Evening in Paris dancing with the King

“REMEMBER now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not  (before the days of sickness and death come) nor the years draw nigh ( before we grow old), when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;” Ecclesiastes 12:1

Oh this is a oh, oh, oh post. Which is the sound of my heart and I did want to do this as a memorial and had planned to at a much later date but all writers know one thing for a surety, writing is often therapeutic and I kinda lost it yesterday at a funeral home.

It has been a fast hard journey and lots of needless strife added to the mix of sleeping maybe a few hours out of every thirty for a solid month, physically exhausted and bewildered, heartbroken, and well just broken led me to a complete meltdown while at the casket my sister picked out for our Mom. We were telling the funeral guy what we needed and her burial dress in it and a couple of “farewell” tokens, and earrings chosen by granddaughters who had come up under her style and grace and chosen it for their own, and her makeup they had also chosen and listed color choices and it was just too real, placing all this in her coffin and trying to explain what was what and why, I found myself almost outside of myself running away screaming and crying and ended up going and laying on the altar at church and God in His mercy somehow calmed me down before I got hit with a straight jacket.

So I thought I’d do this now before I have to face the rest of path of the “golden cords broken”.

She was absolutely one of a kind, and of course ALL our mothers are, so here’s a little about mine.

She was always so beautiful and I remember us walking down the sidewalk going to the drugstore when I was little, her holding my hand and hearing all these whistles, turning to see these guys waving and I asked her what they were doing, and in her classic style, she’d just ignore them and gently look down and say “Honey, it’s just cat calls don’t pay any attention to them.”

Of course it took awhile for my little brain to figure out just was a “cat call” was but being in public with Mom always provided plenty of practice hearing them.

And I WAS the child they could not keep out of their bed and I remember waking up cradled next to her, her arm snuggled around me, looking at her and telling her that she was the most beautiful woman in the world and she’d tell me I was really sweet but that she really wasn’t that I just thought that because she was my mommy, and I said, no, you really are.

I reminded her of that last Sunday night when I was doing my “final” talk, you know all the things she already knew but I wanted to say one more time.

She couldn’t reply because she never spoke a word after last Saturday night, but I told her, she was STILL the most beautiful woman in the world and if I could ever be even half the woman she was, I would be happy and that I did not want her to go but if she needed to go I would see her when I got there and how I love her.

We’d been having these conversations already, my sister and I pulling duty around the clock, me taking night shift because I am her “next door neighbor” and she’d been telling me during our middle of the night chats that she had always loved me and would always love me, and that she wanted hospice when the time came, of course I kept telling her to not say that but that I would honor every wish to the best of my ability.

LESS than one month before this, we had just been on their back porch playing Spades, Mom’s favorite game, Ruby partnering with Dad, and me partnering with Mom, because I ALWAYS partnered with her, even when me and my husband played with them.

I am smart like that 🙂 she was FIERCELY competitive and in her younger pre-Christ days had been known to destroy a deck of cards or two in a wee bit of a fit of rage.

I can’t remember the last time me and Ruby had laughed so much as that final game.

Dad was doing some sort of weird “La-la-la’ tune and me and Ruby are just looking at each other and Mom tells him that he “Sounds just like Nellie Olsen” (the mean little girl character from “Little House on the Prairie”) and how on earth things can go to flat zero that fast is still dumbfounding, but I truly believe it was pure (no matter how painful for us) mercy from God.

She later confessed to my sister and I that she had not felt well for a while and August 16th she finally went to the ER at 5:30 a.m. because she had been so nauseated she was unable to eat and nothing was helping her, so they do tests and tell her that her sodium is low and she comes back home for another week, still unable to eat, drink, or sleep without stomach pain.

So we talk her into going to another ER and they admitted her and did more tests, very painful for her because he had severe osteoarthritis and they actually had to give her morphine to endure one test that lasted an hour and a half, finally they conclude that she had an enlarged gall bladder and gall stones, and an ulcer BUT the chest x-ray picked up a mass in her left lung.

All this led to an endoscopy and a biopsy of her small intestine and a lymph node around her right clavicle and the doctor making quite sure that she felt it may be esophageal cancer and that the biopsy would only be about an inch and that the gallbladder would stay because it was a side issue.

