By Marsha M. Brown
Before I say another word…I would like to first acknowledge the losses of our incredibly brave men who stormed the beaches of Normandy making their way into almost certain death. June 6, 1944…’Operation Neptune’ frequently referred to as ‘D-Day’ was a seaborne invasion…the largest in history. To all who were lost…to all who experienced it and miraculously survived, our nation remembers, salutes, and honors you. God bless you all and the families who waited at home to welcome you and comfort you.
If you have read Gig Line over the last few weeks, you have no doubt realized my goal in writing about a life experience that many of us have gone through or unfortunately might go through was with the hope of helping.
At the time I last wrote, it was about preparing for the day our family would deal with loss…the loss of a great, great man…my husband Billy. Four months prior an MRI on his brain indicated brain cancer…Glioblastoma Multiforme IV and little hope for recovery. We didn’t want to accept the grave news…we sought what we thought were the best doctors to help him…we prayed for Billy…a lot…and our church family prayed, visited and showed comfort and support to us on nearly a daily basis bringing already prepared food dishes of casseroles, meat dishes, vegetables and jello desserts…frequent deliveries of delicious home cooked nourishments to help us conserve our energy to remain at his bedside, through the night, encourage intake of fluids or food…some to make the bitter taste of meds more able to digest. We were so thankful…we felt so blessed by the show of love from not only our church family and personal friends but from our veteran community as well. They brought funds, they sat beside Billy and read to him…made him laugh and realize more than ever the genuine love his ‘brothers’ had for him. Prayers were spoken over him; sweet songs were sung softly and gently, and Bible verses were read to give Billy further peace and ease toward separation of his life from ours on earth and his nearing destination.
Dare County Hospice? Well…no master writer could adequately describe the value of each one of their staff. They came several times each week and they professionally and discretely bathed Billy, changed his bed while he was in it because he couldn’t leave it…they were uplifting, kind, friendly and absolutely angelic…they came to help Billy but also myself to provide a matter of time for me to run an errand or take a nap…but mostly to rest. I was so grateful to these incredible people…I was touched by the grace and respect they showed the one and only love of my life each time they came…they were a God send…a blessing…they came in, preformed their care and their supervisor, Natalie, visited in between to check on needed supplies for his care and to help me prepare emotionally for the inevitable…she made me aware of how he might seem just before…we talked about the DNR order…we talked about his meds…if he seemed in pain once he stopped verbalizing how he felt…she made sure I knew she (Hospice) was there to call on…she…like every single Hospice representative our family came to know through Billy’s illness made me feel less alone (medically) on Billy’s behalf and more confident I could call on them.
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Only a couple of days before he passed, his breathing changed, and suction was required intermittently to help alleviate the phlegm as swallowing had decreased drastically. Then, he started sounding different…his breathing pattern had changed. Maybe it was mental denial on my part because I knew he was gravely sick, but I was resistant to the fact it would be so soon and when he started to struggle in his intake of breath, I called Hospice for advice and was asked to sit down, followed by “Marsha, Billy is actively dying,”
Our dear Pastor, (‘Preacher’ Steve Smith – Manteo First Assembly) had just visited Billy earlier that day and prayed over him asking God to “take this brave soldier home” …turns out, Preacher Steve was ‘spot on’. Thanks to Natalie and her words of wisdom and experience, we had a short amount of time to beckon our family who weren’t already with us at the house and closest friends to come and say good-bye one last time.
She was right…she knew just by my descriptions of his status…and she did all she could to prepare us…within an hour after lots of kisses, handholding, and whispers in Billy’s ear of “I love you babe…thank you for all your love all these years and for being the best husband, father and grandfather a man can be. Its okay to go babe…Jesus loves you and I will look toward to seeing you in Heaven one day. Rest baby, rest.”
Then, the last kiss on Billy’s sweet lips. Through overflowing tears, my eyes strained to focus on our loved ones standing and sitting nearby. The necessary participants needed for official proclamation of Billy’s death came, examined him and rendered their conclusion and…it was done.
Then another devoted veteran and friend, Kelli Harmon, ushered me and our youngest granddaughter into our office/craft room away from where I would have observed Billy leaving our home for the very last time. At first, I was resistant…I didn’t want to leave his side even though his soul had left it…I wanted to hold his hand until they took him away…I didn’t want to abandon him even though he had left his body behind.
In retrospect, in my office/craft sanctuary, I strained to look through the slight door opening to see what I could see but Kelli kept me distracted as best she could so…thank the Lord, I did not see him on the stretcher. I am so grateful to her for ushering me out of the dining/living room area…so thankful.
In the last of this ‘Something Nobody Wants to Talk About’ series next week, I will tell you the outstanding help & support I received from Twiford’s Funeral Home and the important advice David Twiford gave me that I also thank God for today. For those of you who have not experienced this journey yourself…good! For those of you who have…we’re sisters in our grief and reflections.
Until next time, be happy, be safe and be proud. Love each other, forgive those who have hurt you…pray for those who break your heart or disappoint you in family, business and/or political matters. Call me if you would like at cell: (252) 202-2058 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question related to submitting a new V.A. claim; about an existing pending claim; or acquiring a duplicate of your original DD-214, please contact Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer phone: (252) 475-5604 or email her at email@example.com God bless you and remember that I love you all…even if I don’t know you…God does…and that’s enough for me. Stay tuned.