Friday, March 21, 2008

Tribute to Judy

Well it’s been 1 year and 7 months since my mother-in-law passed away from cancer, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately. I just wanted to put a few things down about how I met Judy, how we became friends, and how we became so much more than that. This is more for me and my family than anything, but here goes.

I was a co-manager at a local pizza place throughout high school, I first saw Rick one night when I came in to pick up my check. He had just started working there. Ange (my best friend) was helping out at another location, and had just come back to work at our store. Ange and Rick started dating a few months later. I know GROSS, I’m married to a guy that used to date my best friend; you would really think “GROSS” if I told you that we all lived together as roommates straight out of high school. But they only dated for a year and me & Rick started dating 3-4 years after that, so it wasn’t like I stole him away or something.

Anyway when Ange & Rick were dating, we always ran around together. One day we stopped by his grandmother’s house to visit, and I met Granny, Judy, and Shannon (Rick’s sister). Judy and I became fast friends; we talked like we had always known each other. After Rick & Ange broke up I didn’t see Judy for awhile. But when I had Khrystyne and Courtney I would go by Granny’s house to show the kids off, and visit but that was really about it. Rick joined the Army and was in Germany for a little over two years.

One night I was walking home after work and someone pulled up beside me honking their horn, I thought that it was some pervert at first (I was maybe 19 at the time) but I looked over and it was Judy. She pulled over and offered me a ride home, and from time to time we would meet up this way. She would fill me in on Rick and Shannon, and sometimes even give me pictures of Rick. Now that I look back at it, getting me & Rick together could have been her master plan all along. I’m just kidding, but stranger things have happened.

After I left my first husband, I brought my children home on a 19 hour bus ride from Rome, NY. (I had never rode a bus before, and it was during Christmas so there were a lot of interesting people on that bus to say the least) After getting settled in; the first stop that I made was Granny’s house. Of course who do I run into? Rick, he was home for the holidays, we talked a little then and started a very long distance relationship (all of this at his grandmothers urging, she never liked any of the girls that Rick dated)

So fast forward another year, Rick had been stationed to Lawton, OK, and we finally got married. The first four months that we were married he lived in Lawton, and I stayed in Indiana. No sooner than we got married Judy had me and the girls going here and there to meet their family, she was so excited to have me as a daughter-in-law and to become an instant grandmother, Courtney turned two just after we got married and she was stuck to Judy like glue.

Judy took me & the girls on a trip to (Detroit) Michigan to meet some of their extended family. It was a little after 9pm when we arrived, and all of the lights we off inside the house. They had a padlocked 9 foot fence around the whole house. Of course (1994) we didn’t yet have a cell phone, so after throwing rocks and sticks at the windows with no luck, we decided to find a pay phone so that we could wake them up. Detroit on a Friday night is not the friendliest place. So we drove around from one phone booth to another until we found one that actually worked (the first few had the phone cords cut, and one had NASTY bubble gum stuck to the earpiece). After all of that excitement all I wanted to do was go to bed. So I took our suitcases upstairs and laid them down on the bed, as soon as I looked up I noticed that the house across the street was on fire, not just a little bit either but a rolling blaze. I ran downstairs to let them know, they called the fire department, and assured me that the house was already vacant. After all of that craziness I took the girls upstairs and went to bed, shortly after midnight the same house was on fire again, called the fire department, went back to bed, 7am that stupid house was on fire again. I went downstairs and told them to call the fire department again, her two teenage sons ran outside to watch it. I said somebody really wants that house to burn down. She said, that the car manufacturer next to her house was buying out all of the homeowners in her neighborhood (actually she was one of the last few there) and it was cheaper for them to hire the neighborhood thugs to burn the houses down than to have them demolished. So that was my first experience with their family in Detroit, that weekend couldn’t be over fast enough for me.

When the girls and I finally joined Rick in Oklahoma, Judy would visit us at least once if possible twice a year over the next four years, and she and I really bonded. Rick always joked that she liked me even more than him, but it was just that kind of friendship.

Once we were back home in Indiana, within six months I was pregnant with Breanna, she was Judy’s first grandbaby, but she never treated my older two children any differently than the children born of my marriage to her son. We were all family, Judy was just like that.

