Gig Line: Something nobody wants to talk about – Part Five

Published 9:26 am Saturday, June 19, 2021

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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, embrace and comfort you.

If you have read Gig Line over the last few weeks, you have likely assumed my goal in writing about a life experience that many of us have or unfortunately might go through is with a hope you realize you’re not alone.

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 to no hope for recovery. We didn’t want to accept the grave news. We sought what we thought were the best doctors to help him. Later though, we came to realize his best chance would be with an alternate surgeon at Duke University Hospital and we thank God for the friend who referred us and the expert care he provided, even against all odds. We prayed for Billy – a lot – and our church family prayed, visited and showed comfort and support to us on a  daily basis, bringing already prepared casseroles, meat dishes, vegetables and Jell-O desserts. Frequent deliveries of delicious home cooked nourishments came almost non-stop 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 easier to swallow. We were so thankful. We felt so blessed by the show of love from not only our church family and close personal friends, but from our veteran community as well. They brought funds, they sat beside Billy and read to him, they made him laugh and realize more than ever the genuine love of his “brothers.” Prayers were spoken over him; Preacher Becky sung sweet comforting hymns at his bedside and familiar reassuring Bible verses were read to give him further comfort toward separation of his life from ours on Earth and his nearing destination to Heaven.

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Dare County Hospice Care? 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 discreetly 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 period of time for me to take a nap or run errands, however mostly to rest. But I couldn’t. I refused to leave his side even knowing he would be in perfect care if I did. I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to leave for any reason. I was so grateful to these incredible people. I was so touched by the grace and respect they showed the one and only love of my life each time they came. They were a Godsend, a blessing. They came in, performed their expert care and their supervisor visited in between to check on needed supplies and to help me prepare emotionally for the inevitable. She made me aware of how he might seem just before. We talked about what to expect, we talked about his meds and if he seemed in pain once he stopped being able to verbalize 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 and our children feel less alone (medically) on Billy’s behalf. She also expressed their observation of how well we cared for Billy, thankfully with no rashes or sores and always, always clean. Because they were the experts, kind words gave us more confidence that we were doing everything we could do to take the best care of him possible. Knowing they were there for us, knowing they were a phone call away, knowing they, too, cared about someone so precious to us helped us tremendously. God bless Dare County Hospice Care. I love each attendant, nurse, nurse’s aide and every single affiliate with their professionally managed program.

Only a couple of days before he passed, his breathing changed and suction was required intermittently to help alleviate the phlegm accumulating in his passageway, which meant 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 immediately for advice and I was asked to sit down, followed by “Marsha, Billy is actively dying.”

Our 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 the hospice supervisor and her words of wisdom and experience, we had just enough time to beckon our family and closest friends who weren’t already with us at the house 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,” I tried to express my thoughts, my final conversation with the man I loved so much. I thanked him for all his love and for being the best husband, father, grandfather and friend a man can be. I told him it would be okay and that Jesus loved him. I told him I would look for him in Heaven . . . . again and again . . . “I love you.” And then, he was gone.

Through overflowing tears and the last kiss on Billy’s sweet lips, my eyes strained to focus on our loved ones standing and sitting nearby. The necessary participants needed for official proclamation of Billy’s death were called and came quickly, examined him and rendered their conclusion and it was done.

Then a veteran, V.F.W. member and friend 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 already 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 she kept me distracted as best she could so, thank the Lord, I did not see him on the stretcher. In retrospect, I am so grateful to her for ushering me out of the dining/living room area when she did, so thankful.

In the last of this “Something Nobody Wants to Talk About” series next week, I will tell you the outstanding help and support I received from the funeral home who also provided outstanding service and care and the most important advice the director gave me that I also thank God for today.

For those of you who have not experienced this personal journey yourself, I am glad. For those of you who have, whether a widow or widower, we’re “family” in our grief and reflections. We are strong. We get through it. We carry on because we have to, but we can also be of great help to each other in our kinship.

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 in political matters. Call me if you would like on my cell: 252-202-2058 or email me at 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 at 252-475-5604 or email her at

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.