May You Hit the Jackpot in 2019!

January 2nd would have been mom’s eighty-first birthday. For years I visited my parents in Nevada for New Years and mom’s birthday. This year I couldn’t face the smoky casino without her… It was hard enough with her.

Last year, I lost my mother to kidney cancer. She was one tough cookie, feisty up to the bitter end. And I was blessed to be there with her.

Every winter, my parents went south to Nevada from Idaho, to escape the snow…and because mom loved to gamble. On my last visit, I arrived in the afternoon, and mom was sick and not eating. By evening, she said, “I don’t feel crappy for a change. Let’s go to the casino for dinner.” After dinner, she wanted to play a video poker machine. About ten o’clock—way past my bedtime—my parents finally went home, and I went up to my room, exhausted from the long trip from Nashville.

At 6:00 the next morning, I got a call from dad. “If you come over and the car’s not in the driveway, we’re here.” Then he went on to explain why.

At midnight mom poked his arm and asked, “Don’t you want to go to the casino and play a machine?”

He said, “Not really. I want to sleep.”

A few minutes later, she poked him again. “Are you sure you don’t want to go play? I’ve got a terrible urge to play a machine.”

“Okay. If you really want to…” He got up, dressed her, lifted her into the wheelchair, then into the car, and off they went, back over to the casino.

At 3:00 AM when they finally decided to call it a night, they went to the parking lot and their car wouldn’t start. They waited half hour for a taxi—probably the only one in the tiny town of Mesquite. Mom was getting tired of waiting, and it was a pleasant night, so dad decided to push her in the wheelchair two miles back to their condo. Mom had a blast.

Even though she hadn’t slept all night, mom was like the energizer bunny and wanted to meet for breakfast. Usually, dad ordered whatever mom wanted, and they shared. But this morning, when he asked, “What do you want?” She said, “It’s a secret.” Dad and I exchanged worried glances. She grinned. “Get whatever you want. You deserve it.”

By the next morning, mom was in the hospital with excruciating pain in her side. Up until then, she’d resisted hospice or morphine, now she moaned for something to “make it go away.” The morphine kicked in within minutes and her whole body relaxed in relief.

I’ll never forget mom’s last words.

The next morning, the nurse came into mom’s hospital room, and asked, “How do you feel, Virginia?”

 “You really want to know?”

The nurse gave us a quizzical look. “Of course.”

“I’m pissed off,” mom growled.

“Why are you pissed off, Virginia?” The nurse winked at me.

“Because you won’t let me sleep.”

“Okay. Fair enough. Do you have any pain this morning, Virginia?”

“Yes, I have pain.”

“Where?” The nurse was concerned.

“In my ass,” mom snarled. “And it’s you.” Classic mom.

I grimaced, but the nurse just laughed.

Those were mom’s last words. She died that night. 

But mom died the way she lived… Giving ‘em hell.

Jackal, book four in the Jessica James Mystery series is set in Las Vegas in honor of my mom.

Here’s hoping you hit the happiness jackpot in 2019!!

runts playing with sharkey


toast party ball cheers
Photo by Caio Resende on

Author: Kelly Oliver

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning (and best-selling in Oklahoma!) author of The Jessica James Mystery Series, including WOLF, COYOTE, FOX, JACKAL, and VIPER. Her debut novel, WOLF: A Jessica James Mystery, won the Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for best Thriller/Mystery, and was a finalist for the Foreward Magazine award for best mystery. Her second novel, COYOTE won a Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery. And, the third, FOX was a finalist for both the Claymore Award and Silver Falchion Award. JACKAL was a finalist for a Silver Falchion and a Mystery and Mayhem Award. The first novel in her new middle grade mystery series, Kassy O'Roarke, Cub Reporter, is out soon. And she has an Agatha Christie inspired historical mystery, MISS LEMON'S MYSTERIOUS ASSIGNMENT AT STYLES out in March, 2020. When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, and the author of fifteen nonfiction books, and over 100 articles, on issues such as the refugee crisis, campus rape, women and the media, animals and the environment. Her latest nonfiction book, Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from the Hunger Games to Campus Rape won a Choice Magazine Award for Outstanding title. She has published in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Review of Books, and has been featured on ABC news, CSPAN books, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs. Learn more about Kelly and her books.

8 thoughts on “May You Hit the Jackpot in 2019!”

  1. I’m sorry for your loss, but thank you for sharing your story. I lost my dad last month and his and my mom’s favorite place in the world was Las Vegas. I’ve only been there once when I was 18 (it was a family trip), but never as an adult. To remember my dad, my husband and I are going to Las Vegas for our belated anniversary trip next month (our anniversary was last month, but we had to cancel our original plans).

    What a great tribute to use it as the setting for one of your books!


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