Judy had battled cancer more than once since she was 25 years old. By the end she had had well over 23 surgeries, but she never complained, and just accepted any and all sorts of treatments so that she could be here with her family just a little bit longer. Right before we had Ricky, Judy had to go in for a surgery now that I think about it we really didn’t know what she was having this surgery for. About four hours later a doctor came out to speak to the family, Judy is one of nine children so to say the least the room was full of people so I just stayed in the waiting room while the doctor spoke to them about her. A few minutes later Rick and Shannon both burst out of the room running for the door. I looked into the room and saw a lot of sad faces, they were already crying etc… so I followed Rick out of the hospital, by the time I caught up to them Rick was holding Shannon and they were both crying so hard that they could hardly speak. The doctor had told them that Judy’s cancer was so far advanced that there was nothing that they could do, so they just closed her up without doing the surgery. “CANCER” she didn’t even tell them that she had cancer. She didn’t want them to worry. And though a little warning would have been nice, we delt with it as best we could. Rick was really angry with her for awhile for not telling us sooner. But we finally moved on from there. She sought a second opinion and went through yet another surgery. This time they took almost everything, her gallbladder, bladder, almost all of her colon, part of her rectum, etc... I’ll spare some of the other things that they took, because you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. When she finally came home a few weeks later she came with attached to her colostomy, and urostomy bags. She did all of this to see her last two grandbabies be born, and to hopefully be around for as long as possible. Ricky was four when Judy died; (I was pregnant with him while she went through Chemo). It was rough but we all managed.

Judy called us daily if for nothing more than to just say “hi”, she stayed many weekends at our house just to be able to spend time with the grandkids. If she wasn’t with us she was with Shannon and her two kids. Almost every time our phone rang I would say, “It’s your mother!” and 95% of the time I would be right.

In August 2005 I started getting sick, they finally diagnosed me with Leukemia September 28th after six weeks of pure hell. Judy was with me the night that I got all of my hair cut off for locks of love, I was going to lose it anyways, might as well donate it. I won’t say that she was excited that I had cancer; I think maybe she was relieved that she didn’t have to go through it alone anymore. She started talking to me about attending Camp Bluebird, a cancer survivor retreat. I went with her that next spring, but by the time the one in the fall came around she was already gone.

Shortly after I got sick, Judy’s blood counts were all over the place her potassium was so high at one point they thought that she was going to have a heart attack. So she was at Wishard hospital while I was at I.U. Medical, Rick was going back and forth to see us in between working 12-14 hour shifts. At least our hospitals were next door to each other so he didn’t have too far to travel.

The Forth of July in 2006 we went up to Michigan to visit Rick’s family like we always do. Judy came with us, as she usually did. I had only been done with chemo for six months, and she was still really sick so we were both major staples on the couches that weekend. When we got home I was hospitalized due to blood clots and unbearable pain. Judy had similar symptoms; she was in more pain than usual.

When I started feeling better towards the end of July, she wasn’t, it actually seemed as if she had gotten worse. I said something to my mother to the effect that I didn’t think Judy was going to make it to the end of the year. That’s when my mom said; “She probably wont the doctors gave her six months to live and that was three months ago.”

Of course Judy did not want any of us to know, I guess she thought that she was sparing us from seeing her deteriorate. But had we have known we would have made sure that we went on that cruise that she begged us to take with her earlier that spring. I guess everyone has regrets, I don’t have many but that is one that still bothers me. I wish she would have just told us. We already spent almost every weekend together, so it wasn’t like we were not close or something, but I wish that we could have done that for her.

Around the first of August the doctors started mentioning Hospice; by August 30th she was gone (she died on Ange’s birthday). I still miss her more than words could ever say. If you have not seen someone die of cancer, pray to God that you never will. Because it is nothing less than pure torture to see someone you love die in that manor. It’s especially hard to watch if you have had cancer yourself, and you know watching your husband hold his mothers hand that he is thinking to himself what if… someday this is my wife lying here?

I fell asleep on the couch next to Judy’s hospital bed in the family room, I had a dream that she had died and when I woke up she was gone.

She left knowing two things:

1. She was not alone.

2. She was loved.

I loved her, and I miss her. But she is no longer suffering, no longer in pain and she’s waiting for us, to someday join her in heaven. Who could ask for more?

1 comment:

BaldyLocks said...

I just wanted to pop in and say hi. I hope everything is going alright and your daughter is okay.