By Marsha M. Brown
On Tuesday, July 19, 2016 love was evident for my veteran husband ‘sweetie pie’ Billy Brown when folks came from everywhere to honor him and say goodbye. The memorial service was a tribute to his love of country having served in the U. S. Army and in Vietnam and about his commitment to Dare County citizens and veterans everywhere.
In the slideshow that our daughter Bonnie had collaborated so beautifully with our Pastor’s wife, Becky Smith (I call her Preacher Becky) of Manteo First Assembly, there was one picture that stuck in my mind above all though I loved each and every one. It was the one of Billy and me the day we got married back in 1968 and the last day of his life with my hand resting on top of his on July 12th. It encapsulated the beginning of our life long commitment to love, honor and cherish each other…to the last day of his life on earth.
I will always love my husband…no matter how long I live; no matter where life takes me…I will “always and forever” as we used to say…love him. There won’t be a time that I look upon our beautiful ‘stars and stripes’ that I won’t think of him…or a time that I hear a patriotic song…or see a V.F.W. member shirt, hat, license plate or sign that his handsome face won’t fill my mind and my heart. There won’t be a time when I see a picture of a couple holding hands or loving on their children that happy memories won’t make me smile and take me back to all of the good times.
In the last 4 ½ months, I’ve had the opportunity to love on him, lay my head on his shoulder and kiss his sweet face hundreds and maybe thousands of times even in the wee hours when he was asleep. And when he was awake during those hospital bedside cuddles, I reminded him over and over again about the enormous support for our family from our veteran community; of how much they cared; of how much they visited our home (after he was diagnosed with brain cancer) and of their calls, text, cards and emails…and most especially about the prayers…spoken over him…around him and not just once in a while…but daily.
And because of that, I promise you, our courageous veterans, that Billy’s legacy of loving and honoring you, his brothers and sisters, will continue from this household even though he now lives in heaven. I can just imagine how happy he’s been to see not only family and friends but his fellow comrades who went before him whether in the jungles of Nam or once back here at home. I can just imagine…the hugs that enveloped him once he arrived.
Sometimes when Billy lied in bed he would lift his arm up as if he was greeting someone and shake their hand mid air…literally. More often than any other verbalization Billy would say over and over again very seriously…”We’ll all be together again”. Smart, smart man…and I got to be his wife and the mother of his children. Thank you, God.
That picture also reminded me of the beginning of our support when my cousin Edward Lee Mann took a plan to help us and ran with it organizing and executing a benefit last March. I don’t know what we would have done without that help…Edward Lee’s ‘answer to prayer’ help. But then again, when our family home burned beyond repair years ago…Edward went the extra mile then too. He took us into his beautiful home and surrounded us with true, family love. I’ve always loved my cousin…all of my cousins…each and every one. Edward’s a veteran too…and one of the mightiest of men. Thank you, Edward. The help that he and others provided via that benefit gave us an opportunity to buy medical supplies insurance didn’t cover, to stay in Durham hotels far from home and to be of help with traveling, meals etc. Thank you all so much.
The picture of my hand on top of his? It represented my love and the comfort and care of not only our children and close friends but others throughout Billy’s illness. It made me think about Dare Hospice and the absolutely wonderful nurses, aides and caregivers that were here several days a week – I will never forget any of you. The health care providers who were here for us and who helped us take good care of him throughout his suffering touched us deeply. Each and every one was professional, kind and compassionate and I thank God for them from the bottom of my heart. Incredible, gentle, angels is what they were…trained and skilled to comfort a patient who was dying while making him feel uplifted at the same time. Our children, Bill and Bonnie, are also grateful to each and every one of them for the care of their Dad and if the thought ever comes to your mind that you or another family member might need Dare Hospice help…don’t even think twice…you do.
Each person from the beginning of this journey in February this year through and until the end on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 gave me a gift. It wasn’t something you could spend…or eat…or read…it was days, hours and golden minutes of time where I could sit by my Billy and love on him. Veteran, family, church family support was crucial in helping us cope and to get through this and I shall never, ever, ever be able to say thank you to you all adequately enough. Dr. Johnny Farrow…there are no words…Billy loved you and I love you. May God bless you all…as my sweetie pie Billy would say…”always and forever”.
Until next time…be happy, be safe and be proud. And if you get a chance please attend the next Dare County Veterans Advisory Council meeting on the fourth Thursday each month at 3PM, Dare County Admin. Building, Rm. 168 (downstairs, first room to the left of reception desk). Good Lord willing, I’ll be there looking for you and so will Billy from another very special place. Stay tuned.