My Second Mother [Personal Post – Taylor – Downriver, Michigan Photographer]

When we are children, we spend time at many of our friends houses. I can recall many of my friends parents that I spent many hours with as a child. Most are just that though “Mary’s Mom” or “Johnny’s Dad”, no real relationship was ever formed. This story I am going to tell you is about one of those REAL relationships. It’s raw…. and my heart is still broken, so excuse my grammar.

Since childhood I have always been extremely personable, very outgoing and [mostly] outspoken. I had many close friends, in many circles of my life. One day, a girl walked into art class, new to the school, nervous, shy… she took at seat at our table. Of course, being who I am, I sparked up a conversation and wouldn’t shut up until the end of class. By that time I had her number and I knew “we were to be the best of friends”. NOW, this may be a funny childhood girl statement, but in actuality, it was the truth.

Her name was Amanda, she wasn’t like any of my girl friends. She had been through things a girl at that age shouldn’t ever experience. She was damaged. Most of the other students just thought she was a bitch. I knew better. She let me actually know her soul. I had already known the love her parents had for her before ever meeting them. She spoke very highly of them, which is rare for a young teenager. The first time I met her parents… it was awkward. They were actually interested in me. Me? huh? I guess Amanda had told them all about me and they wanted to see the “Brittney kid” in person. We talked for a while and realized I had already met her Dad a long time ago [small world situation] I then understood why my new friend never had anything bad to say about her parents… they were amazing… Loving, Caring… Interested! This was the first time I was there, so I thought “well, I’m new, I’m sure they are always like this when they meet new friends of their daughter’s or son’s” … I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Throughout the years I because extremely close to Amanda’s parents. It went from “calling” them Mom and Dad as a teenager to actually viewing them as a second set of parents as I reached adulthood. When I had my first child, they became grandparents [and of course Amanda became and Aunt… lets not forget] They were one of the first ones to come visit my twins at the hospital when they were born premature. They were one of the first people I trusted taking my children overnight. They were there with me when I married the father of my children and with me when I went through my divorce. They were one of the first people to accept the fact that I was who I was and stood by me through the good and the bad. Never looked down on me, never judged me. I truly love them like parents.

Now, Amanda’s Parents, Adrienne and Dave, are remarkable parents. They stand by their children, give them toooo many chances and love without any end. But, the love they have for their children has never come in the way for the love they have for each other. I can honestly say that I have never seen two people be so in love with each other. True soul mates. They make you want to be better in your relationship just be being around them. I’m not saying it was rainbows and butterflies all the time… it was real life, and they shared it with love like I had never seen.

About a year ago, Adrienne, my second Mom, got terrifying news that she had cancer. It was stomach cancer. And if hearing that wasn’t bad enough… it was already stage four. Now, I’m am the MOST optimistic person in the world… but every time that phone rang and it was my dear friend Amanda, it took everything in me to say “People beat cancer everyday… If anyone could beat it, Mom can” . All the optimism in the world kinda fades away when you decide to google survivor rates of stage 4 stomach cancer. And, before you yell at me… My optimistic self was on google trying to find stories and survivors for my dear friend to give her hope. But still, I had hope. Mom had just started Chemo and her tumors were showing no growth. Of course there was hope… if there was no hope, then why… WHY would she even be fighting. There was plenty of hope.

Months went by and Mom started having fluid build up in her lungs. She was going to the ER so often to get it drained they just permanently placed a drain in her and Amanda learned how to drain it for her. After, the chemo stopped working. They started a new Chemo, this then caused her to have fluid to build up in her stomach. She would joke that she wasn’t going to get it drained until she was at full term… because she actually didn’t go until she was about the size of a 9 month pregnant woman. 4-6 liters of fluid I believe was the normal amount that was drained. She was having a bad month and was in and out of the hospital. She has asked Amanda to stop working so that she could spend more time with her and have someone there at all hours of the day as if was hard for her to walk because her feet and hands had gone numb. Amanda had told me that she knew that there was something else going on that her parents weren’t telling her, she just didn’t know what, or she really didn’t want to know what it was. But her Mom was getting worse and her Dad was breaking down quite frequently, even started seeing a pastor regularly [which wasn’t normal]. This is when she knew it wasn’t good news that they were keeping from her.. all I could say was “Go spend time with your Mom, talk, smile… laugh… just spend every second you can with her. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter, she is right there… go spend time with her”. She did just that.

On September 10 Mom was admitted to the hospital. Things weren’t good. Amanda was coming home to relive her sitter and I had made plans to visit Mom the next day because she was tired [always tired now] and they were going to let her sleep. The next day I get a call from Amanda that changed our lives. Mom was being sent home on hospice. No more chemo, no more hospital trips… she was going home to be comfortable. I spent many days over at their house… just as I did in my childhood. My son, who is now nine, was old enough to be told what was happening with his Grandma, so he begged me to come see her, so on a Friday, I brought him by.

Saturday, September 19 my second Mother, Adrienne Laycock passed away. She was one of the greatest women to have ever graced this earth. She was a Veteran, She was a nurse and worked at the VA where her colleges had nothing but amazing things to say about her. She would complement you out of nowhere and be the first person to call you out on your shit. She was amazing at reading people… she had a gift. It was as if she could just look at you and see your soul. She was an amazing mother to her children and grandchild and an amazing second mother and second grandmother to us! But, most of all, she had an amazing heart, and most of it belonged to Dad… as it should have.

I have done so well at staying strong for my friend Amanda and being her rock that people in the grocery store think I’m crazy. The expensive milk that she always used to complain about having to buy Amanda will catch my eye and I will loose it in isle 2. I am going to miss her so much. She had such an amazing and important role in my life and I will never forget everything that she has done for me.

Adrienne was a woman who didn’t like her photo taken that often. On the Monday before she past away, she asked me to take some photos of her and her family in her bedroom. Of course I said yes. I couldn’t believe she had actually asked. So Wednesday I came by and snapped a few. These are true.. real.. raw.. emotion. No editing was done except for converting to clack and white so that your could see love instead of bed sheet and shirt colors. I will start out with some oldies first though!

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Adrienne and Dave when they first stared dating

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Adrienne, Dave, Amanda and Savana at the VFW awards ceremony

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Adrienne and Dave 2015

Here are a few of the photos am honored to have gotten the chance to capture [and also be in… as I handed to camera off to Dad for a moment] Please enjoy.

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