Woman smiles through trials for family

Published 12:12 am Monday, June 21, 2010

NATCHEZ —Dorthea Hackett must have a strong back to carry the load of her life these days.

Last month, Hackett was in a hospital waiting on a room for her terminally-ill older brother when her sister called to tell her their mother Edna Mae Hackett had died.

Her brother is home now, but not doing well. Yet, Hackett and her brother still find time to smile.

When The Dart landed on Watkins Street Wednesday, Hackett was on her back porch steps, listening to the breeze pass through her wind chimes, while her cancer-ridden brother slept through his pain inside.

It’s her brother’s sharp sense of humor and her mother’s watchful eye that help Hackett carry the emotional burden of nursing Mickel Hackett’s stage four lung cancer, she said.

Instead of cursing God for her misfortune, Hackett understands that the Lord would not give her more hard knocks than she can handle.

And Mickel’s cool attitude also keeps her in check.

Even though cancer has spread throughout his entire 61-year-old body, Mickel woke up from his nap and popped off one-liners as if he was being paid for laughs.

Mickel, who everyone calls Mr. Mike, said when God made people, he did it with a belly full of laughter.

His jokes about dying remind Hackett, who everyone calls Squeaky, that life is just a part of death.

“It’s life. Nobody gets out alive,” Mickel said out of the side of his mouth, which is swollen from steroid treatments.

Although doctors tell Dorthea he should be bed ridden by now, Mickel still goes about his routine of watching “(his) girl with the pig tails” on TV’s NCIS and having porch talks with his little sister.

They talk about New Orleans, their kids, love, their mother, who Mickel calls “that old crow,” and God.

Hackett moved Mickel from New Orleans to live with her in Natchez after her mother died and Mickel’s condition grew more serious.

Every day she gives him his medicine, feeds him his lunch, and helps him do his breathing treatments.

Even though Hackett finds good company in her brother, she knows his time is measured.

Not caring for her brother, who is one of eight siblings, wasn’t an option for Hackett.

She knew her mother expected it of her.

“If anybody else tried to take him from me, I would’ve had my dukes up,” Hackett said with her jaw clinched.

She said sometimes she finds herself just walking in circles because she feels so lost.

But she is comforted knowing her mother’s spirit is with her and finds solace in her death because it might have been heaven-sent.

Hackett said she used to hear her mother praying at night that God would take her before her oldest son, so she wouldn’t have to know the pain of losing a child.

Edna Mae also made Hackett promise to take care of him in her absence.

Even though she worries about her brother and misses her mother, nursing her mother’s first child makes her feel like she’s where she’s supposed to be.

And like a witty prophet, Mickel sets her mind at ease.

“I talked to the big dude last night,” he said. “He said we’re gonna be OK.”