By Marsha M. Brown
Over the previous weeks I have written about my personal journey prior to my hero husband becoming ill with brain cancer and passing from this world in 2016. I wanted those of you who have not been through the loss of a spouse or who hope with it will be light years away when it happens from having to go through it somewhat unprepared.
In my recent GIG LINE, I have discussed how when everything was wonderful and Billy wasn’t sick, that we planned through our attorney and executed our LAST WILL & TESTAMENT. At that time, both of our children were minors so we made provisions for our best family friend to oversee our estate should anything happen to us simultaneously. Our legal counsel explained the legalities and matters that could arise and always being comfortable with our attorney’s advice, we made our wishes known in writing, so our intentions were clear and provisions for our children were well defined.
Later through the years having acquired additional real estate; having sold some real estate and other amendments being necessary, we met with our attorney again and updated everything including our wishes should unknown measures for life support be required.
This Part 6 is about the morning after Billy transitioned into Heaven and again, it is my hope that anyone reading this GIG LINE will benefit in some way from what I share with you now.
The ‘morning after’…July 13, 2016, I was laying in our bed having cried throughout the night. I was emotionally spent having watched Billy go down more each day and even as I tried my best to keep fluids and nourishment into him, his swallowing had become challenged…medicine that would help prevent swelling of his brain or seizures was crushed into applesauce & pudding with tender pleads to, “Please swallow it babe” and as I lay there, I wondered how I would gather together all the pieces of my broken heart. Life without Billy? How? I had married him at 17 and with our children now married with children of their own…how would I cope without his friendship, his love, and his beautiful existence in my life every day? Both our son and daughter, our “second” daughter and our best friend had stayed at our home overnight intermittently taking turns over the last few weeks of Billy’s life. I thank God to this day for their loving care of their Daddy and me…to fix meals, run errands, call out & receive calls…for their incredible support through his last weeks and days of life.
It was early when Bonnie came to my bedroom door between 7:30-8 AM and softly said “Mom, someone’s here to see you”. I said, “Bonnie, I don’t want to see anybody right now, can they come back later?” She added, “Mom…it’s a friend of yours and Daddy’s and he came to see what he could do to help”. With that, I told her I’d get dressed and be in the living room in just a minute. So, I dressed and came into the living room to see a very precious veteran friend who had driven all the way from Southern Shores to offer his condolences and his help. I cried when I saw him…Billy and I both liked Dale (Frank) very much and to see him early that morning made me feel better. He was a sweetheart and a fellow Dare County Veterans Advisory Council member. I was touched and comforted that he was there and to this day, I doubt he realizes just how much his visit meant to me and lifted me up.
Other good kind folks who had also heard Billy had passed the night before, started calling and coming by bringing food and offers of comfort to our family and before we knew it, it was early afternoon and time to go the Twiford Funeral Home to meet with the Director, David Twiford. Since I was a child, our family had always utilized the experience and expertise of the Twiford family for guidance in matters of loss and it would be no different this time.
Bill, Bonnie, and I drove downtown and parked in the back of Twiford Chapel. I sat there in the car still somewhat in shock and considering this wasn’t to see someone else I loved, it was to see my very, very best friend…my husband…my lover…my hero…the father of our beautiful children and grandchildren. Bonnie reached over to hold my hand and asked, “Mom…are you okay?” About then I looked through the car window and saw our son, Bill, park his truck, get out and walk toward us and memories of Billy’s joy when each of our babies were born flooded my mind…this was real. The kids and I had come to this beautiful familiar building to arrange for Billy to be cremated…that…had been his wish.
We went inside and were met immediately by David, a young man who we had come to know casually through the years when attending other people’s wakes and celebrations of life. He had always been nice…and just the night before when Billy passed, he and his assistants came to our home and very respectfully covered and secured Billy’s body to take him outside for transport as quietly and discreetly as possible. Though another veteran friend had prompted our youngest granddaughter and I go into my craft room/office during Billy’s final departure from our home, David kept the move very professional, and almost silent even while moving a big man on a somewhat cumbersome gurney through our small home. The kids told me once outside with loved ones standing by, Billy was saluted as they put him into the van. That was one described visual I will keep inside forever.
At the Funeral Home and being greeted by David…he escorted us to the room where we would discuss our plans for Billy’s celebration of life and review the paperwork David had for us to review and me to sign. The long board room table separated us somewhat, but David at that point felt closer it seemed and more like family.
David presented the Twiford Funeral Home, LLC folder to me and once I opened the front cover, I could see it was endowed with considerable paperwork…some were stapled together, some were single sheets…each was a piece of valuable information that I needed to know and even refer to now…almost five years later. Then, he reviewed each one with us to explain the documents’ purpose; why they were provided and lastly, he explained the optional services they could provide as well as the fees. David, never once tried to influence us or ‘sell’ us on the additional services that would have enhanced their Invoice for his services. He was again discreet, kind, and compassionate toward our great loss and our deep heartache. For all of that, we each felt grateful and confident David truly had our best interest at heart. After discussing the service and the day we wished to have it, I told our children and David that I didn’t want to ride in the limo, I wanted to drive my Billy’s 2002 Toyota Tundra that he loved dearly to his service. The cost to be driven to Manteo First Assembly wasn’t the issue at all…it was my personal preference to drive it alone and in Billy’s memory and honor.
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At the near close of our meeting, David asked me if I wanted to see Billy one more time before we left. I looked at him…pondering the thought for a minute…then my eyes shifted to our kids and at first, I said, “Yes” and that I wanted to kiss him for the very last time I’d have a chance to. Then Bill and Bonnie said in unison, “Mom, are you sure you want to do that?” Then, David said, “Miss Marsha, I will take you back there if you want to because it’s your right but…I really don’t recommend it.” I sat there frozen considering what I wanted at first, then thinking about the look in his eyes when he responded to me gave me pause. David knew what was good for me…he would have respected my wishes…but I could see he had concerns. And…I’m here to tell you all that I am grateful to this day and beyond that David cared enough about me as a client to discourage me (respectfully and ever so slightly) from that final memory and hurting even more. I loved my husband so much and I so dreaded the time his body would leave Manteo forever…for cremation…but thanks to David, my last kiss was on his still warm lips…and cheeks…and forehead in our modest little home.
My experiences taught me that when you trust your attorney, you lean on them for guidance…when you trust your Funeral Director, you do the same.
I love David Twiford and his sweet wife Jessica and all the fellas I know who work under his direct supervision and my story is my story. As a wife, then widow of the most precious man I have ever known I again acknowledge what it means to be shown consideration, respect, and the care I (we, as a family) were shown through and beyond the saddest day of my life. I hold David and his organization in the highest esteem and my praise for his organization goes a long, long way.
The attention to detail; the professional way our grieving was handled and the pride they take in assisting veterans’ families gave us a reason to smile during it all and something even more we as a family could be proud of.
There is another funeral service in our area, Gallop Funeral Services, Inc. which is established in Nags Head off the By-pass. While our family has not called upon them for assistance, I have heard nice things about them from others who have.
Until next time…thank you for reading this six-week story; if you find anything helpful, please use it or call on me if you have any questions. Remember our veterans who are so deserving of our love and appreciation. Be happy, safe, and thankful you live in the United States of America! Call my cell: (252) 202-2058 or email me at [email protected] and for official veteran related matters, paperwork or claim filing, please contact Patty O’Sullivan (252) 475-5604 or email her at [email protected] Patty, our Veteran Service Officer is the only official veteran representative in Dare County and she is awesome! Take care…love each other and remember that I love you whether I know you or not! God bless and stay tuned!