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 Dorothea Joyce <I>Spencer</I> Swearingen

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Dorothea Joyce Spencer Swearingen

  • Birth 9 Jan 1943 Richfield, Lincoln County, Idaho, USA
  • Death 28 Oct 1975 Riverside, Riverside County, California, USA
  • Burial Corona, Riverside County, California, USA
  • Plot Blk 34, Space 55
  • Memorial ID 13097869

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 hospital an hour away near her home. 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 and we were allowed to spend a moment with our maternal grandmother, Nila. We were quietly told about what to expect (tubes and machinery), not to worry, and reassured our mom wasn't in any pain.

As we made our way outside the ICU waiting room, we turned to face the over-sized double-doors and I glanced up to see an imposing sign hung above which stated, "Intensive Care Unit". My brother and I momentarily hesitated and silently glanced at one another as we slowly pushed open the large 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. The nurse stepped inside a few feet and held out an inviting arm. Laying quietly in a hospital bed, surrounded by IV stands, a disarray of cords and heavy equipment, was my petite 32-year-old mother.

We didn't know what was expected of us so we waited for instructions. It must have dawned on the nurse that the demands of our upbringing required us to be soft-spoken, obedient followers, and under no circumstances, 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 laid 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 while at my father's house with his new wife... 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...?!" I couldn't finish the whisper. I couldn't fully comprehend what I was attempting to ask. I was at a loss for words.

My brother 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, quietly asking her what she meant? I felt embarrassed, like I was the dumb, little sister who was slow to catch on, as the evidence clearly revealed itself when I continually attempted to communicate with our mom.

I pressed a faint smile, and then just stood there by her side, 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 I knew what she repeatedly asked.

Our brief ICU visitation was over. We were directed 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 and close friends, who gathered in our absence, jumped to their feet, surrounded us, and started to shout. They attempted, unsuccessfully, to yell above one another, and continued to direct their incomprehensible question at us.

People grabbed and pushed, and made the frenzy nearly out-of-control. I quickly looked from one face and to another. I felt a tug on my forearms, looked forward and recognized my grandmother standing directly in front of me. Numerous heads filled in behind and around her small stature. ...intense and worried faces, mouths, lips, all yelling and screaming at the tops of their lungs.

Finally, I comprehended the 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 hospital corridor, 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...!", and begging, "Please!". I continued to cry and run. The only thing I wanted to do was to escape from my mom's continual 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 how she was the most important person in my life.

For some unknown reason, several years later when I was married with children, my father, uncharacteristically, 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 for you every single day, but I'll see you again. Thank you, Mom... xoxo

Family Members


In Loving Memory

Gravesite Details Cause of Death: Primary-Dissemenated Intravascular Coagulopathy (10 days), Secondary-Acute Colitis (2 weeks)





  • Created by: M'Lady
  • Added: 23 Jan 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 13097869
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Dorothea Joyce Spencer Swearingen (9 Jan 1943–28 Oct 1975), Find A Grave Memorial no. 13097869, citing Corona Sunnyslope Cemetery, Corona, Riverside County, California, USA ; Maintained by M'Lady (contributor 46821766) .