by Talina Shadix, Professional Development/EMR Specialist
My mother, Betty Ann Wooten, was my best friend and my entire life. She taught me how to cook, sew, care for my family, be a good mom and wife, and a good employee while putting God before everything. I lost my mom to breast cancer April 2, 2008. She was only 55 years old. I was expecting my first child and finishing my last semester of nursing school. My mom was my own personal cheerleader. Even though she did not receive a high school diploma or a college degree, she was a nurse at heart. She was known for taking care of the sick, visiting them, taking them to the doctor, cooking for them, and doing whatever they needed her to do. My mother held the hand of many as they left this world for another. She was my inspiration to become a nurse but more specifically a hospice nurse.
I will never forget how strong she was when they told us she had cancer. She accepted the diagnosis and took the next step with grace and dignity. Her oncologist said she was the poster child for chemotherapy because she did so well during treatment. When her cancer returned and had spread to liver and bone, she kept that same strength and gave it her all to get well. When the time came and she knew that there was nothing left they could do for her, we turned to hospice care. I wanted to drop out of my last semester of nursing school to be with her, but she was not having it. She wanted me to finish as planned and I did it for her. Hospice was wonderful and supported us every step of the way.
I will never forget two weeks before she passed away, she sat me down and started having me write down her funeral plans, from what she was going to wear to who should sing. She then looked at me and said, “You will fix my hair.” Of course I was crying through this whole process and looked at her and said, “I can’t.” She looked at me and very politely, but firmly, told me that I could. And of course I agreed, feeding off of her strength because I felt like mine was gone. Within a week after this, she was bed bound and within two weeks, she was gone.
I fixed her hair and fulfilled her last wishes. When I walked into the room at the funeral home with my cousin and a close friend, I didn’t think I could do it. My cousin began fixing her hair for me. I realized that she wasn’t fixing it like mom liked and could just hear mom fussing at me about her hair not looking right because I didn’t fix it. I mustered up the strength and took over.
When my dad saw her for the first time, he cried of course, but he said he couldn’t believe how much she looked like herself. You see, my mom always had long hair and fixed it up in curls and very sophisticated. Her hair had grown back but not enough to really fix this way. I feel like God allowed me to be able to fix her hair to appear as it did before she lost it all. Just this simple thing really helped to comfort my dad because she didn’t look like herself for several weeks before she died.
I then took her place in the family helping my dad, aunt, uncles, and grandparents with things she normally did. It’s amazing how even now it is like she is here, with me, helping me to remember the lessons in life she taught me. She remains my best friend and I know she gets to see the milestones I accomplish and continues to cheer me on. I know she held my children before I ever did. (Probably even wished for them to be just like me, LOL!) Now she is in heaven with my grandparents and all of our loved ones we have lost along the way. I am so thankful that she was there with me when I took my first breath and I am even more thankful that I was there when she took her last breath. I love you Mom, Happy Mother’s Day!