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Paschal makes good on a last wish from Ladd

With whispers and a song, a dying wish came true for Deanna “Dee” Ladd as her guest leaned over her bed, speaking soft words of comfort.

The women held hands, exchanging stories before the exertion became too much.

It seems that a lot has become too much for Ladd, who, with a quilt pulled high to ward off a chill, spends her days slowly ending an eight-year battle with breast cancer while her family watches and waits for the day they have to say “good-bye.”

Staff members of Comfort Care Hospice, where Ladd is a client, recently her what would give her comfort in her final days. Comfort Care’s Mitzi Butler said Ladd had two requests – she wanted her daughter to have a good experience on a horse and she wanted gospel-recording artist Janet Paschal to sing at her funeral.

That was too long to wait, Paschal said as she arrived at Ladd’s Antioch Road home Thursday evening. The two shared connections – both through a diagnosis of breast cancer and also the love of gospel music – and had met face-to-face in 2010 at the Comfort Care Hospice’s celebration of caregivers’ concert. Paschal is a regular performer at the annual event. The two had even exchanged emails over the years.

And while she has graced the stages in Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House, Paschal thought nothing of standing in an Alabama bedroom to grant a fan’s last wish.

Paschal said she remembered meeting Ladd in 2010.

“Dee had so much personality,” Paschal said. “She practically filled the room. She feels like a friend, and when (Butler) emailed me about Dee’s request to sing at her funeral, I said, ‘No. That’s too late. She won’t be able to hear it, and what good is that?’ ”

So, Paschal boarded a plane and came to visit. While here, she visited two other Comfort Care clients, including cancer patient Barbara Cross.

Ladd’s best friend, Dianne Blocker of Andalusia, described Ladd as someone who always had a story to tell.

“She retired from the Border Patrol, and boy could she tell some tales,” Blocker said. “And through the years, she has fought this cancer so bravely.”

Covington County was first introduced to Ladd earlier this year when she was chosen as one of three recipients for Cancer Freeze, the local non-profit that helps cancer patients with medical and travel costs. Ladd, a 50-year-old mother of three, has been married to her husband Barry for 30 years. She was diagnosed in 2003 with stage III breast cancer. By all accounts, she received chemotherapy and radiation and did well until 2007, when doctors found evidence of metastatic bone disease. Treatment began again, but when tests in July revealed that the cancer continued to spread despite treatment, doctors recommended no further treatment and made a referral to hospice.

That was only a few weeks ago.

“It has been amazing to see how much support we have seen from the community, from our church family, from my band family and other family and from people we don’t even know,” said Ladd’s daughter, Paige, a sophomore at Straughn High School. “Mom loves how passionate Janet is about her music, and it’s humbling to see Janet make a special trip here to make my mom happy.”

Ladd requested three of Paschal’s songs – “Take These Burdens;” “Uphill Climb,” and “Only for A While.”

And being the storyteller, one can only imagine the tale Ladd will tell in heaven of how her uphill climb only lasted a little while longer before God took those burdens from her shoulders.