A small cluster of binoculars and pointed fingers aim excitedly toward a skyline of trees on the Reflection Riding nature walk as members of Chattanooga’s Ornithological Society search for a cawing American Crow.
Boxes of medical equipment fill Mandy McAllister’s small, quaintly decorated home in Brainerd. There was no preparation for her mother’s diagnosis of metastatic cancer or for her eventual stay in hospice care.
As the machines, slings, and medicine become more necessary the answers become all the more grim. Ushering a loved one through their final days is a task no one is truly ready for, but through family and communication, the McAllister’s stayed together.
“In a matter of two or three days, she went from being pretty healthy—going to garden club, going to church, hanging out with family—to having conversations about going into hospice care,” says Mandy McAllister.
McAllister, an administrative specialist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was the primary caretaker for her mother, Susan Reggin, while in hospice care. She was flooded with guilt, grief, and unfamiliar medical responsibilities all at the same time, so she greatly appreciated the support and validation of her family.
Her son, Jacob Paige, speaks on the family’s close connection that only grew stronger through these hardships.
“We communicated as frequently and as in-depth as normal,” says Jacob. “Knowing that it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen, and it doesn’t matter if the cancer is going to get better or worse, we’re still the same people. If she’s got eight months to live or two weeks to live, we are still on the same level all the way through, and that just creates a smooth transition.”
Although death is never an easy confrontation, the McAllisters have felt eternally grateful for their limited, but cherished time with Susan. Mandy’s mother and family were forced to face mortality in a slowed and intimate state.
“This could be the last time I really hug her. Is this going to be the last time she remembers who we are? Is this the last birthday? Is this the last ‘X’—whatever it is,” Mandy said.
Susan Reggin served as a clergywoman for over 30 years. Her philosopher’s brain and her dedication to others was passed down to her family.
“I adored my mom, so everything about me that’s good, I would attribute to my mom,” says Mandy, “I think she gave me tools and a model for how to work with other people. We all carry her around in our hearts.”
Mandy reminisced on those quiet moments, sitting at her mother’s bedside reading old poems and laughing through fading memories.
She smiled thinking about her niece and mother playing with stuffed animals, forgetting about the future. It’s those moments that stay with family till the end. It’s the seconds of quiet, vital peace in the midst of the storm, that they look back on and wish to relive.
Meet The Storyteller
Mark Drinkard has 3 years of experience in student media. From those experiences, he has gained skills as a videographer and video editor. He has used his knowledge of creative tools such as Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and Audition to make and produce videos and audio projects. He is also adept in his knowledge of lighting, audio recording, and audio editing. Mark Drinkard currently lives in Chattanooga TN as he attends college. Photography is a passion of his and the rural landscapes offer a great backdrop to find and make photos. His goal is to provide a voice to everyone and use his skills to tell the stories of the voiceless. For questions, collaboration or to hire Mark Drinakard, contact him at markdrinkard2@gmail or (865)407-3317
Campus is beginning to look the way it did before COVID-19 pushed students, faculty, and staff to return home and begin learning and teaching classes online. The students of Rising Rock Media were tasked with a project for UTC’s Student Government Association: A Year of COVID-19. The class was split into three groups and covered the past, the future, and a general overview of life in the pandemic. Our hope is that this series helps our friends, classmates, and teachers to feel stronger about the challenges that we overcame together, and provide a light into an unknown, but brighter future.
Over the past year, educators and students alike have faced unprecedented changes in how they go about their education. No one has been able to keep Coronavirus out of their mind over the past few months, but when the next generation thinks about the future, they’re more worried about doing times tables than getting sick.
The world is now over a year out from the devastation of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus that swept through the Earth in 2020, touching and changing every hemisphere. Though we are moving and looking on to a newer normal, our world is still recovering from the ways that COVID-19 has impacted our lives, and there is an opportunity to reflect, and to begin to make sense of the chaos around us, and how students have found new ways to cope.
One at a time, students roll up their sleeves and take a deep breath to receive their COVID-19 vaccination shot from the UTC Health Department, a process most of the community found inconceivable a year ago when the University first shut down for the pandemic.
Aisy Nix, sophomore at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, operates a personal business, reworking thrifted and vintage clothes. Nix creates colorfully patched, embroidered, and acid-washed masterpieces out of the “tired” clothing someone else decided to ditch.
Her mission is to offer a sustainable clothing option for people in her community.
“Fast fashion [in larger clothing corporations], utilizes child labor without taking into consideration the environmental impacts,” says Nix.
Nix started selling acid-wash reworks in the summer of 2019. Thanks to self-taught sewing lessons, her success and creative progress has grown significantly since.
Throughout her business and creative endeavors, Nix has learned, “the more chances you take, the more likely there’s going to be a positive outcome.”
Check out Nix’s work and business profile on Instagram, @a.z.thrift.
Stephanie Swart is a Senior Innovations in Honors student pursuing a BFA degree in Photography & Media Art, with a double minor in Art History and Communication at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She is the Photo Editor for UTC’s newspaper, University Echo, and the Managing Editor of UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity. Swart is a storyteller and truth seeker, and she plans to continue these pursuits beyond her time at college.
Kalani Cannon’s refrigerator at her home is adorned in several drawings, doodles, and notes from her students at Soddy Daisy middle school. It’s called “Miss Kalani’s Fridge of Fame.” One amongst several students whose artwork is on display drew a rainbow with them and Miss Kalani standing underneath. To its left is a mermaid with blue hair, little hands that have been made into a camel and a dinosaur, and a note that reads, “Miss Kalani is fun, kind, helpful, cool, sweet, loving, outgoing, weird, funny, crazy, awesome, amazing, and kid-friendly.”
Cannon is twenty-one years old. She’s an artist, sitting in front of a colorful backdrop that she created herself in her basement. She’s a skateboarder, kicking her Vans back and forth underneath her seat. And now, she is in the second phase of her residency as a full-time student teacher for sixth-grade science at Soddy Daisy middle school.
As soon as you set foot through the door, one’s senses are tested with a wild, colorful array of paintings and sculptures. After a few seconds, the soft jazz starts to reach your ears and by this time, Keeli Crewe, gallery director at Area 61 is probably excitedly showing you her new favorite piece.
At first glance, Stratton Tingle may look more like a band member than an Executive Director, with his waist-length dreadlocks and black-denim jackets, but that’s exactly the type of creative personality SoundCorps needs.