So August 31st she was diagnosed with small cell carcinoma, which is what killed my brother, it is rare and  especially insidious because it so aggressive and carries about a three MONTH survival time.

To say we were just blown away would be an understatement, but she had met with another doctor and decided that she would try chemo because it could possibly help her appetite and relieve pain, but the cancer was in her lymph nodes and her stomach and spreads rapidly so there wasn’t much that could be done.

So we converge trying to get her to drink the Ensures and Gatorade we’d been trying to get to drink for a week, she was growing so weak and could only sleep an hour or two at a time and would have to get back into her recliner because of the pain from not only the cancer but the osteoarthritis that had been so aggravated by having to lie flat and the three days spent in the hospital.

But the BIGGER problem was the badly botched biopsy that was NOT the promised one incision but instead a four-inch mess held together by the medical “superglue” covered in a CLEAR bandage for all the horror to show through, the moment I saw that THING, I knew it was mess.

In the meantime she had been prescribed two antibiotics to be taken together to help her stomach and help her eat, along with the truckload of other medications that did not for her.

My great-niece is an RN and she came and spent the night with Mom and gave us some great tips and she had thought that the incision didn’t look quite right either and within two days her skin around it was red, and red into her chest and her breast was twice its size and I can only imagine what it would have been had she not been on the antibiotics, we begged her to go to the ER but she was so weak that we’d been helping her to the bathroom for a week and she didn’t want to go in an ambulance, so thank God for a church friend who is a nurse practitioner and after being sent pictures of it advised her to go, so she finally went and it took my nephew and husband both just to get her to the vehicle.

The sad thing is this had just been “checked” by a doctor who said it was fine the day BEFORE she was admitted back into the hospital.

This thing was infected and the swelling had set in and soon both arms become red, skin peeling and finally swollen triple their size leading to the removal of paper tape actually ripping her skin off with it and fluid leaking from a huge sore and finally leaking from everywhere and I know that it was excruciating.

They had her on bag antibiotic and a super strong fish smelling injection antibiotic, a sodium pill, ulcer medication and morphine, dilauda, marinol, AND percocet every four hours, of course she was still not drinking or eating and with the low sodium and fluid overload they could not even give her IV fluids. And blood work upon blood work and her arms were covered in bruises over the scorching red and finally her last night there my sister and daughter and I all three stayed and told them, no more, they were not sticking her ever again.

God blessed us with awesome compassionate nurses and a wonderful hospital doctor who overruled the surgeon who had performed the biopsy, she wanted to do a “procedure” to try to drain the fluid that “may or not work” and he told her “Absolutely not, she had suffered enough and was going home” a week after being only further tormented.

So Tuesday my mom is brought back home in an ambulance, strapped on a gurney.

Pale, swollen, lifeless, with air-tubes covering her beautiful face still wearing the awful hospital gown that they had put her in a week before, which killed me, because she ALWAYS wanted to be dressed, neat and “presentable”, they get her into the bed Hospice had sent.

And the next day, September 19, less than twenty-four hours later and BEFORE Hospice could even have their first visit to rid her of that awful gown, with my sister trying desperately to help her because she was struggling to breathe, she passed away.

The most beautiful person in our world gone, just gone.

One of a kind, so gentle, so kind, would rescue anyone or any animal, give the shirt off her back or her last piece of bread to anyone who needed it and yet would rip someone to shreds over one of her kids or grand kids.

A woman who loved “Little House” and “The Walton’s”, and Hallmark Christmas movies but yet could not quite resist a good wrestling match, the tag team Rock and Roll Express, Robert Gibson and Ricky Morton from the eighties being her all time favorites.

A woman whose love and grace and impeccable manners had reared generations.

A woman whose strength, courage, and endless hope and faith in God had seen her through tragedies upon tragedies and more hardships and pain than one should endure.

The death of her firstborn son “POLICE STATE” left her with questions that would only be answered in eternity and as she told me the saving grace that kept her sane was the fact that she knew “her other kids needed her”.

The horrifying ordeal of watching her last born son die from the disease that would also take her, his story is “GOOD BYE, ROXIE SMITH” 

Her wonderful stories of growing up in rural Kentucky in the early forties, complete with tales of the terror during the war with Japan when she and her sister would “run and hide in bed” every time they heard a plane overhead.

