My parents divorced when I was 6 years old, and from birth until about my 11th birthday, my brother, my father, and I moved around to several different cities in different states. We eventually settled in Lewisburg, Tennessee, a small town about 45 minutes south of Nashville and 25 minutes north of the Alabama/Tennessee state line. Shortly after we got to Lewisburg, my dad started dating a woman about 9 years his junior named Vickie Jones. After about 6 weeks of dating, Vickie moved into our house and never left. My brother and I didn't agree with it at the time, and we weren't asked, but it happened anyway. My Dad and Vickie never officially tied the knot and got married, mostly because Vickie's state-provided medical insurance and other government benefits would have been cut off if they had. Whether my brother and I liked it or not, we had a stepmother in substance if not in fact.
Vickie had a hard life and a hard childhood before she met my dad, but she was basically a good woman with a big heart. I certainly didn't always agree with Vickie, and I had my share of issues with her, but she contributed financially to raising my brother and I, she put up with my biological mother's shenanigans, and she did love my dad and put up with him for the better part of 2 decades, which should qualify her for some sort of sainthood. Also, as I have gotten older, I have learned (for the most part) not to speculate on what goes on between a man and a woman or why 2 people love each other. The fact that she and my father said they loved each other and stayed together all those years was good enough for me.
Unfortunately, Vickie was sick for a very long time. She suffered from a laundry list of ailments, including heart, lung, and breathing problems, and she got progressively sicker over the past 4 years. For the last couple of years, she required in-home care, at-home breathing treatments, and multiple hospital stays. Vickie was admitted to the hospital a couple of weeks ago, and my Dad thought she would come out of the hospital this time just like the other half-dozen times before, until she took a turn for the worse on Monday. The doctors told my Dad she wasn't expected to make it, and her health deteriorated rapidly over the next 24 hours. Vickie passed away with her family and friends at her side just before 2:00 P.M. on Wednesday, February 17, 2010. She was 46 years old.
I spent the next few days helping my dad through the fog that comes with losing a life partner. I set up the arrangements for Vickie's cremation and memorial service, helped Dad with some legal issues surrounding Vickie's will, and made sure that Vickie's crazy, white trash family didn't act a fool at the hospital or the memorial service. I was so glad to be able to be with and there for my dad when he needed me. Even so, it was surreal because I saw and heard my father cry more in the last week than I did during my entire childhood.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how great and understanding my job was about allowing me to leave work and take bereavement leave to be with my family. Also, Dad's co-workers at Federal Express were wonderful. They came to the hospital, sent flowers, and turned out en masse for Vickie's memorial service. It was also great to see my Uncle Dave (my dad's older brother) and my cousins Van and Valerie (my Uncle Dave's kids, who are close to my age). I hope that we are able to see more of each other in the future.
As for Vickie, I was able to talk with her in the hospital the last time she was in the hospital before she died. She told me that she was saved, that she had accepted the Lord as her savior, and that she knew she was going to heaven. Where someone spends eternity is far and away the most important of any of the things I have discussed here, and it is the most important decision of anyone's life. In the hospital, a few minutes before she died, I read Psalm 23 to her, and I like to think that maybe it helped calm her down and kept her from being scared about dying. Our flesh clings to life because we don't know what the great beyond of this life holds for us. I am glad that Vickie is at rest and that she isn't suffering anymore, and she died surrounded by the people who cared about her the most. We should all be so lucky. To Vickie, I would say thank you for helping to raise me, thank you for loving my father, and enjoy heaven until we get there...we will see you again someday.