It was a brutally cold night in December. My wife was having severe stomach pains and thought it might be an appendicitis attack. So we thought it was best to seek medical attention just to be on the safe side. Driving to the hospital proved difficult. Not only was my wife in pain, but mother nature decided it was a great idea to dump two inches of ice on the ground. I carefully drove the car through the ice and snow to get her checked out; her crying with pain the entire time. Needless to say, we arrived at the hospital safely. As the doctors checked her out, I told her not to worry, everything will be alright. As we sat waiting in the unbelievably freezing emergency room, she looked at me and said, “Something is wrong, I can just feel it.” This almost brought tears to my eyes, but I held strong. After what felt like a week of waiting, the doctor finally came back with the lab results. “You’re pregnant!” were his words. We both breathed a sigh of relief. Thankfully we thought nothing serious, just a tremendous gift.
As the doctor was signing the release orders, I told my wife that I wanted to call my sister and tell her the good news. Smiling ear to ear and literally on top of the world, I called my sister, “Jessie, Jamie is pregnant!” The next few words that came out of her mouth were like a cold knife being pulled out of you, only to have its sharp blade shoved right back in with the force of a god. “Congratulations, but mom may have cancer.” I hung the phone up in tears and went to the bathroom to collect my thoughts. I sat in that cold lonely bathroom for what seemed like an eternity. “What do I tell my wife?” I thought. She was not in a state of emotions to be able to handle this type of news.
I can still remember the day that she died. It was an early morning in May 1997. My family and I surrounded her bed at Middletown Hospitals Hospice Center. It was dark and cool in the room that morning. A peace had come over the room, none like I had ever known. I was sitting by her side, holding her hand and I reflected on the life that my mom had lived and the many accomplishments that she achieved. She made a difference, not only in my life, but the lives of many others. I thought to myself, “I hope I can be half the person that my mom was”. Then it happened she took her last breath and it was over. Cancer had taken the life of one of the greatest individuals that I have ever known, my mom.
Mom, the daughter of a Kentucky tobacco farmer, moved to Ohio and met my father in 1954. They proceeded to lay the foundation of how they thought a family should be raised, something that I carry with me to this day. They were both very strict, but you knew that it was because they loved you. Mom could give you a certain look, a look that could burn a hole through steel. You knew at that moment, you would be better off stopping whatever it was you were doing. Otherwise, a switch the size of a small tree would soon follow. She would never use it of course, but you certainly did not want to take the chance.
I grew up in a great family, surrounded by loving and supportive parents. The kind of family that to this day, would give the shirt off their back to help one another. This was one of mom’s many influences. One great example; when I was a young boy, I suffered from severe Asthma. I can remember many nights when my mom would stay up with me while I had an attack, or the nights that she lost sleep with me hospitalized. She would have done anything in her power to make me feel better. I can still hear her saying, “Sweetheart, mommy wishes it was her and not you that was sick.” She always knew how to make me feel better.
Growing up, mom was a person that you could go to and not fear any judgment. This was true with not only her immediate family, but also with friends and fellow church members as well. This type of personality made her a great fit for the position of President in the women’s group at her local church. A position she served proudly until her death. As President, she organized various events from small church functions to outreach programs for local orphanages.
The day that I found out that mom had cancer was a cold day in December 1996. It was exceptionally difficult on my family and me. Before her surgery we thought, “No big deal, it was just a minor surgery to remove a small mass on her liver”. She even told us that she was not worried. The truth was, she was scared to death, but she did not show it, she was a rock. After the three-hour surgery, Doctor Smith had us go into a conference room and at that moment, I knew something was very wrong. I can still remember the words that came out of her mouth; it was as if her lips moved in slow motion. “Wanda has malignant hepatoma ” (Liver Cancer). I will never forget those words. “What?” “How did this happen?” My father asked. She has always been a picture of health; doing things the right way, and putting others before herself. I remember thinking, “why is this happening?” and “this isn’t right, God is punishing the wrong person”.
The next six months were a very rough time on my family, more so for my mom of course. Being the strong person that she was, the person she had been her whole life, she never showed any pain, never cried, and never wished it were someone else. She laid in that bed for six months, my father never leaving her side. She would lie there until that fateful day, May 26, 1997.
As I sat there holding her hand as she took her last breaths, my mind went back to when I was a little boy. The many nights she spent with me, the nights she lost sleep because I was sick. I remember what she would say to make me feel better and thought maybe I could do the same. Then I said, “mom, I wish it was me and not you that was sick.”