In loving memory of my dear mother, Susie H. Mitchell, who went to be with the Lord a month ago at this very time, just three days short of her 88th birthday. Mom was born on October 27, 1926 to James Madison Hess and Lydia McGlothin Hess, and grew up in the rural River Mountain section of Russell County, Virginia. Her parents married each other late in life and she was the only child they had between them, though both had multiple children with previous spouses who had since passed away. Her father died when she about 11, and her mother was left to raise her alone in poverty. Mom had to quit school in the sixth grade because her mother didn’t have enough money buy her books or school supplies. As a young adult, Mom supported herself and her mother, who by then was in declining health, by housekeeping, babysitting, and doing other odd jobs for people in her community. She remained in Russell County until she was 32, caring for her mother.
When her mother passed away in 1958, Mom moved to Hopewell with her sister and brother-in-law, Bertha and William Auten. There she met her future husband, George Mitchell. Mom always dreamed of having four girls, but as luck would have it, she gave birth to four boys: Terry, Lawrence, Edward, and Douglas Mitchell. However, she loved us as much any mother could ever love her children. Dad was 14 years older than Mom and had to retire on disability in his early 50’s due to health issues. Mom and Dad didn’t have much when we were growing up, but they gave us everything we needed and raised us in a Christian home. Mom always made sure we were in school when we were supposed to and had nutritious meals to eat, even if she didn’t have enough for herself. And she would nurse us back to health – and take us to the doctor whether or not we wanted to go – whenever we got sick. I always thought she was a little overcautious when it came to our health and safety, but in hindsight I can see that she was just being a good mother.
Mom was devastated in 1986 when Edward died suddenly just short of his 21st birthday, after suffering from bone cancer for more than a year and apparently beating it. Mom’s health was never the same. She was soon diagnosed with congestive heart failure, Type 2 Diabetes, COPD, anxiety, and other ailments. By the time Dad had to go to a nursing home in 1993, I had already taken Mom into my home to care for her. She fell and broke her left leg in 1994 and could never walk again outside the house without the use of a walker, and became dependent on me to drive her everywhere she needed to go. Before that, she had been able to walk to town and back several times a week. When Dad passed away in 1995, she had recovered enough to get out of the house and attend his wake and funeral with the use of her walker.
Over the next 20 years she bounced back a little and her health remained reasonably stable, but she was never able to get to where she was before she broke her leg. In 2005, she had another major setback when she fell and broke her left leg again, and on the same day, suffered cardiac arrest in the emergency room at John Randolph Hospital due to another medical issue. The doctors were able to get her heart started again, but she would face months of rehab in a nursing home before being able to return home again, although, from then on, she would have to use a wheelchair anytime she left the house.
In addition, she began to need oxygen at night, although didn’t use it during the day. And by that time, she was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and began suffering from frequent spells of aspiration pneumonia, many of which required hospitalization. From 2006 through 2011, she was hospitalized an average of once a year with that illness. Then, in June of 2012, she suffered from a sudden and severe case of aspiration pneumonia, which required her to undergo a tracheotomy and stay on a ventilator for more than seven weeks and almost took her life. But after months of rehab in another nursing home, she was able to return home by the end of that year.
She had a relatively good year in 2013 (with no hospitalizations), but she could never again eat the kinds of foods she enjoyed before her 2012 illness. Because of her aspiration risk, she had to stick with mainly soft and pureed foods, most of which she did not like, although she did love her banana pudding and chicken and dumplings. And because of her worsening Parkinson’s Disease, she was beginning to have trouble feeding herself. Also, she was having difficulty speaking clearly at times, due to the wound (that never completely healed) from the tracheotomy, although the tube had been removed. Being on a ventilator so long had taken its toll on her. She now needed oxygen all the time and had to use a portable oxygen concentrator whenever she left the house. She could no longer get up at night to use the bathroom without assistance from me. She seemed to get tired so much more quickly and needed to go to bed much earlier at night than she had before. And she had constant pain. All of this caused her a great deal of stress.
Earlier this year, her health began to decline even further, as she stopped having the energy and breath to do many of the things she had been doing before. She also began to fall a lot more. On October 8th, we took her to the hospital with breathing problems and she was once again diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia in both lungs. She did fairly well for a few days with the aid of simple oxygen and antibiotics, but she soon went into sudden respiratory failure, from which she never recovered. Signs of kidney failure soon followed. She didn’t want to be kept alive with machines this time, so we made the decision to put her on hospice care and let her go peacefully. She was worn out from this life and, as a devout Christian, she was looking forward to the next one.
Although we know she is finally out of her suffering, we dearly miss her. She left a hole in our collective heart that will never be filled. We will always love her. She was the last of her generation of the Hess/Mitchell family. She will never be forgotten. Who could ever forget those sparkling and loving blue eyes? She had a rough time in this life - especially over the last nine years - but she always thought of the welfare of her children first, even after we all became adults. We could not have had a better mother than she was to us. She was my best friend. In her latter years, she needed help from me for almost everything she did. But I didn’t mind because she did the same for me when I was a helpless child. Even in her old and decrepit state, she helped make my house a home. Now there’s an empty house where Mom used to be. She never had much of this life's goods, but she laid up her treasures in heaven. She is now enjoying those treasures along with her mother, father, brothers, sisters, husband, and beloved son, Edward, whom she longed to meet again. We can only imagine the homecoming that has taken place.