|Birth: ||Jan. 9, 1943|
|Death: ||Oct. 28, 1975|
Dorothea "Joyce" Spencer Smith Carpenter Lyons Swearingen
My mom and I were separated when she was 32 years old. She had already buried one child, when she passed with three, young children (my brother and me from her first marriage, and our three-year-old little brother from her third marriage).
In the summer of '75, my mom asked my older brother and me if she could speak with us. She said, "No matter what you do in life, be sure to go to church". My brother and I were stunned and looked at each other as if, What is she talking about? She could tell by the looks on our faces that we hadn't gotten it yet. ...then she quietly repeated herself. We reluctantly responded with a few "Okay's". Our mom began going to church with Aunt Shirlie and later that summer, we were signed up for Vacation Bible School.
Several weeks later in October, my mom suddenly took ill. She was rushed to Riverside Community Hospital and admitted into the ICU.
My parents were already divorced and each had married two additional times. There was so much animosity among the adults because of the divorce almost a decade before. Many excuses were given why my brother and I couldn't, and wouldn't, be taken to see our mom in the hosptial. Finally, days and heated phone calls later, permission was granted.
When we arrived, we were taken to a waiting room outside the ICU so that her head doctor could speak with us. After a few minutes, my father and the doctor walked out so that we could spend a moment with our grandmother, Nila. We were quietly told about what to expect (tubes and machinery), not to worry, and reassured she wasn't in any pain.
As we made our way outside the ICU waiting room, we turned to face the large double-doors and I glanced up to see an imposing sign hung above which read "Intensive Care Unit". My brother and I silently glanced at one another as we slowly pushed open the doors.
The immediate sights and sounds of the ICU will remain with me until I am old and my memory fades. We cautiously stepped inside and several sets of eyes from the nurses station glanced up to look at us. One nurse stood, walked our way, and gently asked, "Are you Joyce's children?" We mumbled our agreement.
She asked us to follow and we quietly fell in line. We stepped over several thick cords, around medical equipment, passed one room and stopped at another. She stepped a few feet inside and held out an inviting arm. Laying quietly in a hospital bed that was surrounded by IV stands, a disarray of cords and heavy equipment, was my petit 32-year-old mother.
We didn't know what was expected of us so we waited for instruction. It must have dawned on the nurse that the demands of our upbringing required us to be quiet-spoken, obedient followers, not leaders. She encouraged us to go in, and as we tried to make our way around the obstacles, she redirected my brother to walk to one side of the bed, and me to the other.
We silently obeyed.
The next ten minutes were some of the longest I've ever endured in my life. We were not prepared. No one told us. My mom slowly looked toward my brother, and then to me. Back and forth... She tried to mouth words and sentences, but the sound never came. I was uncomfortable, and just wanted her to get up and be my mom. My mom, the only person to date who loved me unconditionally, the only person I felt safe around, the only adult in my immediate life who never layed a hand on me, not once.
I hesitantly responded a few times and asked, "What Mom...? What did you say...?" I looked to my brother for guidance but he couldn't, or wouldn't, look at me. He kept looking out of her little alcove-of-a-room.
I concentrated hard and focused intently on her mouth. What did she want? Did she need something? I fell into my mother's eyes... the eyes I knew... the eyes I constantly yearned to see... the eyes that twinkled, laughed and loved me... and immediately felt as if I lost my balance.
My eyes shot down to her mouth to her slowly, but ever-moving lips. I felt as if a ton of bricks had fallen on me, crushing me and taking my breath. I looked to my brother for clarification as adrenaline pumped through my veins. "Did she SAY...?!" He raised his eye brows, pressed his mouth closed, and slowly shook his head as if he didn't know.
Just how long had he known, all the while I continued to study her face, and quietly asked her what she meant? I felt embarrassed, like I was the dumb sister who was slow to catch on, as the evidence was clearly revealed when I continually attempted to communicate with our mom.
I pressed a faint smile, and then just stood there, trying to avoid direct contact with her eyes. I tried not to feel so flush. I promised myself that later when my mom recovered and gently confronted me as to why I didn't answer her, I would simply deny that I knew what she asked.
Our brief ICU visitation was over. We were taken outside and the large double-doors closed, sealing the sights and sounds of the ICU from us. We heard numerous voices and made the few steps to the ICU waiting room entrance. As we stepped inside, at least a dozen relatives, family and close friends, who gathered in our absence, jumped to their feet, surrounded us, and started shouting. They were unsuccessfully attempting to yell above one another, throwing their uncomprehendable questions at us.
People were grabbing and pushing, making the frenzy nearly out-of-control. I quickly looked at one face, and then to another. I felt a tugging on my forearms and recognized my grandmother standing directly in front of me. Numerous heads all filled in behind her, above her short stature. Intense and worried faces, mouths, lips, all yelling and screaming at the tops of their lungs. Finally, I comprehended a blurted request, and then I heard it again from a different direction, and again.
I screamed and burst into tears. I backed up, forced my way out of the sea of people and into the hall outside. I hysterically replied, "NO!! NO..!! My mom DOESN'T KNOW ME!"
The room instantly grew quiet. As I frantically ran down the long hosptial cooridor, I heard a single pair of foot steps chase after me. I heard the loving plea of my mother's best and dearest friend, June, to stop... hold on... please. I continued to cry and run. The only thing I wanted to do was to escape from my mom's searching eyes and the repeating images of her lips silently asking, "Who are you..? Who are you..?".
It was the last time I saw my mom. A few days later, she passed; I never got to say good-bye, tell her I loved her, or that she was the most important person in my life.
For some unknown reason, several years later when I was married with children, my father became very transparent and spoke from out-of-the-blue. He said, "My biggest regret and the worst mistake I ever made was letting your mom go."
Even with all the fighting, the holes in the walls, all the animosity, all the tugs-of-war, the terrible custody battle forcing small children to testify against one parent, the cops needing to be present at the monthly hostage (custody) exchanges, and we always knew my parents passionately loved each other, even so, they came to a point where they nearly hated one another.
Yet, he lovingly admitted it. My heart felt a micro-sense of ease. I spoke to my brother and his wife and relayed my father's admission. They immediately replied that he told them the same thing.
The legacy that my mom left behind is quite simple. Although we were not raised in a church-going environment and our lives were hard, my mother's three surviving children are Christians. It's a legacy that is enduring the test of time, and will remain through eternity.
I still ache every day for you, but I'll see you again. Thank you, Mom... xoxo
Quentin Lawrence Newby Spencer (1921 - 1991)
Nila Louise Carmichael Johnson (1924 - 2006)
Tammy Marie Carpenter (1963 - 1972)*
In Loving Memory
Note: Cause of Death: Primary-Dissemenated Intravascular Coagulopathy (10 days), Secondary-Acute Colitis (2 weeks)
Corona Sunnyslope Cemetery
Plot: Blk 34, Space 55
Created by: M'Lady
Record added: Jan 23, 2006
Find A Grave Memorial# 13097869