Antonio Gaines was 16 when his mother, Cynthia Ann Gaines, died. A sophomore in high school, he said watching her suffer was difficult.
“She suffered a lot and (when she died) I was glad she didn’t have to suffer anymore,” he said. “It was different for me … I was just relieved there was no more suffering for her.”
Cynthia worked at Charms and was battling breast cancer at the same time as her friend and coworker, Christine Boyce.
Diagnosed in 1998, Cynthia’s mother Bertha Robinson explains the up-and-down battle her daughter faced.
“She had surgery and treatment, then went into remission and went back to work,” Robinson said.
Then it returned. She had more surgeries and went into remission once again.
“It came back and it was in her head, in her brain,” Robinson said. “She never came back out of it.”
Cynthia, who was a lifetime resident of Covington and a graduate of Covington High School, died in 2000. She was just 32 years old. (Her friend Christine died one month later.)
And life was never the same, but Antonio credits his grandparents with a smooth transition to the next step.
Robinson had custody of him and sisters LaToya and Yasmine, who were 14 and 4 at the time, but Antonio chose to live with paternal grandparents Walter Lee and Barbara Jean Gaines.
“We really had good grandparents who helped fill the void after our mother died. That made it pretty easy.”
Now at nearly 36 and 34, both Antonio and LaToya have lived longer than their mother.
“I think about that,” Antonio said. “It really crosses your mind as you get older, but you know it’s a blessing to have the time.”
He remembers his mother as the single mother who worked two jobs to support her children.
“She was a hard worker, I’ll tell you that. She was raising us herself, my dad wasn’t around, and she worked two jobs. She came home at 9 from her janitorial job, went to bed, then got up again to work during the day. She never complained about it, either, she just worked hard.”
He wants to encourage people to take advantage of every day.
“When I was teaching I told the kids it’s always somebody dealing with something worse. Don’t take things for granted. Be blessed, be thankful.”