Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

July 6, 2013

Woman’s dying wish: Dinner at Olive Garden

WASHINGTION — The endless salad and breadsticks were on the way, but the margarita arrived first. Deborah Monroe had dreamed about it. Now here she was, about to take a sip.

She licked her lips twice, squeezed a lemon and moved in.

She was parked at the table in her wheelchair, her chin even with the glass’s rim.

She recalled the last time she’d had a margarita. She’d been alone at a Mexican restaurant. It was her 55th birthday.

But Tuesday evening she was among friends, dining with social workers and caregivers who’ve looked after her for years.

The meal was her dying wish.

Go to Olive Garden, order steak and, by golly, drink a margarita.

She took a sip.

Then silence.

More sips.

“This works faster than my pain pills,” said Monroe, 61.

She has lung disease. Doctors figure she has maybe six months to live.

Jada McNair Elliott, a social worker who tends to her, recently got in touch with the Dream Foundation, a California-based wish-granting organization for adults.

Sure, they said, they’d pick up the tab for Monroe’s evening out. And throw in a chauffeured white limo.

“It seems like a small wish, doesn’t it?” Elliott said. “But it’s a big deal for her.”

Earlier Tuesday, Monroe was in her room, one she shares with a couple of residents, at a personal-care home in south Macon.

She was about to change into a black pantsuit for her big night.

She said she’d been craving Olive Garden for the longest time. She gets by on $110 a month in spending money.

She never eats out. The last time was that lonely birthday dinner nearly six years ago.

Why Olive Garden?

“Because of the advertisement on TV,” she said. “It looks soooo good.”

Months back, she asked the woman who bathes her how the food there tastes.

The woman told her she’d love it.

“I want a steak with some cheese and special stuff on it like they have on TV,” Monroe said to the woman. “And I want me a margarita.”

The other day the foundation mailed Monroe a box of goodies: a “Dream On” T-shirt, an American flag, a tiara and a perfumed blue-fabric corsage. The gifts made her cry.

She took a whiff of the fake flower and motioned to the package it came in.

“I wish the perfume was in here,” she said. “I don’t have any.”

An oxygen tube runs ear to ear beneath her nose. She has worn it so long that it feels like part of her. She takes it off sometimes, though, to smoke her Wildhorse menthols. She said young people should stay away from cigarettes. “It’s worser than drugs.”

The oldest of six children, Monroe grew up in the notorious Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis. Her father, who worked at a laundry, died when she was 4.

When she was little, at Christmas her family had a silver tree with a spotlight shining on it. She used to wait until everyone was asleep and sneak out of her room to stare at the tree.

One year for Christmas she got a doll and named her Susie. She kept it until she was 16. She got pregnant. Her mother tossed Susie in an incinerator.

“She said I was getting ready to have my own doll,” Monroe recalled.

She later worked selling clothes, then as a hotel maid, a cook at McDonald’s and as a private nurse. She moved to Georgia, settling in Milledgeville, Eatonton, then Macon.

She’s been sick for years and can’t take care of herself. She has three children. Two daughters and a son.

“But I don’t see ’em,” she said.

Beside her bed sat three boxes. Her belongings. Among them, a TV, a stereo and a Regulator wall clock she bought at J.C. Penney ages ago.

Propped nearby was a piece of art, a framed drawing of a man hugging a woman. Monroe’s eyes fixed on their embrace.

“When a woman and a man marry,” she said, “a woman wants her husband to love her like that.”

Her stuff was in boxes because she was moving to a home in Eatonton where she knows people. Her church isn’t far.

When the limo showed up to take her to eat, they carted out her belongings and stowed them in the stretch, a chariot of a U-Haul.

First stop: dinner.

Next stop: the rest of her life in Eatonton.

When the limo pulled up at the crape myrtle-skirted Olive Garden near Macon Mall, Monroe said, “I’m ready to eat!”

As they wheeled her inside, tiara atop her head, oxygen tube tucked away, she said, “I’m being treated like a singer. Lord, take my breath away.”

She must have said thank you 100 times.

“I’m gonna remember this for the rest of my life,” she said.

At the table, she slipped out her false teeth.

“I wanna taste everything,” she said.

She asked about the appetizers. A waitress suggested stuffed mushrooms.

“I love mushrooms,” Monroe said. “I ain’t never had ’em stuffed, though.”

She went with the spinach dip.

Then she ordered her steak, the Steak Gorgonzola-Alfredo, medium rare.

When it got to the table, chef Channing Johnson came out to see if it passed muster. Monroe took a bite and chewed. And chewed.

“It’s wonderful,” she told the cook. “You did a beautiful job. ... You made it so good.”

She looked up at Johnson.

“You all right, baby,” Monroe said. “You can cook for me all the time. How is you with chitlins?”

The chef squatted beside her and posed for a picture.

A friend said she had to kiss the cook, so she did. On the cheek.

“You smell good, too,” Monroe told him.

“You made my day,” the cook replied.

Text Only
National, International News
  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP4507280123 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, July 28, 2014
    Today is Monday, July 28, the 209th day of 2014. There are 156 days left in the year. 

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

Top News

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results