Life is truly amazing, difficult and rewarding. I am referring to my Mother, my best friend and confidant. Eddie Ruth Gray, my Mom, was truly remarkable woman. She endured many trials in her life and overcame every challenge with poise, grace and love.

God graced her with a long life of 82 years, but then it seemed like overnight she suddenly became seriously ill. This strong woman in her 80s would get out on a big lawn tractor with her cap, long-sleeves and capris on and mow her huge yard for hours. She had her housecleaning, bill paying and checking on family down to a specific routine. No task was too big to tackle and she loved planning, decorating and being a part of projects.

My family and I were so perplexed, trying to understand what health problem had befallen her and how our roles changed so quickly into caregivers. We took her to numerous physicians, clinics and everyone had an opinion as to what was causing her back pain and why it was becoming progressively worse. I remember on many occasions, she would put a brave face on and prepare holiday and birthday dinners, decorate the house for the special event, go and buy gifts and never once let on that the pain was so intense.

I often look back and ask myself, “Why didn’t you pick up on the illness that she was going through?” Each night, I would call and give her the update on my day at school, all the nonsensical trials I had to endure, and finally get around to asking how her day was. She would always reply, “I am fine.” This kind, considerate and loving mother never wanted to burden anyone. Whenever I would take off work to take her to another doctor’s appointment, she would always say, “I’m so sorry for you to have to do this; you need to be at school with the kids.” Of course, I would reply, “That’s what daughters do for their mothers,” and, “It is my responsibility and pleasure to do it for you because you have always been there for me every step of the way and I love you.”

Whenever she would go to a doctor the common question was, “How long have you smoked cigarettes?” She had only smoked for a year when she was in her 20s, but she worked in a time and an era when smoking was permitted in the workplace. She inhaled secondhand smoke for years. Something should have clicked with all of us but didn’t the damage from the cigarettes would even show up on her X-rays. We should have put the pieces of the puzzle together.

As the last year of her life progressed, her face showed how much pain she was in and she couldn’t hide it any longer from us. She received treatments for various ailments and got shots, treatments, etc., all to no avail.

Finally, a full body scan revealed the hidden culprit of all discomfort. Her liver looked abnormal which led to being sent to an oncologist. We were all in shock even though we should have sensed something was wrong since she had had a mastectomy 15 or 20 years earlier, I felt as if a mule had just kicked me in the stomach whenever the doctor said, “Mrs. Gray, the cancer has progressed to your pancreas.” I had known several people who had pancreatic cancer and they only lived a short time. In the back of my mind I knew what she and our family would be facing.

She was diagnosed in early November with this terrible and deadly disease. By the first week of December, her life was gone and we were so grief stricken. Her death left such a void that has been impossible to fill because she was the bright light in our family. She was truly an angel and I know all the pain and agony have been wiped away and that she’s enjoying being with the family in Heaven. Her presence is always with us in all that she did for family, friends and others she came in contact with. She instilled values, love for family and a strong work ethic.

Be diligent in your quest to find out what is causing the pain and then what can be done for it. I guess what I’m trying to say to each one of you is to never let the aches and pains go by the wayside. Do your research and find people who can help put the pieces of the puzzle together.

In respect and love for our mother, Eddie R. Gray.
Stacey, Kim and Kelly

Stacey Holcomb is a Sam’s Club member residing in Burke, TX, who was kind enough to share her story with us. To submit your own story to Healthy Living Made Simple, email us at hlms@samsclub.com or visit us at Facebook.com/hlmsmag.