Stories of being a young woman and new mother in the fifties and living out ALL the generations she had since with the passing of time clanging all things.

Grace and wisdom that had her hailed as the family sage for me, my daughter Bethany and her granddaughter Brittany.

We always looked at her as one who has answers to impossible questions, she was the inspiration for MOTHERS, THE BEJEWELMENT TO THE CROWN OF THE KING 

She had a beautiful laugh and fabulous sense of humor, she shared in our tears, our triumphs, our fears and always let EVERYONE know how precious and loved they were.

She was the consummate holiday host, I always awoke on Thanksgiving morning to the sound of Macy’s parade and the smell of turkey baking and Christmas was an event with decorations galore, made even more fun several years with a quite silly entertaining game of mystery present exchange.

And such generosity that few ever left empty-handed after a visit with her.

And as my sister said, such beautiful hands.

Hands that were always kept with beautifully polished nails.

Hands that had known so much love and hard work, taking care of all of us, ironing school clothes for six children in the days before wrinkle free and blue jeans, because her kids looking clean and pressed were high on her list.

Hands that worked so hard as a seamstress in a backbreaking factory to put food on the table and my memories being filled with those wonderful mornings of waking up for school to the sound of a local country music station and the smell of Adorn hairspray filling the air, even for work she wore make-up, did her hair and WAS the consummate lady in ANY environment.

That same love for music making her a fan of so many genres from classical, easy listening, disco, and even the trucker music of the seventies and no one quite like Neil Diamond or Lou Rawls in her opinion.

She would often hum and sing along, but her favorite was Christmas, with Christmas tapes and CD’s everywhere.

So much more I could say about my mother, my friend, my inspiration, so much I could say about the holes in all of our hearts, but I want to say a few other things instead.

God makes beauty IN the misery.

The loss of my brothers left my mother for a desperate need for her surviving children to bond and love each other forever. And last Saturday, my brothers spent the day with her at the hospital, NO chicks, NO sisters, JUST her and them, my cousin had taken her a bear, whom she named “Mr. Fuzzy Britches” and as I was told she had a great time with them and actually ate a little for them, but I KNOW  just how much this “alone” time, just her and her boys, meant to her.

And another first came when we were privileged to gather around her bed the day she came home, as the Lord had put in my heart, ONLY her children, hands held proclaiming His word, that “Her children shall rise up and call her blessed” and I KNOW she heard us and I know what it meant, it meant her desire that we pray together (as she had prayed for all of us EVERY single night) had been fulfilled.

And the most amazing remarkable moment came AFTER she had passed, while her body was still with us, we were all there waiting and some were outside and my sister-in-law saw something on my brother’s face and it was a RAINBOW, seriously, and he told the other to look up and this rainbow was huge and we had been so blessed with help and comfort, the Hospice ladies, Tabitha and Barbra were really more equivalent to angels and our pastor and his wife were also with us and as we all stared in absolute awe, he said, “No one would have believed it if they had not seen it”, and as one pointed out, we hadn’t had a drop of rain, the sun was out on the other side.

Birds even  flew across this and it was breathtaking, the picture is an ACTUAL picture taken with a cell phone but to see it person was magnificent.

Mom's rainbow 2



Even in the hurt the pain the inability to understand, Jesus always, always proves faithful.

Her beautiful day had come, she had been raised by a God-fearing woman who kept them in Sunday school and tent revivals and Mom accepted Jesus for herself in September 2000.

And in that acceptance she fell helplessly in love with Him, I am serious, the woman literally GLOWED, she was so in love with Him.

So knowing her love and dedication to Him is my ONLY comfort.

My mother was of course one of those women who smelled heavenly and her all time favorite perfume from vintage days was “Evening in Paris” and just the name sounds so beautiful and reminiscent of her beauty, I chose it for my title

Because I have peace that the beautiful, complicated lady He blessed me with as a mother is not only having an ultimate evening in Paris, she is having the most glorious of all dances with the King.

And THAT dance WILL NEVER end, that beautiful fragrance of His heavenly garments has no comparison in heaven or on this earth and she IS in the most beautiful, gentle hands that will forever hold her.

She will never again struggle, hurt, or face the heartache of losing another of her children.

And as much as I want to cry, scream, rock myself into some sort of comatose state and rip the beating heart from my own chest so I don’t have to feel this pain, I KNOW she is so happy and I KNOW she has the beautiful eternal life she deserves.

