Christ­mas in July

Ter­mi­nal brain can­cer pa­tient’s only wish was to cel­e­brate the De­cem­ber hol­i­day this sum­mer

The Covington News - - Local News - JOY BRATCHER jbratcher@cov­

What has been a long hard bat­tle against can­cer for 68-year-old Shirley Moss now comes down to a few pre­cious months left to spend with her fam­ily and friends.

When her two chil­dren Rocky Moss and Star Carnes of­fered to ful­fill any fi­nal wishes she may have when she was di­ag­nosed with ter­mi­nal brain can­cer in early July, she could have cho­sen a num­ber of things to do or places to go.

In­stead, she chose to have a fi­nal cel­e­bra­tion with those she loved. She chose to have Christ­mas in July.

On Satur­day, July 21, hun­dreds of peo­ple showed up to Shirley’s home to pour out their love and sup­port for a woman who had played an im­por­tant role in the community for 27 years work­ing as a dis­patcher for the Rock­dale Po­lice De- part­ment. Fam­ily, friends and fel­low of­fi­cers came from across the state and coun­try to say their fi­nal good­byes in per­son.

“It was ab­so­lutely won­der­ful,” Shirley said. “It was a mad­house, but it was a won­der­ful mad­house full of love.”

Christ­mas in July was a pre­vi­ous tradition be­tween Shirley and Star for many years when they would ex­change one gift ev­ery year. When they found out that Shirley wasn’t go­ing to live through Christ­mas, they de­cided it was time to open it up for the rest of the fam­ily.

“It was some­thing she al­ways loved to do,” Star said. “Usu­ally it was be­cause she found me some­thing she couldn’t wait six months to give me, but this year, she de­cided she wanted to do all the giv­ing.”

Shirley’s fam­ily and friends dec­o­rated her home to get ev­ery­one in the Christ­mas spirit. As the community be­gan to get word of the cel­e­bra­tion, sup­port poured in from peo­ple across the state. Kicks 101.5 heard about the cel­e­bra­tion and came to her home to cel­e­brate with her the Fri­day be­fore the party.

“They were amaz­ing,” Star said. “They didn’t come in and then leave. They sat down with her and vis­ited with all of us. Cony­ers and Ma­ri­etta’s Honey Bake Ham stores do­nated one ham each to the fam­ily while the Morn­ing Crew do­nated a $500 dol­lar gift card along with

two Nutcrackers.”

The story of how Kicks 101.5 heard about the cel­e­bra­tion is some early Christ­mas magic in it­self.

“My aunt had been try­ing to get in contact with them ever since Mom was di­ag­nosed with lung can­cer is 2008, but her emails would al­ways come back un­de­liv­er­able,” Star said. “When we got the news that Mom was go­ing to pass away soon, she tried again. This time the email went through. I be­lieve it was just God’s per­fect tim­ing.”

When Kicks 101.5 shared Shirley’s story on their “Make Your Mon­day” spe­cial, peo­ple be­gan to call and do­nate all sorts of things for Satur­day’s big spec­tac­u­lar.

“A&R Rentals in Mon­roe do­nated tents and chairs for 100 per­cent free,” Rocky said. “Then they asked us if they could come inside and meet Mom. They pro­ceeded to sit down and visit with her for 30 min­utes to an hour.” Star wasn’t sur­prised by this. “To meet Shirley is to love her,” she said. “When they walked away, I saw tears in their eyes.”

Shirley was ex­cited about an­other thing the fam­ily was able to get for her as well.

“They were able to get me a snow ma­chine,” Shirley said. “I had a white Christ­mas in July.”

A pop­u­lar say­ing in Shirley’s home is a quote that is dis­played out­side of her home: “No Tears Be­yond This Point.” Tears de­vel­oped in Shirley’s eyes as she con­tin­ued to re­flect on her Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion.

“I’m break­ing my rule,” she said. “I’m not ready to go, but I’ve de­cided I won’t fight it. Be­ing with my fam­ily and friends made me re­al­ize how for­tu­nate I have been in my life. Some­times life gets in the way, but God is still good to us. He’s been good to me through it all.”

The party did not end on July 21. Fam­ily and friends continue to come to Shirley’s home to spend more time with her.

“It’s taken a lot of weight off of us,” Rocky said. “It’s been a con­stant fam­ily re­union as we re­con­nect with old fam­ily mem­bers we haven’t seen in more than 40 years. It’s been amaz­ing see­ing how many peo­ple love my mom.”

Shirley’s teenage great-nephew An­drew Born spoke highly of his aunt.

“One can’t help but love my Aunt Shirley,” he said.

Shirley has re­ceived Christ­mas cards from those who weren’t able to make the jour­ney to see her in per­son.

“It blew my mind,” she said. “I still don’t know where they could have pos­si­bly found them, but it was spe­cial to me they took the time to find them.”

Shirley said this was the best Christ­mas, be­cause she was the one who was able to do the giv­ing in the end.

“Some peo­ple didn’t lis­ten, but I told ev­ery­one not to come with any­thing,” she said. “Ev­ery­one left with some­thing per­sonal from me. They got to choose some­thing sen­ti­men­tal to al­ways have to think about me when I’m gone whether it be an ornament from my tree or one of my nutcrackers from Kicks. I just wanted them to al­ways re­mem­ber me.”

The fam­ily agrees their Christ­mas in July cel­e­bra­tion was far bet­ter than any reg­u­lar Christ­mas they’ve had be­fore.

“It was a full-blown Christ­mas,” Shirley said. “It was as real of a Christ­mas as Christ­mas could be. I had a house full of peo­ple who loved me and I loved too. I’ll never for­get it.”

Gabriel Khouli /The Cov­ing­ton News

Shirley Moss (cen­ter) and her fam­ily cel­e­brated Christ­mas in July.

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