already at a great hospital so they were able to save him. My brother and I had both parents in operating rooms and thought that we could lose them both at the same time.
When my Mother woke up that night, she kept asking me “Where’s Daddy?” I had to fib to her and tell her that he was not feeling well and that he had to go home. The nurses thought it best that she did not know right out of her recovery.
The next morning, as she asked again “ where is your Father? Where is Daddy?” I had to tell her the truth.
Looking into those sweet brown eyes and telling her that her husband had a heart attack, is in ICU and may not make it was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do. I remember her sounding like a little kitten because she was so weak and hurting, that was the only crying sound that she could make.
She stayed in the hospital for three weeks and I traveled back and forth from North Carolina to Tennessee on a weekly basis. Daddy was able to go home in just two weeks and his brother, My Uncle Dewey was thankfully able to come in from Colorado to take care of him.
Thank God for family. Seriously. My children were 10, 8 and 6 at the time and as much as I wanted to be there all of the time with my Mama, I had to also get back home and take care of my own too. I have a lot of Aunts and a brother who were like Angels in disguise. They stayed with her when I needed to get back home for a few days.
I don’t really know why none of the Doctors ever came in to tell us the straight facts. Maybe it was because of the traumatic situation with my father being sick too. I am just not sure. I remember being in her hospital room Dr. Bell along with 5 Medical Students who were making their rounds.
I was somewhat clueless to cancer but had done some research. I remember him sitting on my Mama’s bed, holding her hand and I asked him, “I have heard that cancers are rated on a scale of 1-4. He said “yes” and it was like pulling a tooth, trying to get him to tell me. When he finally said that she was at stage 4, every one of those young people started crying. I had to just sit down in shock.
Fast forward a few weeks. We finally get to take her home. She was so glad to be able to be back in her own house with her things and to be with my Father again. I don’t know if it was because we were all in denial or what but we didn’t really talk about it. We tried to be normal again. We watched Christmas movies and laughed and cooked good, healthy foods.
She only got upset once. She had just taken a shower and put on make up and was wearing some pretty black Pajamas that My Aunt Debby had sent for her to wear. She looked so pretty, sitting there in her bed. She suddenly just burst out crying saying that she didn't want to leave all of us. We tried to reassure her that we were all going to help her fight this. Those tears still haunt me.
A few days before New Year’s Eve, she had a follow-up appointment. I drove her to the hospital and her Doctor looked her over then she went over to the Oncologist who was in charge of Chemotherapy. They were ready to get her started on Chemo the next week. I did not like how ready he was to pump my poor, frail Mother full of Chemicals. Thankfully, her doctor told him that she needed to heal better before we even thought of doing chemotherapy.
That night I made up a batch of Spinach Maria for them along with some other goodies and the next day (New Years Eve) I headed back east to my little family. A few days went by then my Mother called me in a very weak voice saying, “I’m not doing too good Lindy”. I reassured her that Daddy would call the doctor in the morning and that I would be back to take her if I needed to.
The next morning, I got a call from her home health care nurse telling me that she sent Mama to UT by ambulance because all of her vital signs were very low and she said that my Daddy was in denial. Well, again I jump in the car to make the 5 hour trip back to TN. Part of I-40 was closed during that time because of a rock slide so I had to drive right through the mountains every time.
When we got to UT, My Daddy told me that her Doctor had been in to see them and that it was just a matter of days before she died.
I did NOT want my Mama to die at the Hospital. I wanted her to die in the bed that she slept in, in the house where the sights and smells were familiar. Not some old hospital.
We had been in such denial about the whole thing that I was quickly snapped into reality when my brother’s girlfriend asked me about where my Mother wanted to be buried. Holy Cow! This is REAL!
I remember walking in to her room and talking to her, completely in a fog and numb. I told her that she was my best woman friend and how much I loved her. I then had to ask her about her where she would like to be buried. She said “I guess you can put me at the little church where Lorie goes”. My friend Lorie is a member of a 175 year old church that is just down the road from my parent’s house. She also told me that she wanted someone to sing The Old Rugged Cross and The Dance.
Dear God, I never expected to be asking her these kinds of questions at her young age. I felt so bad for her. She was only 55 years old.
After we got her home and comfortable, family started coming in and visiting and saying their goodbyes. That was so hard. She had her last birthday on earth on the 9th of January and all of her brothers and sister were there with her. That was really touching. We were telling jokes and laughing, like we always do. Mama even laughed too and told us we were crazy. That is one thing you can count on with the Redding Family; we can find something to laugh about even in the most terrible circumstances.
On January 10th, my husband decided that we needed to go back home and rest for a few days. I did not find out until later that he talked with my very intuitive, Aunt Deena and she told him that my Mama would not die if I or her grandbabies were there in the house.
Before we left, I sat and talked to her for a while. I painted her fingers and toes so that they would be pretty and we all hugged her and told her goodbye, telling her that we would see her in a couple of days.
We came back to NC and I spent the day making a guest book for her funeral with pictures of her throughout it.
That night, I finally sat down to watch Antiques Road show. Mama, my Grandmother and I used to sit and watch that show and then call each other and talk about the treasures that we saw on there.
About 9:30, I got a call from my Aunt Diane. I’ll never forget her words or the sound of her voice “Lindy, your Mama has passed away”. I didn’t have the reaction that I guessed a person might in that situation. I just quietly and calmly accepted it. It all felt like a bad dream to me and I really wasn’t sure how to act. Funny though, as my Aunt recounted my Mother’s last minutes, she told me that they had been watching the Antiques Road show.
It is interesting how people die like they lived. Whenever my Mother had work to do, she liked to put all of her effort into it and she wanted everyone out of the house. If she wanted to do a deep clean, she insisted that my Father leave so that she could do her work without interruption. The night she died, my family was gone, my Father and Brother had left to go spend the night at my Grandmother’s house so that left just two of her sister in law with her. Aunt Dianne said that my Aunt Deena had just stepped out of the room and My Mother took her last breath.
I guess she had to get all of us out of her way so that she could get down to her business of dying.
I miss her so much.
A friend of mine, who was only trying to be helpful, told me that it takes an average of 6 months to get over a death. I remember thinking at the time “what kind of nut job wrote that and were they referencing the death of a goldfish?"
I also was given a book about the 5 stages of death. That is really a bunch of garbage.
We are all different and not one of us process things in the same way. It has been three years and it is not really any easier. Just different.
After she died, I went numb and lost my faith.
I found out that I have some really great family members and I have a husband that is THE sweetest, kindest man in the world. He sat down and helped me write out all of the Thank You notes after the funeral and has been here for me to cry to, over and over again.
Chris and my Mother did not have the typical Mother/ Son in law relationship. They had a mutual respect and love for each other and several times, if I was fussing with Chris and she happened to be there, she took up for HIM!
It has been three whole years since I heard her voice. I am so sad that my children won’t be able to really get to know the Grandmother who thought they all just hung the moon. I am sad that my Daddy has to go on without the little gal that he has loved since she was 16. I am sad that my Aunt has to go on without her sister and that the life of this good, sweet, loving and hardworking woman was cut short too soon by a very evil and aggressive cancer.
One of the many songs that were played at her funeral.