So to the most beautiful of the beautiful, have a wonderful evening with your King and dance forever because your beauty still shines, even brighter than all the stars He created, they could never outshine the light you left us. I love you Miss Helen, forever.


The name alone brings me to tears, my brother Stevie and I sat next to each other at our Dad’s eightieth birthday party, a party primarily intended to shift focus from the grief which had slowly consumed him for months.
Tears filling Stevie’s eyes and the pain on his face broke my heart in half. We were trying to be strong but failed miserably, the common denominator that held our family together was no longer there and nothing would ever, ever be the same.
I had been the youngest child to four brothers, my sister married when I was five and the oldest brother died  when I was six, our parents both worked full-time so we had a lot of interesting snow days and summer vacations! I spent most of my early childhood being the enemy of all things “manly” and learning to kill or be killed in the best possible way! My mom’s favorite movie is “Overboard” with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, I told her I know why, those children act like we did only they had me!
Over time Troy married and Stevie moved out, Donnie and I went to school together and hung out together with my best friend Genia,
I was plagued with fear growing up, especially of lightning and he would always comfort me during storms, he never belittled me for being afraid, he would just tell me it would be okay that it would be over soon and it always was. He always protected me and never wanted me to be afraid.
In the early eighties, Stevie moved back home and somehow as if set the sound track of “Gemini Dream” everything changed.
Donnie had found an old underground “bunker” down from our house. I don’t know if it had been a bomb shelter or something for storage, it was concrete with metal rungs used to walk down into it, but they turned into a teens paradise, they had a radio, candles, flashlights, snacks and Donnie used the concrete walls for his often abstract art.
One portrait would stick forever, she was quite a character and she would become the mascot of our lives, she had to have a name and someone suggested Roxie Smith and it stuck, from that point on, she became the scapegoat for all mischievousness we didn’t want to own up too.

“Roxie did it!” of course our parents never understood why we found that so hysterically funny, which made it even funnier.
We spent that summer laughing, listening to music and suddenly I was no longer that pesky, little brat but an equal.
We were something like Cheech and Chong meets The Three Musketeers, somehow honorable while being incredibly goofy!
Over time Stevie moved to Tennessee and  Donnie moved next to Mom and Dad, and I briefly lived about thirty minutes away, only to move back. Donnie and I stayed right next to Mom and Dad, our homes within shouting distance of each other, I teased her that she would never get away from us and in reality, she never wanted to.
But we always remained close with Stevie, Donnie’s daughter is like a little sister to me and although she never knew it he worried about her a lot and  he would always ask me about her when he felt like she was heading in the wrong direction with a friend or new boyfriend I’d always reassure him it was the growing process and she’d be fine.

I always had such a comfort knowing my daughter who adored him would have that, an uncle she could always talk to if she needed help and I would  have the reassurance of  knowing he would always be right there for her.
We all have problems and he had his with alcohol, like so many others he used to dull the pain in his heart that had built up over a lifetime, a battle I am glad to report that he did win, by overcoming it .

But a greater guy you would never find, big, good-looking with a Sam Elliott mustache, never turned anyone away when they need help, and he always knew what to do in a crisis. We believed he would be there forever.
But our plans aren’t God’s plans and May 2011 would test our faith almost to the breaking point.
He worked nights and most of his free time was spent helping our parents and fooling around with vehicles and hanging out with Dad, who always has to be doing something, that’s what has kept him going, anyway the day before Easter 2011 he started having pain in his ribs, he thought he had just pulled a muscle so he waited about a week before going to the ER, when they did a chest X-ray, it revealed a huge mass in his lung.

He was transferred to a cancer center for a biopsy, for unexplained reasons the night of the biopsy he suddenly seized up and  completely coded, no heartbeat, no nothing, his daughter had called and I was on the phone with her and they were preparing to try to start his heart back, she was screaming and understandably ended up passing out.

The center is about an hour and a half from us, so we all rushed there and it was like a nightmare from hell and I kept begging God that he couldn’t die he wasn’t saved, when we got there, she met us in the parking lot, he had come out of it and was fine, no medications, no procedures, just as quickly as it happened, he came out of it.
The doctor’s never could explain it, I told one of them I could, it was God and the power of a praying Mother, had God not spared him he would have died lost and he believed and he would not even eat unless grace had been said but he had never made that required confession of faith of Jesus as his savior.
We were soon informed that he had a rare, deadly inoperable cancer and would have to immediately begin aggressive chemo and radiation.

