Monday, April 26, 2010

Mema Kay

This day one year ago, my paternal grandmother, Mema Kay, died after a long battle with her lungs.
Mema smoked for as long as I could remember until her doctor informed her that if she didn't stop, her body would quit for her. So after quitting and starting back a few times, she was diagnosed with COPD and finally quit for good. I think I was a freshman when she finally quit, just as she had to be put on oxygen if she wanted to walk more than 6 feet.
Mema continued to struggle to catch her breath when she was too vain to sport the oxygen tubes, but still trucked along fine to Atlantic City and Cherokee to play cards and the slot machines. My junior year in college the doctor's found a cancerous place on her lungs during a routine checkup, but it was quickly removed and all seemed to be fine.
In January 2009, my great-grandma (Mema Kay's mother-in-law) died at the age of 99 and at the funeral Mema complained about her hip hurting and how she felt a lump along the curve of her back. Daddy jumped right into P.A. mode and made an appointment for the day after Mammy was buried.
A week later we learned that although she quit smoking, the damage to her lungs was already too severe, the cancer was back. This time, the cancer attacked her lungs, bones and a few other organs. Mema underwent radiation treatment and tried a few medicines before deciding that the fight was too hard for a battle she would eventually lose. So, her wonderful oncologist, Dr. Heather White (who was also my other grandma, Mema Dean's doctor) made her comfortable and said that she wasn't a doctor that would be a time-limit on someone's life but that she didn't see Mema living over 6 months.
We NEVER EVER thought it would happen so quickly. Mema was diagnosed in January and lost her fight April 27, 2009.
If you knew Mema, you know she was a firecracker. Anything she thought popped into her head, and out her mouth without being filtered. She was stubborn, rude and opinionated and we bumped heads constantly over the silliest thing. But, I loved her more than I can say. Whenever I get an attitude or fuss over something not going my way, Big Mark & Josh always say "Alright, Kay" because of how similar we can be.
In January, before we knew the limited amount of time we had left with her, Mema called to ask me what kind of dress she should wear to my wedding and I told her "anything but white". Guess what color dress she chose.... a white one. Not even a new white dress, an old one that she had worn to Big Mark's white coat ceremony. We fussed and fussed and she said "i don't want to waste any money on a dress that I will only wear once". Apparently, my wedding was not worth wasting money over. Today... I would give anything to have had her at my wedding and in my wedding pictures, I don't care if she went naked. I did pin one of her earrings onto the ribbon around my bouquet so that some part of her would be with me as I went down the aisle.
While Mema was very tight with her money during her lifetime, she decided she wanted to spend what she had before she died. She decided she wanted a flat screen so she could watch Oprah in all her HD glory, so she wrote a check and Papa went and got her one. She decided her recliner looked bad so she wrote a check and Papa went and got her a new one.
Her decision to spend money since she couldn't take it with her wasn't just used on her own desires. When Josh and I bought Mammy's house and decided to renovate it, Mema wrote US a check and helped us pay for our new floors and plantation blinds.
I was so happy that Mema was well enough in early April to go by my and Josh's house and see the floors Josh and ChrisMitchell spent so much time putting down and see how much progress we had made in making my Mammy's house into our own.
Towards the end, the cancer spreading in her brain caused her to see things and the morphine to help with the pain also made her drowsy and incoherent. She'd think the TV was on, but it really just be her reflection in the dark screen. She would look outside and ask us "what's that guy doing in the yard".
On April 26th she slept almost all day and the night of April 27th I knelt by her bed and starting to sing "You Are My Sunshine", which we used to sing while swinging in the hammock when i was little. She woke up, turned and looked at me and mumbled "What are you doing". I just said "I love you" and cried. She got this look on her face like "why are you so upset" and said "well i love you too" and fell back asleep. Those were the last words she ever said to me and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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