"My Aunt Thelma was 85 years old when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. The doctors told her without immediate surgery, she would have from a few months - or maybe just a few weeks to live. I am told that my aunt said to the doctors, 'I ain't not having no surgery'.
We all tried to convince her to have the operation, but she refused. To make a long story short, Aunt Thelma lived a wonderful and active life on her own and reached the age of 94.
She had kept up the payments on her insurance and planned her funeral. She had given the funeral home her insurance papers to make sure her services were covered.
She had been in the hospice Goldsboro, North Carolina only a few days when the funeral home called my brother to say that the life insurance policy had just expired. How ironic. My Aunt Thelma and her insurance policy expired on the very same day."
My Aunt Thelma lived in Goldsboro, North Carolina. She was 85 years old. She was born and raised in Goldsboro. That was her home. That was the place she knew. She was comfortable there. She was happy there.
She got a medical diagnosis. The diagnosis was cancer—colon cancer. The doctors told her that unless she had surgery right away, she had maybe a few months, maybe a few weeks to live. My aunt, I'm told, looked at the doctor and said, "I'm not having no surgery."
Well, those of us in the family tried to convince her to have the surgery. Each of us took turns going to her very friendly and very gently and saying, "Perhaps you should have the surgery." She told each one of us, in no uncertain terms, "I'm not having no surgery."
Okay. Well, what could we do? She was 85 years old, as far as we knew. She was of sound mind. It was her decision.
She was in Goldsboro, North Carolina. My two brothers were in Greensboro, and me and my sister were up in New York City. We felt like we needed to do something. We thought the best we could do to start off with is at least send somebody to her apartment to take care of her, somebody to make sure she was eating and just to look after her.
Well, we sent her an aide. The doctor would send an aide. The county would send an aide. I think for about a month and a half straight, there was a different aide at our house every day. I think the longest any aide ever lasted was maybe two or three hours before she cursed them out, barred them, and then threw them out of her apartment.
She said, "I don't need anybody in here watching what I'm eating and seeing how I'm living and spying on me. I'm okay." So we backed off.
She was living her life. She was doing her thing. She was doing good. My brother did get one of her friends who was younger to look in on her without her knowing that she was being looked in on. Well, the doctor had said a few months, maybe even just a few weeks.
Well, she made it through the few weeks, and before we knew it, through the few months. We looked around one day and it had been a year. Then a second year and then a third year. She was still living her life, coming and going, going to church, doing her grocery shopping, doing her cooking, going to see her friends. Then the fourth year, the fifth year.
She told us that at her apartment complex, in the laundry room, she knew which machine she could use for free because she said, "I know how to turn something on the back of it to make it do my laundry, and I don't even have to use a quarter." The next year, another year passed, another year passed.
We were visiting her once down in Goldsboro, and my aunt had this habit where she never waited in lines. No matter what grocery store, pharmacy, or wherever there was a line, she never waited in line. She just would walk right to the front of the line like she owned the store, like she owned the land. Of course, nobody said anything to her.
We were with her one time in a pharmacy when she decided she was just going to go to the front of the line. She just walked around, got in front of the line like that's what she was supposed to do. She said to the cashier, "Do you know how old I am?"
The cashier said, "Yes, Miss Thelma. You ask me that every time you come in here. I know how old you are."
My aunt said, "How old am I?"
The cashier said, "You're 93, Miss Thelma."
She said, "That's right, I'm 93."
My aunt had made it from 85 to 93\. The doctors had said a few months or a few weeks. She had made it from age 85, she was now 93\. She was still living good and enjoying her life on her own terms.
About another year passed and my brother got the call that they were moving her to a hospice. Now, my aunt, because she knew she was dying, she had prepared. She had everything planned. She knew the dress she was going to wear. She knew the kind of casket that she wanted. She knew who she did and did not want to preach her eulogy.
A few days before she passed, my brother got a call from the funeral home. Now, my aunt had taken the insurance policy to the funeral home to make sure that her services were going to be taken care of. I can remember when I was five or six years old, me and my sister used to fight over who was going to give the insurance man the dime when he would knock on my grandmother's door. Insurance is what we did.
They were calling my brother to let him know that the insurance had just expired. How ironic! My aunt expired and the insurance expired at the same time. Go figure. But my brother said to the funeral home, "I got this." He took care of everything and he made sure that everything was just the way my aunt said she wanted it to be.
Now, there was just one little hitch here, and that was my aunt said she was just going to have a small funeral at the funeral home. And she didn't want that young pastor at the church to preach at her funeral, she wanted the old pastor from the church to preach at her funeral. But because so many people in that town knew and loved my aunt Thelma Davis, there was going to be an overflow that the funeral home said they couldn't handle.
They were going to have to move this service from the funeral home to her home church. It became my brother's task to tell the new young preacher at that church that my aunt did not want him to preach the eulogy.
The good news is that that young preacher knew my aunt and he understood very well. So he backed aside and let the old preacher come in to do the eulogy for my Aunt Thelma. It was a beautiful service.
Wow. My Aunt Thelma lived and died on her own terms.