Sinner’s Redemption by Rebecca Joyce

Chapter Two


“Hey, Momma,” I smiled, brushing her thinning hair away from her face. Sitting on the bed next to her, I reached for her hand, gently stroking my thumb across the top. I would give anything to trade places with her. My whole life, Momma scrimped and saved, working herself to the bone to give me the life she never had. She never complained, not once. She would just smile in that distinct way of hers and tell me that everything was going to be fine. I wish she would do that now.

“Dr. Wong says the new treatment is working. He thinks you’ll be up and about in no time. How does that sound?” My voice wavered as a tear escaped my eyes. Wiping it away, I took a deep breath, praying that the good doctor was telling the truth, even when I knew deep down there was nothing more they could do.

Hospice Care was for the dying. A place where terminally ill patients went when there was no more hope. In my last year of residency, doctors diagnosed my mom with stage four breast cancer. It didn’t take a genius to distinguish that stage four was bad. So, I did the one thing I knew my momma wouldn’t approve of. I left the program and returned home to be with her.

There wasn’t any other choice for me.

My whole life, my mom was there for me and now it was my turn. I wasn’t going to let my mom go through this alone. Looking down at her fragile hand in mine, I whispered, “Mrs. Carrie sends her love. Said she’d come by later this week if she has the time. Pastor John and the church have been praying for ya. The ladies over at the Women’s League are making you a quilt. I saw it. It’s real pretty, Momma. All your favorite colors.”

Her hand tenderly squeezed mine, making me look up. Smiling, I stared into her beautiful blue eyes. “Hey you.”

“You need to go home, Tessa.”

I shook my head. “Wherever you are is home, momma.”

“What about school?”

“Only have a few weeks left of my residency program, and then I’ll be an attending. The hospital in Charleston has already offered me a fellowship there, so I can concentrate on my specialty. I’m thinking about accepting their offer. But we can talk about that later. How are you feeling?”

Ignoring me, she asked. “What about New York?”

I sighed. “St. John’s Presbyterian offered me the fellowship too. But they want me there in one week. I can’t leave you, Momma.”

“Don’t want you watching me die, baby girl.”

“You are not dying.” I lied, feeling the tightness in my chest rise. I refused to think about that. I refused to think about a world where she wasn’t in it.

“Baby girl?”

I didn’t want to talk about this. Looking out the window, I watched birds fly past as the warm summer’s breeze blew through the trees. What I wouldn’t give to take my momma out of this room and let her feel the warm sun on her face once more. Let her smell the fresh cut grass or listen to her laugh. Simple things that probably wouldn’t mean anything to anyone, but would mean the world to her.

My whole life, Momma gave me everything. All the love and compassion that made me into the woman I was today. Everything good about me, I learned from her. Her faith, trust and belief that the world was what we made of it, I got from her. My mom was the best of the best and because of some damn disease, she was going to be snuffed from this world before her time.

It wasn’t fair.

Her hand tightened on mine again.

“I’m tired, Tessa. Think I’m gonna rest for a bit.”

“Okay, Momma,” I said, leaning down to kiss her cheek before getting to my feet. Making sure her blanket covered her, I fussed over her for a few minutes before turning to leave.


“Yes, Momma.”

“I love you, baby girl.”

“Love you more, Momma.”

As I left the hospice center, a heavy weight sat on my shoulders. My time with her was fading fast. Soon, she would be gone from this world, and then who would I have to lean on when things got rough? Who would I ask for advice when I didn’t know what to do? The thought of continuing without Mom was a hard pill to swallow. I knew when she left, she would take all the goodness and grace with her. The world would be bleak without her bright light.

How did people do this? How did they carry on after a loved one passed? I didn’t know if I could. I tried not to think of it. I tried to be positive and believe in the power of prayer. Miracles happened in medicine. I knew such things happened. I read documented evidence of such miracles. People who suffered from terminal cases would just miraculously go into remission for no reason at all.

I couldn’t do this without her. Her time was fading fast. I needed more time. Taking a few deep breaths, I reached into my bag for my keys, then unlocked my car. Getting in, I sat behind the wheel for a few seconds, needing a moment. I always felt this way after leaving the center. I don’t know why, I just did. Clearing my head, I started my car and pulled out of the parking lot, heading for home.

