The Legend of Alabama Grit

Now, she helps folks who are near the end. It’s a heavy job, watching people die. But they say she has a gift for making it easier.

Hospice nurses work like dogs. But then, this woman has never been a stranger to work.

She’s got strong eyes and wrinkles. Before she landed this gig, she was a hotel maid, raising two children. It was a tough life, but her kids ate.

Then her mother got sick.

“I sat with Mama every day at the end,” she said. “Our hospice nurse was off-the-chain awesome. If not for her, I don’t know how I woulda gotten through.”

Her mother died in the morning. It was raining. The world turns ugly when people die.

That afternoon, she sifted through her mother’s belongings. She found her mother’s framed high-school diploma. The glass was broken.

“That’s when it hit me,” she said. “Mama always wanted me to go to college. You know, have the opportunities she never had. Well hell, I never could. We’d always been so poor.”

Well hell.

Anyway, she hadn’t always been a hotel maid. At eighteen, she’d fallen into the role of a wife. He was a pipe-fitter. She gave him two kids and hamburger steaks over rice each night. Things weren’t great, but they were okay.

One day, he didn’t come home. He sent his girlfriend to collect his things. There was a fight. Cops were involved.

She moved in with her mother, she looked for jobs in the newspaper. After a few years of making hotel beds, they were almost a happy family. Almost.

Then her mother’s diagnosis.

“It felt like my life was over,” she said. “I was like, ‘God, how much more $%#* can you throw at me?'”

So she threw it right back where it came from.

She enrolled in community college. She applied for student aid. She worked full-time, studied. She managed to keep everyone fed.

Her seventeen-year-old son contributed toward rent, her thirteen-year-old daughter cooked. At night, she helped the kids do homework. And when she opened nursing textbooks, they helped with hers.

“Don’t think I realized how hard it was gonna be upfront,” she said. “And I’m glad I didn’t.”

Now, she helps folks who are near the end. It’s a heavy job, watching people die. But they say she has a gift for making it easier.

And she’s seen things. Unexplainable things. She remembers one of her first patients. He was on his way out. His eyes closed. He told everyone in the room he was floating above the house.

“Hey,” he said to her. “That must be your car, the green one.”

It startled her.

“I’d always parked at the end of the street,” she said. “There’s no way he could’ve known that.”

But he did. And it did something to her. In the moments before he left this world, after he’d said goodbye to family, she leaned close to tell him something:

“Please tell my mama we’re doing alright.”

16 comments

  1. Sandra Marrar - February 22, 2017 2:23 pm

    What a beautiful story!

    Reply
  2. Linda - February 22, 2017 3:28 pm

    Sean, you get me every time. That was a great story.

    Reply
  3. Cherryl Shiver - February 22, 2017 4:16 pm

    All of your stories are keepers, they are worth sitting on the front porch listening to. This note is to let you know,…I like your art work. It is just snazzy. It always fits just right, if you don’t do it, I believe who ever does draw it knows you quite well. I like it. Just saying…….somebody does a fine job.

    Reply
  4. Diane - February 22, 2017 4:53 pm

    Darn you, Sean. I can’t read one of your stories without tearing up. Whether it’s dogs, or mamas who work hard for their families and end up helping someone else’s, you get to me.
    Well done. Keep making me cry.

    Reply
  5. Carol DeLater - February 22, 2017 5:09 pm

    You always bring a memory. My father in law died this past summer. At the end, he kept talking to his mother. The first time he looked across the room and asked someone unseen to the rest of us “what are you doing HERE”? A few more times as the last couple of days went on he spoke to his brother (who passed a couple of years ago). Once he asked him why he brought the horses. (They rode horses when they were small) He wasn’t talking in his sleep, he was actually looking at someone and carrying on a short conversation. I have a lot of end of life stories like that. I don’t know where we go at the end, but I am positive there is an afterlife of some kind.
    xx, Carol.

    Reply
  6. Tonya Weisbart - February 22, 2017 6:42 pm

    One of the most precious memories I have is laying next to my Daddy in his hospital bed at home during his last moments and whispering to him that it was ok to go. He needed that. I promised to take care of everything. His eyes looked up, his bright blue eyes were clear for a moment, he said “Ohhh, it is so beautiful!”…and he went. I kissed his face and held his hands. I tried to remember those hands…his face…HIM. I then looked at his Momma in the corner quietly sobbing. Grandma Slaton lost her boy. I got her a glass of water and took her out so she didn’t have to see what had to happen. She didn’t want to talk. She wanted to hold my hand and sob. So we did. Momma went into her room and cried as my sisters held her. So many people came. TOO many people were witnessing such a precious moment. But, then again, SOOO many people loved that man for a million reasons. So, one of the worst moments of my life was actually a moment of beauty and grace and love. And all the while our hospice nurse quietly did the hardest work. Things a family should not have to do. SHE did them. And she silently cried the entire time. She also loved my Daddy. But, I have a feeling she loved all of her patients that way. +

    Reply
  7. marilue - February 22, 2017 8:44 pm

    goosebumps on that one…i died for a few moments in tallahassee after being t-boned by a drunk college student. the lady that walked from the auto shop asked me if i wanted her to call my mom and husband. i said yes please and she did. i never told her their numbers. i stopped by months later once i rehabilitated (such a painful word)to thank her. she worked there for only two days and never came back. they didn’t remember her name. i did play frisbee with 33 dogs at the rainbow bridge. i asked my mom about an irish setter named RED, she said he died when i was 4 months old. goosebumps…love your prose. i lost my dad to a heart attack when he was 47 and i was 10. i can relate to your love for him….and your ellie mae…
    keep up and know that many are grateful for what you do.

    Reply
  8. Maureen - February 22, 2017 9:55 pm

    full of hope

    Reply
  9. Eddie - February 23, 2017 8:17 pm

    This was a great one Sean,and the comments go right along with it,wonderful.

    Reply
  10. Marion Pitts - February 23, 2017 8:44 pm

    Beautiful! I am teary-eyed!

    Reply
  11. DJ - March 15, 2017 11:56 am

    Thank you Sir. It’s been my honor to be a nurse. For awhile I was a hospice nurse and even a Peds hospice nurse for a bit. It takes a lot to have folks trust ya with the ones the love and about to lose. Yeap it’s been my honor. I appreciate your view of the world and amazing way of being a spin master with words. I’m a saltwater redneck from the Gulf of Mexico landlocked in the North Georgia mountains. You would of liked to of met my Grandma. I’m sure y’all would of had much to talk about. Two kindred spirits.

    Reply
  12. LindaD - March 15, 2017 12:09 pm

    My mother’s last moments on earth were filled with the beautiful voice of her hospice nurse softly singing “I Walk In the Garden Alone” into her ear while I held her hand. I know she heard it and was comforted by it. That nurse was like an angel. I’ll never forget her, but I never even knew her name.

    Reply
  13. Phillip D. Odom - March 15, 2017 12:25 pm

    ‘Hope’, Sean Dierich, you give ‘Hope’.

    Reply
  14. Joseph Mullan - March 15, 2017 3:51 pm

    G.. I’d sure love to meet you .but thankfully you going to be at my cuz David’s night soon..then I’ll get the low down on your night..just love your reason life in the south .everybody should be moving there..including yours truly…just lose your posts .thank you again aSean

    Reply
  15. Janice Smith - March 15, 2017 8:56 pm

    crying from a heart that saw both my elderly parents take their last breath. Truly a privilege to give them up to heaven!!

    Reply
  16. June RouLaine Phillips - March 15, 2017 9:58 pm

    Thank you for sharing your God given talent.

    Reply

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