In the Campbellsville, Kentucky countryside, a group of transformers and power lines stick out like a sore thumb. Next to this mini power plant is the home of Melinda Wise-Hayden, a former nurse and business owner determined to use her past mistakes as a parent to mold a second generation of children under her care.
Melinda began her career as a nurse after a teenage pregnancy, working long hours to assure that she could take care of her newborn daughter, Brianna. Unfortunately, those long hours meant spending more time at hospitals and nursing homes working and less time spent with Brianna and her younger brother Sam, who was born a few years later.
“I thought that was what I had to do to get the nice things that I thought they required and I found out later in life that that was a touchy subject with my kids,” Melinda explained. ”Every nursing job I found just completely consumes your life.’
Being away from her kids so much put strain on their relationships and when they got older, Sam and especially Brianna, told their mother how it made them feel. Melinda recalls being told that she put her job before her kids and then agreeing that it was possible. “He’s right, I did put my job before my children. If they called me at 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock in the morning…I went in.” These issues eventually drove a wedge between Melinda and her daughter, keeping them from speaking for long periods of time.
Melinda began to resent her job, hate the long hours and needed a change. She quit being a nurse after well over a decade and decided to open up a restaurant, Big Mama’s Buffet and Bar, with her sister. After a few tumultuous years, Brianna gave birth to her daughters, Miya and KyLasia. She began working at the restaurant and started to repair her relationship with her mother.
On Saturday, April 16th, 2016, Brianna was getting her clothes from the house of a friend she got into an altercation with when he shot through the door of the home, killing her and injuring another woman. Melinda was working at Big Mama’s when she heard on the police scanner that police were chasing a yellow Monte Carlo, a car that she knew belonged to her daughter.
Melinda, recalling the details of that Saturday explicitly, explained “Then they said it was registered to Brianna Washington, and I’m sitting there thinking ‘what on earth, who’s driving her car’…So I continued working.”
The Friday leading up to the shooting, Brianna was arrested but the police said she wasn’t going to be able to be released until Monday. When officers called Melinda to tell her that her daughter had been shot and killed, she just knew that something was off. It wasn’t until the coroner named off all of Brianna’s tattoos that Melinda realized that her daughter was gone.
After her death, Melinda retained full custody of Brianna’s daughter Miya and fought for visitation rights for Bri’s youngest daughter KyLasia. Melinda’s attention quickly turned to making sure that Miya was safe and didn’t fall into the same issues that her mother had fallen into.
“I let her see everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, now you choose what life you want to live.” Melinda said.
She emphasized that she tried to have so much control over Brianna and her life that letting Miya be her own person was of the utmost importance. “I’m raising her really different. I don’t know if I‘m doing the right thing or the wrong thing. I tell her whatever lifestyle she wants to live, I will support her.”
In an effort to stay around the house and take care of Miya, Melinda began using her experience as a nurse to foster 3 adults with special needs. “I don’t wanna work 12 hours, 16 hours a day and not be home. I need to be present.”
Melinda spends her time in the Campbellsville countryside, driving her granddaughter to and from hair appointments and cheerleading practice. When she catches an occasional break though, you can find her sitting outside her house, listening to the birds chirp and enjoying the little things.