Since leaving New York City and walking away from everything, my life has become simpler. Not easier, just simpler. Knowing what I knew now, I should have left sooner. I should have walked away from everything when she told me she wasn’t feeling well. She needed me and instead of coming straight home, Momma insisted I stay and continue with my life until Pastor John called and told me the actual truth.

My whole life, all Momma wanted for me was to have an excellent education and to make something of myself. She always told me I was too good for the trailer park we lived in - not that it bothered me - that I was better than everyone else, smarter, more beautiful, stronger. And when I received the scholarship to NYU, my momma and the church we attended threw me the biggest going away party this town had ever seen.

I didn’t come from much, just hard-working country folks who cared more about family and God than anything else. There weren’t fancy homes in my town. No one drove luxury vehicles. Women didn’t sport the latest fashions, and no one put on airs. My hometown owned who they were and never tried to be anything different.

Pulling up alongside the trailer, I cut the engine and grabbed my bag. Getting out, I saw Mr. Garvin across the way and waved to him. That was what we did a lot here. Smiled and waved. I didn’t need to tell Mr. Garvin where I was because he already knew. The whole town came together when there was need. It’s just how things were here. Storm, flood, frigid cold or sickness, the town rallied to help. I also knew that Mr. Garvin would soon be on the phone with the Ladies Auxiliary and the church, letting them know that Mommawas ready for another visitor.

Walking into my single-wide trailer, I dropped my bag at the door when I heard my childhood friend Tia ask, “How is she today?”

Taking a seat at the small kitchen table, I rubbed my face as Tia poured a glass of lemonade. “She looked better. Dr. Wong told me the new treatment is working.”

Tia’s brow furrowed. “Tess?”

Waving her off, I sighed. “I know she’s terminal, but I can’t give up hope, Tia. I’ve got that call from that specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota later today. Maybe he can come up with a new plan.”

“Tessa,” Tia sat across from me. “You know if there was anything that anyone could do, I would move mountains to help, but honey, think realistically here. Your mom has stage-four breast cancer that’s spread to her brain. Sweetheart, you, of all people, know what that means.”

I did.

I wasn’t stupid. I was in school long enough to know what the outcome would be. Unlike Tia, I was pre-med. I wanted to save lives. I was at the top of my class at NYU and in the last few weeks of my residency before Pastor John called. And just like that, all the studying and preparation didn’t matter. Without a second thought, I packed my bags and headed home, leaving everything and everyone behind.

Needing a change of subject, I asked, “How was York today?”

“Good.  Slept, ate and shit. You know the drill.”

I smirked, shaking my head. “What about you? Heard anything yet?”

Tia’s smile faded. I didn’t claim to know what she was going through. All I knew was one night two weeks ago, Ava showed up out of the blue, covered in blood and refused to talk about it. It took some finagling, but I eventually got her to at least tell me where the blood came from.

Living two trailers down, Tia and I grew up together. We suffered everything together, from Johnny Blinker and his mudslinging to prom, where she helped me beat up my date and his grabby hands. Tia was my person. The one person who, if I needed to dispose of a body, would bring the trash bags and duct tape, no questions asked. While college separated us for a while, we never lost touch. Tia studied Art History at UCLA before some big named director cast her in his new movie, and discovered her. The movie hit it big and before Tia could blink, her face was everywhere. But like me, she walked away and never looked back. I’ve tried many times to get her to talk to me, but she flat out refused.

“Have you contacted anyone from back home?”


“Tia,” I gently coaxed, reaching across the table touching her hand. “Have you even tried calling your agent?”

Tia jumped to her feet, shaking her head. “No. I want nothing to do with that fucking place or the people that live there. I’m done. Please stop asking me about it. Besides, the realtor called. She found us the perfect place. Close to the hospital and close to Central Park. I was going to call you, but I knew you were with your mom, so I bought it.”

Shaking my head. “Tia, I don’t know. Mom needs me here. Besides, I was considering accepting the offer from Charleston Memorial.”

“That redneck backwoods place? Come on, Tess. You will fade away there and you know it. No. You need to live your life like your mom said. You know damn well you want that fellowship at First Presbyterian Hospital in downtown Manhattan. I’ve already said I would go with you and help. All you would have to do is concentrate on the fellowship.”

“It’s not that, Tia. I don’t know if I can go back there.”


“Because of whom I walked away from.”