Monday, October 1, 2012

Eve

Eve Coy Puckett Gardner was born on April 2, 1948. She died on Aug. 25, 1992 after a long battle with breast cancer.
Eve was my mentor, my friend, my babysitter, my neighbor, my teacher. Eve was a thin, full-of-energy and life woman. After losing nearly 100 pounds through exercise and diet, and sheer determination - a desire to watch her 8 children grow up, she discovered a lump in her breast. Both of Eve's breasts and surrounding muscles were removed, and she was in remission.
This is when I became acquainted with Eve. She and her family moved around the corner from us in Brigham City. She was so energetic that sometimes I wanted to tell her to slow down, but I didn't - I ran to keep up with her. We made baskets, wreaths, painted geese and Christmas ornaments, tore off wallpaper and painted walls, we danced in her living room, and we laughed at the pure joy of living.
Eve had reconstructive surgery and was so proud of her new breasts - they were perky, felt real (I know), and she felt whole. It was fun to watch Eve with her new body - thin, boobs, and bright auburn short, short hair. I couldn't get enough of Eve - her energy was contagious. She loved being alive. 
I began working, part-time, and took Jenna to Eve's, for her to babysit, on occasion, while Tyler was at kindergarten. I would stop to pick Jenna up, and Jenna did not want to come home - there was so much going on at Eve's, and Jenna wanted to be a part of the action. One time I walked into Eve's, and she and Jenna were dancing in the front room, in front of a mirror propped up on the couch. They were so beautiful together.
Eve taught me that the dishes could wait - she was a disaster of a housekeeper - oh goodness, yet her family was always so happy - digging in the dirt, playing in the snow, dancing in the living room. Eve taught me how to play with my children, how to be a child with them, how to see the world from their level, how to take joy in the every day, and how to make every day count. Eve taught me how to laugh at myself, how to not take myself so seriously, how to trust myself.
Our church congregation had a fall party, and the committee decided to have an old-fashioned Homecoming dance. Oh, we made the gym beautiful - dance and high school pictures of the ward members plastered on the walls, songs from the 50s, 60s, and 70s played, and everyone dressed up (if they could) in their high school formals (I wore one of my mother's) and suits. We had a floor show where a group of men dressed up in Hawaiian shirts and shorts and sunglasses and dance and lip-synch to a Beach Boys tune. There were four women who lip-synched to Diana Ross and the Supremes' Baby Love. Eve was Diana Ross, Diana, me, and Moana were the Supremes. So dang much fun. Years later I heard a group of women dressed up in outrageous costumes sing this song, and I sobbed because of this beautiful memory.
Eve and her husband, Tim, very much the quiet man, then danced - he standing with his arms reaching for Eve, and Eve rocking the hall dancing all around Tim, neither embarrassed of their place and role with each other. Goodness they were in love.
Eve's reconstructive surgery required the surgeon to take muscles from her back - and I don't remember the details. However, when Eve returned to her doctor for her 2 year wellness check, her cancer had returned, this time in her spine. The cancer grew and invaded her body. Eve eventually was bedridden with a halo screwed to her head, holding her neck in place. Eve withered away, and she did not want anyone to pity her.
Tyler fell out of swing one September Saturday, ending up with two broken arms. After Clark and I had calmed him down, gotten him to the doctor, and casts on both arms, I ran to Eve's to cry. I remember sitting on her couch, in tears, thinking how terrible of a mother I was, what a failure I was, and wondering how I could handle a 2 year old and a 5 year old in casts. Eve taught me that every child breaks a bone, has stitches, lives life. Eve taught me there were some things I couldn't prevent - whether a broken bone or cancer.
Eve let me into her house - and I cleaned, while she sat in her recliner and visited with me. She taught me how to serve and how to receive. I scrubbed her kitchen cabinets, cleaned the floors, washed walls and windows, and we visited. She told me why her family called her "Toots," and why she wanted to live, and die. She knew her time was short, but she was determined to leave each of her children a letter from Mom, a journal with pictures, and see her youngest child baptized. She let me take her to her bed, prop pillows around her, rub her wounds with salve, put lipstick on her lips, lightly brush her short red hair.
We moved to Alabama; Eve and I talked on the phone; she wanted to know all about my experiences - details. Who had I met, where did I go, what did I eat, how I lived life there. I lived my Alabama life for me and for her - by this time she was bed-ridden, refusing to go to the hospital, praying to hold on until her second daughter was married.
We returned to Utah that summer, and we were able to attend a wedding reception, a shared reception - a friend's second marriage, and Amber's wedding, and Eve - sitting surrounded by pillows, a ghost of herself, in her halo, smiling, but in immense pain. We visited for a short time, she told me this would be our last visit, that she was dying, her youngest had been baptized, her letters were written. I knew. I asked if she wanted me home for her funeral, she said no, but that she would let me know when she had reached the other side. Eve loved butterflies - she told me she'd send a butterfly to check on me. I cried, cried, cried.
One month later, a late August Saturday, the day of Eve's funeral, we were at church for a baptism. After the baptism, outside visiting, I mentioned that my friend's funeral was being held at that same time. I cried, my friend comforted me, a white butterfly landed on my music book, and I felt at peace.
Eve made me promise her two things, before she died. One - that I dance, that I embrace life, that I choose happiness - I have, for the most part. Life has not always given me dance music, but when I can, I dance. The other - that I do monthly self-breast checks and get yearly mammograms when I turned 40. I've done this - diligently. My mammograms are always in August or September. Every October I tie a pink ribbon on my purse in her honor.
Eve - today, Oct. 1, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, this memorial is for you. Thank you for teaching me, guiding me, saving my life. I love you, I miss you every day. My love -



5 comments:

  1. What a wonderful friendship and a lovely way to share it! Eve did save your life through your promise to her. Every time you wonder if you can, you remember Eve. You know you can! We are all here to help.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Ronda!
    What a loving tribute to my mom. It's always so comforting to have people remember her with such appreciation of her many talents.
    I hope you are doing well. It's been so long since I've seen you!
    Love, Heatherly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heatherly, you beautiful lady! So glad you were able to read this - I loved your momma. How are you? Find me on Facebook - let's chat. My love -

      Delete
  3. Hello! This is Brittany, Eve's youngest daughter. My sister Erin found your blog yesterday somehow and shared it with the siblings. Thank you for sharing some of your memories of our mom.I hope to find all well with you.I tried to find a way to attach the very photo of you girls at the dance you talk about in this article but couldn't figure it out.I'll send it to Heatherly and she can send it on to you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The pic is up! Oh so good to hear from you ladies. My love -

    ReplyDelete