Gig Line: It’ll get better!

Published 8:16 am Sunday, February 19, 2023

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It was a few months ago while watching a Hallmark movie that I heard one of the cast characters say, “God gives the hardest battles to the toughest soldiers.” I think that must be true.

When my husband Billy found out his sudden memory problems weren’t because of dementia or Alzheimer’s, but rather glioblastoma multiforme IV, an aggressive deadly brain cancer, I only saw him cry once. It was the night he heard the devastating medical conclusion after an MRI only days before. His handsome face suddenly changed from the slightly ruddy skin tone to pale, very pale and the tears started streaming. He never cried out loud and his emotion, having heard such horrific news, was for the most part kept deep inside. I can only look back and feel it was more out of concern for our children and I in his naturally protective nature to hold us up, to control what he must have felt inside, probably wanting to holler out in sadness and fear of the inevitable. That’s the kind of man God blessed me with loving for almost 50 years.

Other than when severe headaches had him sitting on the side of the bed writhing in pain and resting his face in the palms of his hands did I ever really hear him complain. He took it – as hard as it was; he accepted that he would most likely leave this world and everyone he loved, but he made every effort from that point forward to live whatever days he would have left and show his love and pride in our son Bill, our daughter Bonnie, our four grandchildren and to me.

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Like so many widows and widowers who have heard their dying spouse tell them to “be happy,” “find love again” … Billy never did that I recall. He showed me every single day how much he loved and cherished me, that was never the question; I honestly believe it was more that I was his wife, and he couldn’t conceive of my being with anyone else even if he was gone from this world. That’s it in a nutshell.

I loved (and still do) him so much from the beginning to the end of our life on earth together and until just before New Year’s Eve, when our son put things in perspective about his joy at thinking of his Dad and more smiles than tears that I finally got a grip. He and Bonnie had been there for me, supported me and did their very best to lift me up.

This year – July 12 – will represent seven years without him to hug and kiss (bunches of times) every single day; to think about him when he was at work; to lay beside him and be held in the strongest yet most gentle way and to feel pride and sheer happiness just being his wife. Finally, I feel that while I’m still working on putting the pieces of my heart back together, I’m more at peace. Now I concentrate more often on the joys, laughter and fun we had together with our children and grandchildren through the years. Overall, I’m a happier person.

Why am I telling you all this? Is it because I’m declaring that my love for and life with Billy is on my mind less now? Is it because being a widow, I feel single independence? No way … not ever. In our home and with every turn of my head, I see his influence and impact on my life. In our living room, there’s a painting my friend gave me that represents the poem “In Flanders Fields;” a huge stained-glass eagle clutching a fish in its claws centered between our two front windows; a framed print of Uncle Sam “I Want You for U.S. Army” hangs on our living room wall; a picture of Billy standing watch on the dock in Crystal River, Fla. looking for “his” favorite manatees, and underneath, the coordinates; a beautiful silver cross; a framed picture of Jesus my cousin painted and a sign that reads “love you more” … just a snip it of what reminds me of him.

In our little dining room above where his hospital bed gave him rest for several months is a long white country shelf where his red, white and blue ashes urn, the replica Huey our grandson made for him, the folded flag from his celebration of life service and other memorabilia including his Vietnam Veteran, V.F.W., American Legion and other favorite caps hang on pegs. Centered on the dining room table, a large round clear vase of deep burgundy color artificial tulips just like the real ones at his service, which also holds a small American flag. The pictures, awards, plaques and décor enhancements are symbolic of something special: Billy’s love for this country; his belief in freedom and the most incredible life we as Americans have known. We all have our ways of honoring the ones we love, don’t we?

I asked you previously why you might think I’m sharing this with you. Not knowing your response of course, I’ll tell you. I want you to know that while it might take some time, you can get to the point of feeling better. You can come to terms that while the loss is felt every day, you can cope with it, you can appreciate the happiness and it – the happiness – can override the grief and sadness.

I’m telling you this because I hope for all of you, whether you have lost your beautiful wife or incredible husband, they are okay, they are truly in a better place and its okay for you to smile, laugh and be happy again.

Gig Line is an ongoing tribute to Billy and to all of you who have served our great nation. In the coming months prior to The Wall That Heals arriving on the Outer Banks on Tuesday, Nov. 14 through Sunday, Nov. 19 this year, you will likely see writings honoring our Vietnam veterans much like it should have been back in the day when our servicemen and servicewomen came home.  

And when I tell you – each of you reading this – that I love you, I truly do. That sounds funny, I know, coming from someone you may never have met, but I mean it. I love you for being a veteran, for loving a veteran, for respecting them, honoring them and for taking every opportunity to show them how much their service and sacrifice means to you. Just know that when I write that I love you, I’m feeling it and it’s not a fake or phony expression – it’s the love God gave me for everybody a long, long time ago.

If you are having a hard time dealing with the loss of a loved one, consider attending Peggy Snead’s grief share classes in Manteo. While the 13-week class started a few weeks ago, it doesn’t matter. You can join in at any time and you won’t feel left out or behind – Wednesdays 4-6 p.m. at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church at 300 Ananias Dare St. in downtown Manteo. The class is provided at no charge, yet worth a million. It could really help you. It helped me.

Patty O’Sullivan, Dare County veteran service officer, is awesome and very devoted to our veteran community. She is also the person who is organizing and overseeing The Wall That Heals that the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council will host here this November. If you have medical problems and they could be service-connected, please talk to Patty about the criteria for filing a V.A. claim for disability. She will assist you in the process or answer questions related to the potential rating depending on the V.A. awarding your claim or not. She can be reached on her work cell at 252-473-7749 or her office at 252-475-5604. Be sure to leave a cell or home number where she can reach you.

Until next time, be healthy, safe and happy. Love others like you really mean it. If you’d like to contact me, call or text my cell at 252-202-2058 or email me at For previous Gig Line columns, search Faith is one of those things that make a difference in how we look at life and how we live it. God bless you and your family. Stay tuned!