Tuesday, August 24, 2010

10 Years Ago Today

Ten years ago today my mother passed away. She died at the age of 56 from pancreatic cancer.

She was diagnosed in July 1999 following a bout with jaundice. She had been complaining of stomach pains since March, but visits to the doctor had been fruitless.

In August 1999, she had a pancreaticoduodenectomy, also known as a Whipple surgery. This is one of, if not the most, extensive surgery a person can have. Essentially they go in and take out all of your innards, remove the cancer, and put everything back.

My mother lived almost a year following the surgery.

Mom married in October at the age of 18 and I was born the following June. She was an office worker at a custom metal precision fabricating shop in Salem until she retired in the mid-1990s.

She could sew and do things with crafts that I still envy to this day. She was a great decorator and had a good eye for color and depth. She liked flowers, particularly iris, and she liked to garden except for when it became more like work than fun. She canned food, made pickles and killed chickens - the things a farmer's wife did.

I do not think she particularly liked living on the farm, but that is where my father wanted to be and so she was there. It was a long drive from Fincastle to Salem every day and she would leave at 7 a.m. and return at 6 p.m.: a long day by any standard. As she grew older the drive wore on her, particularly in bad weather.

She went back to college in her 30s, taking accounting and other classes, but did not finish her degree. Aerobics took up two of her evenings; she was dedicated to going out to the high school to get her exercise.

My father had a Top-40 band and she went with him on weekends to watch the group play. Later she sometimes joined him on stage for a few songs. In particular I remember hearing my parents sing together.

She liked to sing when she worked and after I learned to play guitar she encouraged me to continue to play even when others were not as helpful.

Mom was religious but not so that you would know it. We did not attend church but there were times I would catch her praying. In 1975 she was praying aloud as she drove like a crazed woman toward Roanoke Memorial. My father had backed a tractor over my brother. She begged God to keep her son alive. He did.

She loved Myrtle Beach and enjoyed vacationing there. After she retired she spent a great deal of time at North Myrtle, where she made friends and seemed to enjoy having the kids gone. After my nephew was born, she doted on him and was a loving grandmother. She did not live to see her granddaughter.

Fifty-six is very young. She still had things to do.

It's been a decade now. I hope she is at peace.

My mother.


  1. It's always interesting to hear about a person's life history...the twists and turns, the what was and what could have been. And it's always fascinating to see a picture of the person in their youth...it shows us their spirit. I'm sobered to think that she died at a younger age than I am now. A lovely tribute...

  2. Very sweet Anita...I hope your mom is at peace too...

  3. Your mother was beautiful. You wrote a lovely tribute to her.

  4. Your mom was a unique and wonderful woman! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of her with us. It gives me pause to think she was not much older than myself when she passed.

  5. Loren Bruffey JrAugust 24, 2010 11:27 AM

    Thanks, Sis.
    This is a great read and tribute to Mom. She would be proud.
    Love you.

  6. I hope that my kids can say things about me as lovingly as you've written of your mom.

  7. A tribute that gave me goosebumps and lots of questions, like how a life just stops like that.

  8. What a beautiful tribute. I'm so sorry for your loss--even 10 years ago.

  9. What a great tribute. Thank you for allowing me to be with her during the last year. Her tenacity of life and courage will be with me always. I see it in you. She would be proud.

  10. Anita,
    That is so beautiful and it is a wonderful tribute to my sister. Thank you for doing it.
    Uncle Butch
    2 September 2010


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