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

Published 11:28 am Sunday, July 18, 2021

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Over the previous weeks I’ve 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 to be enlightened and somewhat prepared.

In the previous Parts 1-5 of the Gig Line columns, I discussed how when everything was wonderful and Billy wasn’t sick, we planned and executed through our attorney our last will and testament. At that point in 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 his advice, we made our wishes known in writing, so our intentions were clear and well-defined.

Later, having acquired and sold real estate and other things throughout the years, we met with our attorney again and updated everything, including our wishes should unknown measures for life support be required for either of us.

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This Part 6 is about the morning after Billy transitioned into Heaven and again, my hope is that my experience will help another grieving family in some way.

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 previous day even while trying my best to encourage his intake of fluids and nourishment. His swallowing had become challenged; medicine that would help prevent swelling of his brain or seizures were crushed into applesauce and pudding with tender pleads to, “Please swallow it babe.”

As I lay there, I wondered how I would gather all the pieces of my broken heart together. Life without Billy? How? I had married him at 17 and with our children now grown, how would I cope without Billy’s friendship, his love and his beautiful existence in my life every day? Both our son and daughter, basically our “second” daughter and our best friend had stayed overnight intermittently taking turns to help. They were each such a blessing from God and for their fixing of meals, running errands, helping me change his hospital bedsheets while he was in it and communicating with concerned friends/family everywhere.

The next morning, it was early when Bonnie came to my bedroom door between 7:30-8 a.m. and softly said, “Mom, someone’s here to see you.” I responded, “Bonnie, I don’t want to see anybody right now, can they come back later?” She responded, “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.

I saw 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 very much and to see him early that morning made me feel better. He was a sweet man and a fellow Dare County Veterans Advisory Council member whom Billy and I had both served with on the council. I was touched and comforted that he was there that morning and as Billy’s “brother,” he was one of many who had shown their love and respect for my dying husband throughout the four months before. I wonder if our friend realized just how much his visit meant to me, lifted me up and comforted me that morning. I hope so.

More kind and caring folks who heard Billy had passed the night before began 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 to the funeral home to discuss matters and to make necessary decisions.

After Bonnie drove us there, I sat in the car still somewhat in shock considering this time it wasn’t to see someone else I loved, it was to see my absolute best friend, my husband, my lover, my hero, the father of our beautiful children and Pappy to our four adoring grandchildren. Bonnie reached over to hold my hand and asked, “Mom, are you okay?” About then I looked through her car window and saw our son Bill get out of his truck 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 building with to arrange for Billy to be cremated. That had been his wish.

We went inside and were greeted by the funeral director, whom we had come to know through the years. Together, we entered a room where we discussed our plans for Billy’s celebration of life and we were given paperwork to review and for me to sign. Some sheets were stapled together; some were single sheets; some were veteran related; each was a piece of valuable information that I needed to know and even refer to now, almost five years later. The purpose of each document was reviewed and explained. Types of services and options were also explained.

After discussing the service and the day we wished to have it, I told our children and the funeral director that I wanted to drive my Billy’s 2002 Toyota Tundra that he dearly loved to his service. It was my personal preference to drive his ‘Toy’ alone in my husband’s memory and in his honor to our church, Manteo First Assembly.

Near the close of our meeting, the funeral director asked me if I wanted to see Billy one more time before we left. I pondered the thought for a minute, then my eyes shifted to our kids and at first, I said, “Yes.” I wanted to kiss him for the very last time I’d have a chance to, then Bill and Bonnie said almost simultaneously, “Mom, are you sure you want to do that?” Then the funeral director said, “Miss Marsha, I will take you back there if you want to because it’s your right to see him again, but I really don’t recommend it.” I sat there frozen considering what I wanted to do. While I knew he would have respected my wishes, I reconsidered and I’m here to tell you all that I’m grateful to this day that his words made me think again. I loved my husband so much and I so dreaded the time his body would leave his hometown forever for cremation, but am thankful my last kiss would still remain on Billy’s still-warm lips, cheeks and forehead in our modest home that night before.

My experiences taught me that when you trust your attorney, you lean on them for guidance; when you trust your funeral director and those who genuinely care, you do the same.

This 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 respect and the care I – we, as a family – were shown through and beyond the saddest day of our lives.

Until next time, remember our veterans who deserve our love and appreciation. Be happy, safe and thankful that you live in the United States of America! And for official veteran related matters, paperwork or to file a V.A. claim, please contact Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County Veteran Service Officer at 252-475-5604 or email her at Patty is the only official veteran representative in Dare County and she’s awesome!

Thank you for reading this six-part story; please call on me if you have any questions. Take care, love each other and remember that I love you whether I know you or not! God bless you and your loved ones and by all means, stay tuned!