He had a great sense of humor and tried to lighten us up by saying it was his luck to get the worst kind. Once he got to come home Mom made him move in with them so she could look after him and he resumed life. He couldn’t go back to work but he tinkered with stuff with Daddy outside and planted his annual garden with my daughter and even with the chemo and radiation he did not get sick. Other than losing his hair he looked healthy as a horse.  And we believed…..
The time came for his next test, the cancer was not gone, it now had splintered and had spread to his ribs, and spine. The doctor who had once been so hopeful now conceded there was nothing more he could do.
In our desperation we begged him to go to another cancer center, our sister who stayed right by his side took him and she relayed the message to us that the doctor callously informed him that he now had no more than two weeks to live, even adding a “Do you understand, Mr. Brown?”
This news came October 10, 2011, four days before his forty-ninth birthday so we decided to have him a huge family dinner (and we believed) and even though he was now too sick to eat, he opened his gifts and even posed for the camera wearing our nieces furry hood. He never complained and never once asked why.
We were told not to take him back to the hospital but we had his primary care doctor, she was Godsend, we were told we could have Hospice which he was adamantly against, he did not want to die with tubes and strangers and we did our best to honor that wish.(And we believed) two ministers came faithfully to pray with him and us and to assure his salvation because he said he hoped he was saved and he was trying to be so they led him in prayer till he felt he was.
After his party he began to sleep, the last words he ever spoke to me was “Good Night”, in our family we were well-trained you did not go to bed unless you said Good Night, I would cry all day and then try to go act all strong and not hover over him but inside I just wanted to hold him forever and beg him to please not go I couldn’t live without him, I had never had too. I believe God let him sleep to kill the pain, it wasn’t the medicine because he couldn’t be roused to take it, I think he was just shielding him until it was time to go home.
The morning of October 24, 2011 in the arms of his ex-wife and our Dad, he passed away in our Mother’s bed on Stevie’s birthday.
The whole ordeal was like life playing a sick, twisted joke and wanting to wake up from a horrifying dream, someone had even commented to us that if he died it would be due to our lack of faith and because we “got into agreement” with the cancer, something they will answer to the Lord for but it was enough to almost send our Dad over the edge, when Donnie passed.
We had faith, we believed, the minister that came the day he passed told me he believed for a miracle but Donnie got his miracle when got spared him to be saved. And the hardest thing I ever had to do is watch them take his body away knowing that never on this earth again we would laugh, or hug or cry together and all our plans for growing old as neighbors was over, and even though his life on earth had ended his eternal one had been assured.
God carried us through unthinkable sorrow, he continues to carry our parents, Donnie’s children, our siblings and my daughter through it.
God never promised we would not lose loved ones or that the circumstance wouldn’t be mind numbing sadistic, God knows our death even before our birth and it is just that a part of living and every second, every moment is precious and he promises if they live for him, they are with him, Psalm 17:15 “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.”                        Job 19:25-27 details it to the extreme.
For all that mourn, know those tears are precious to God,
“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy, he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed shall doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5,6
Revelation 21:4 “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain: for the former things are all passed away.”
By the end of Dad’s party, the hymns of the singers driving stakes through the wounded hearts, most ended up outside crying together for what had been lost, Mom with the Victorian grace so rarely seen today hid her tears in putting away leftovers, Stevie and I toyed with the idea of going back to see if the old place was still there but in our realization that the second Musketeer was really never coming back and that the precious laughter of that innocent time that had bonded us through so much more than blood but through true friendship was now a priceless memory to be tucked away in our hearts and propel us to finish our race.
So My dear brother I love you and I will be strong, I will not be afraid of the storms anymore and I know one day I will hug you again. Good Bye, Roxie Smith, God knows I  desperately do not want to let you go but love never, ever dies it only sleeps for a little while.

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Probably the worst picture I could find, we had been laughing about “wearing the same outfit” the reason this one means so much to me is the circle of arms, I had never really noticed it until after the fact, but this is what he was to me and our daughters.

Had God not covered us….